Washington, DC - In honor of the 240th Navy Chaplain Corps anniversary, Chief of Chaplains Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben and Deputy Chief of Chaplains/Chaplain of the Marine Corps Rear Adm. Brent W. Scott delivered the opening prayers for the House and Senate sessions in the U.S. Capitol, December 16.
These were the first in a series of events coordinated by the Navy's Office of Legislative Affairs that featured a day-long engagement to celebrate the service of Navy chaplains and their families.
During her prayer to open the session of the House of Representatives, Kibben acknowledged the "pastors, rabbis, priests and imams who over the course of 240 years have left the safety of their homes and the comfort of their pulpits to wear the cloth of this country's Navy" and asked God's help "to ensure the voices of faith are never silenced."
She went on to ask God's blessing over those who "provide the sanctuary of your presence, [and for] the sons and daughters who faithfully serve in every clime and place to preserve the ideals you have authored," Kibben added.
"Remind us that the freedoms we enjoy are gifts of your grace...In our encounters with each other, guide us with your steadfast love that in these days of raging waters of uncertainty, your way be known and your path revealed," Kibben shared in closing.
In his prayer before the Senate, Scott thanked God for a people bound together "through the more noble ideals of liberty, justice and equality, formed as one nation under God."
In the evening, Navy chaplains of various faith groups from the national capital region gathered with their families for an open house and cake cutting ceremony with members of Congress and to share their experiences of ministry within the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Former Chief of Navy Chaplains Rear Adm. Barry Black and former Deputy Chief of Navy Chaplains for Reserve Matters Darold Bigger were also in attendance.
The event included guest speakers Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Rep. J. Randy Forbes of Virginia, co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, as well as Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft.
Lankford thanked the chaplains present for their service to the men and women who serve around the world and "for doing it with joy." "Thank you for bringing the presence of God to people who just need someone to stand there with them and to remind them they are not forgotten and loved by God," Lankford added.
Forbes remarked on the support members of Congress extend to Navy chaplains and emphasized that they "stand with [them] consistently to try and protect that service." He also spoke about the role of chaplains to help those who search for meaning and purpose in their life through faith.
"We appreciate your being there to help them in that search...to let them know there are others who share that faith with them and want to help them find that meaning and purpose....Thank you for being that light for [these] men and women who serve," Forbes said.
During his remarks, Zukunft expressed his gratitude for Navy chaplains and reflected on the history of Navy chaplains serving with the Coast Guard since World War II. "I am blessed that I have 40 chaplains wearing Coast Guard uniforms...The work that you do for our Shipmates, for our families [goes] beyond words."
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard, Director of Marine Corps Staff Lt. Gen. James Laster, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael D. Stevens, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green and other senior military leaders were also present to show their support for Navy chaplains and religious program specialists.
The event also included several historic displays from Naval History and Heritage Command and an anniversary video message focusing on the event's theme of the Navy Chaplain Corps being "where it matters, when it matters, with what matters" since 1775.
The event closed with a benediction from Scott and the singing of the Navy hymn accompanied by members of the Navy band.
"We conclude this evening with a deep sense of gratitude for 240 years of ministry and the charge of a legacy that embodies a vast, cumulative history of daily chaplain faithfulness. You've called us to steadily enrich the lives of our people...and to patiently bring them closer in their own faith. We count this call a privilege."