Seminar Orthodox Chaplaincy
The Orthodox prison chaplains in The Netherlands recently met for two days of study and reflection on their profession. Two staff members of the Amsterdam Centre for Orthodox Theology, Father Michael Bakker and Father Joan Lena, conducted workshops. Father Michael gave an overview of the current situation of Orthodox spiritual care in Dutch prisons and pointed out what still needs to be done. Father Joan elaborated on liturgical themes and on the practical sides of holding Orthodox church services in prisons. The programme offered plenty of opportunity for exchange between colleagues about the further development of Orthodox chaplaincy in our country.
The team of Orthodox chaplains welcomed three new members: Fr. Jovan Bilbija (Serbian Patriarchate), Fr. Dmitry Dovger (Moscow Patriarchate) and Sister Makrina (Ecumenical Patriarchate). Other jurisdictions represented in the team are Coptic Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox. The Orthodox chaplains, employed by the Service for Spiritual Care of the Ministry of Justice, represent more than ever the diversity of Orthodox churches in the Netherlands. The ministry requires Orthodox chaplains to care for every Orthodox prisoner without making distinction between the two Orthodox families (Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox), language or ethnicity. It is vital that the various traditions are represented within the team and that in special cases a chaplain with a matching tradition is sent to a specific prisoner. Canonical boundaries with regard to sacraments are of course respected. Hopefully, chaplains with an Armenian, Romanian, Antiochian and Bulgarian background will join the team at a later stage.
A number of Orthodox prison chaplains are either teaching or studying at the Amsterdam Centre for Orthodox Theology. One of the requirements of the ministry for employment as a chaplain is a Master degree in spiritual care. The Ministry of Defence and (private) hospitals have similar requirements. This type of employment offers Orthodox clergy the prospect of working part-time as a chaplain, which is fortunate because many Orthodox parishes do not have the means to pay their clergy a salary.
Guests of honour at the Friday afternoon session were Metropolitan Athenagoras, administrator of the Orthodox Church in the Netherlands (OKIN), Bishop Arseny, chairman of the Organisation of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Netherlands (SOKIN) and Mrs. Thea Bogers, director of the Service for Spiritual Care of the Ministry of Justice.