Ministry Then, Ministry Now

Ministry Then

Chaplaincy in 1607 Jamestown, VA: As part of some of my ongoing personal and professional learning/development, I was studying Christian ministry in Jamestown, VA in 1607. Specifically, I was reading about a Christian chaplain named Robert Hunt. When the Pilgrims were landing in Virginia, Jamestown and much of the rest of Virginia was sick. Malaria was devastating the region. The physical constitution of most English Pilgrims was shaken and often defeated by the heat and humidity of Virginia. Because life and death were not just ideas or theological terms, Christian ministry was viewed as essential. 


And then I read this about the Christian chaplain in their midst, Robert Hunt: “But there was one man, a preacher named Robert Hunt, who was conspicuously different. Every Sunday, from behind a plank nailed between two trees, he preached to a small congregation shaded under the canopy of an old sailcloth. During the week he cared for the sick and dying, and he labored more than his share of the time at the building tasks. How he had time to supervise the building of a grist mill, one only wonders” (Sidwell et al. 1991, 5). 

     I paused and tried to picture that—a plank nailed between two Virginia trees. And the roof of this church in the wilderness was sails from ships. His fellow Pilgrims were dying left and right and were wrestling with the issue of death and judgment. They had wagered everything to come to America in order to worship without government interference. And the chaplain/minister in their midst opened the Scriptures to them and ministered to them spiritually and physically the words and deeds of life. 

     When the ships Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery left England in December of 1606 and sailed to Jamestown, VA, storms battered the ships. The selfishness of some of the passengers came out in their fears, but Chaplain Hunt ministered to them, prayed with and for them, and many made it to Virginia. John Smith penned these words about the minister Robert Hunt: “He was an honest, religious, and courageous Divine; he preferred the service of God to every thought of ease at home. He endured every privation, yet none ever heard him repine. 

During his life, our fractions were oft healed and our greatest extremities so comforted that they seemed easy in comparison with what we endured after his death” (Sidwell et al. 1991, 7). 

Ministry Now

Chaplaincy in the 21st Century: We don’t read of malaria nowadays in Virginia. And Jamestown is long-settled. And the Pilgrims are now often ridiculed as patriarchal, white supremacists, and religious extremists who vanquished Native Americans, and stole land. That’s the indoctrination agenda with which ignorant students are inundated nowadays. Nine military bases are being renamed because their historical names denote actual historical soldiers like Confederate general Henry Benning and Confederate general Braxton Bragg. But it’s being changed. Ft. Benning is to be renamed Ft. Moore, after LTG “Hal” Moore, certainly a military hero for anyone who knows anything about the units he led. And Ft. Bragg is being renamed Ft. Liberty in June 2023. Nine or more military bases are being renamed. 

     There is a battle going on for the dictionary and for history. Rather than learning from history, some forces wish to vanquish it and rewrite it. Changing the names does not make history go away, but it does lead to a continued dumbing-down of students. It grieves me and I hope it grieves others. We’re in a place now where kids don’t know their gender or cursive, but they’re quite sure that they’re victims, that America is full of racists, and that the urchins are both offended and pampered. 

     It is folly, of course. It is laughable and pitiable and heartbreakingly sad. But that is the state of things in many places. So where does chaplaincy fall? What can a called Christian chaplain say or do to be part of hopefully bringing sanity, hope, and truth to such a state of affairs? Should he be like the new Chief Chaplain at Harvard University? He’s an atheist. Here’s a link to that reality: That is a dead end, certainly. 

My Hope: My hope is that God is raising up men of courage and conviction who will speak the truth in love to all. In Scripture, 1 Chronicles 12:32 references such men: “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do . . .” Men who understood their times. Men who knew. Men of courage. Men of conviction. Men of the truth. Chaplain Robert Hunt, actual history records, was faithful under fire, when truth was on the gallows, when he was most needed. And though I cannot locate a single book about him, he was a remarkable servant, minister, and chaplain. May God be pleased to raise up legions more like him for such a time as this. 

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