Posted: 3/15/18 at 3:10pm.
“Virginia Baptists and Texas Baptists seem to have a like-minded approach to ministry that resonates well with me,” said Rev. Todd Combee. Besides being pastor of New Bethesda Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, Combee serves as the BGAV representative for the partnership between BGAV and the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) as it relates to chaplain ministry.
The BGCT created their Chaplaincy Relations department in 2002. Bobby Smith was appointed to lead the ministry and became the department’s director, a position he still holds. Since the program began, it has endorsed almost 1,000 chaplains in health care, the military, prisons, crisis care, and five other areas of chaplain ministry. In the past, the BGAV had offered support to Virginia Baptist ministers involved in chaplaincy, but they desired to increase their efforts.
In November 2016, Combee and John Upton, BGAV executive director, met with Bobby Smith and discussed the possibility of a partnership. The idea quickly grew into an invitation for Combee to become a Volunteer Associate Endorser for the BGCT and also to be the point person for the BGAV chaplaincy ministry.
Combee is highly qualified for this role, and he is passionate about it. In 2014, Combee retired after serving 34 years in the Virginia Army National Guard. His last assignment was as State Chaplain for the Virginia National Guard. He has been a BGAV pastor for over 29 years, and he’s served on the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. Upton knew Combee would be a great fit for the position because of Combee’s experience and his ability to see the importance of and the potential for strengthening the ministry of chaplaincy across the Commonwealth.
In his role with the partnership, Combee meets with the Chaplaincy Relations Council either in person or through video conferencing 4-6 times per year to recommend approval for those individuals seeking endorsement as a chaplain, and he participates in staff meetings with the other part-time and volunteer associate endorsers. He is also involved in personal interviews with the chaplains who seek endorsement (a requirement for each applicant and also for his/her spouse if he/she is married). Combee represents the Chaplaincy Relations team in pastoral visits to BGCT and BGAV active duty and reserve/National Guard Chaplains serving in Virginia at places like the Pentagon, the Norfolk Naval Station, and Andrews Air Force Base, among others.
The partnership has already resulted in meaningful resourcing and networking. In 2016, four Virginia Baptists went to a training event in Texas to become Crisis Care Providers. In August 2017, those four offered the same training to 17 more participants at an event in Richmond led by Bobby Smith. Just a few weeks later, the newly trained crisis responders were mobilized to Texas and Florida to care for people affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Chaplains provide a unique ministry in disaster-response situations, for they can offer an experienced, listening ear to those who need to tell their stories as they process their trauma and grief.
“Texas Baptists require their chaplains to attend at least one training event every three years as part of their commitment and endorsement,” explained Combee. The BGCT offers an annual training event in September, which Combee attended last year. “Bobby had the vision to offer a duplicate training event each year in Virginia, so we’re having one in Williamsburg—which we chose because of its history and cultural appeal,” he said. The event is open to chaplains, church leaders, and staff members and is offering five training tracks including Baptist Heritage, Leadership, Crisis Ministry, Personal Growth, and Mental Health (subject to interest and level of participant response).
The Legacy Chaplaincy Relations Annual Training event will be held at the Williamsburg Doubletree Hilton April 24–27, 2018. For more information or to register, click here to visit the webpage.
This article appears in the Spring edition of the BGAV Express.