Establishment of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association (2001-2006)

chaplainWe are proud to announce that the Master’s of Chaplaincy Ministry Program, we designed and launched in Bulgaria in 2006, has been selected to be part of the Social Service Program of New Bulgarian University. After being for years a valuable part of the regular curriculum of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute and the St. Trivelius Institute in the capital Sofia, the chaplaincy program has received the highest level of recognition as successful graduates will be finally able to receive government recognized degrees and apply their knowledge and training in chaplaincy on a professional level. The chaplaincy program can also serve within the Integration Proposal of local NATO programs and be instrumental in dealing with the enormous wave of Middle East migrants crossing through Bulgaria today.

Tchaplaincy-in-bulgariahe Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association was envisioned in the summer of 2001 to unite all underground chaplaincy workers within the territory of Bulgaria. This included several ministries already active in Bulgaria serving in various contexts like military, healthcare, benevolence, jail system and commercial marine. The main goal was to establish a context in which all of these ministries could come together and be represented before the Bulgarian churches and government.

Although various other projects in the area of Bulgarian chaplaincy had been undertaken in previous years, the foundation initiative was formed in response to an invitation of the Church of God Chaplaincy Commission to hold a training seminar in the National Palace in the capital, Sofia in the fall of 2001. Due to the September 11th crises, the seminar was postponed and held February 16-23, 2002 under the patronage of the Bulgarian Church of God. More than 60 people, actively involved in military, hospital and prison ministries, students and church members, attended the lectures. The seminar was a stepping stone for the development of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association. Similar seminars were held consecutively in 2003-2004 in various locations.

The following strategic actions continued the endeavor. On August 13, 2005 a regional meeting in the Sliven area discussed the implementation of future strategies in the light of NATO’s decision to place airbases on Bulgarian soil. Individual and group meetings with chaplains from various professional fields and geographical regions followed.

Additionally, a national training seminar was held in Veliko Turnovo on October 8, 2005 where ten regional chaplaincy ministries were represented. The major issues discussed were (1) media presentation of the chaplaincy work before the major evangelical denominations in Bulgaria and the secular society, (2) dealing with stress-related issues at the work place, (3) system restructuring to meet the needs of the growing ministry and (4) the mandatory legal affairs currently restricting chaplaincy in Bulgaria. The participants discussed and approved a six-month national agenda toward solving the above problems and developing timely practical solutions. A priority on the list was the presentation of chaplaincy ministry before Bulgarian evangelical denominations.

The presentation was successfully achieved October 18, 2005 before the national leadership of the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance. Three educational levels were proposed in the area of chaplaincy: candidate chaplains, church and government.

A consecutive regional meeting on October 23, 2005 in Nova Zagora addressed current dilemmas and outlined the necessary steps to complete the above educational strategy. The first goal was to develop a basic chaplaincy course for the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute. The course was designed in the winter of 2005-2006 and after a series of meetings with denominational leaders and educational representatives, was submitted to the board of directors of the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute on June 12, 2006. Prior to its submission, the course was presented in a pilot form to the regional directors of the Ministry to the Military at a training seminar in Veliko Tarnovo on April 8-10, 2006. The basic chaplaincy course designed by the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association was scheduled to be taught in the fall semester of 2006 and plans were set to include it in the larger scope of the master’s level chaplaincy program with the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute in 2007.

After much anticipation, on August 19, 2006 in the city of Yambol, the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association called a founders meeting to discuss its legalization by the Bulgarian government. Active chaplains from various fields, ministers, pastors and scholars were present at the meeting to represent over 200 Bulgarians nationally involved in chaplaincy ministry. An official resolution was accepted and signed by the delegates to become the establishing document of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association. With this event, the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association, which began in 2001 and has been instrumental in creating, recognizing and implementing such opportunities for ministry in the military as well as other fields of chaplaincy, has begun its final approach toward becoming a legal non-government organization active within the territory of Bulgaria.

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