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    Getting to know the 17th Coast Guard District chaplain

    Getting to know the 17th Coast Guard District chaplain

    Courtesy Photo | Lt. Cmdr. Scott L. Shields, originally from St. Paul, Minn., is currently serving as...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa McKenzie 

    U.S. Coast Guard District 17

    Get to know your chaplain! Chaplain Q & A

    Lt. Cmdr. Scott L. Shields, originally from St. Paul, Minn., is currently serving as the 17th Coast Guard District chaplain.

    How long have you been a chaplain?
    Shields has been a Navy chaplain for seven years having served one year in the Coast Guard. He served his first three years as a Navy Reserve Chaplain for the United States Marine Corps. He was called to active duty in his second tour to serve as the Navy's first active duty (plank-owner) chaplain for the Littoral Combat Ship Program based in San Diego, CA. Before that, he was a parish pastor in Wyoming for 17 years. In addition to serving as a parish pastor, he also served for 10 years as a bereavement officer for the Sweetwater County Sheriff's Department Search and Recovery Diver Team.

    What motivated you to pursue chaplaincy?
    “I grew up attending all sorts of churches because my mother is deaf and we went to wherever there was a deaf church service being offered. I really didn't have much to do with church for most of my life, that is, until I met my wife Jennifer in college. She would not date me unless I agreed to attend church with her. I reluctantly agreed, we began dating and got married in less than 2 years. My pastor at the time recognized some of the gifts God had given me, which I had considered to be useless, and he planted the seed of pursuing the ministry. A year later, I had completed my undergraduate degree in geography with a minor in religion and the classics and moved my family to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, to begin my Masters of Divinity. Four years later, I was ordained and installed as a pastor in my first congregation in Nebraska where I served for three years before accepting a divine call to a congregation in Wyoming. It was during a vacation to San Diego, CA and a visit to the USS Midway there that got me thinking about Navy chaplaincy. The veterans in my congregation and a Navy chaplain friend also encouraged me to pursue the Navy chaplaincy. I was very heavy at that time and had to lose 50 lbs. to begin the application process. I was able to lose the weight in 5 months and begin the application process before the age cut off of 42. I came into the chaplaincy as a lieutenant due to my years of ministry experience and within three years was promoted to lieutenant commander. I have served three branches of the military in just 7 years and by far the Coast Guard has been my favorite tour. I was recently blessed with a one year extension with the Coast Guard in Alaska!”

    What is the most rewarding/challenging part of your job?
    “The most rewarding and challenging part of my job is being with the people I serve. My pastoral formation was already set before I joined the military, giving me a natural desire and passion to be a pastor. I was fortunate coming into the Navy Chaplaincy to receive my first assignment with the USMC, where I learned the importance not only of being with the people I serve, but also suffering with them. Long arduous hikes with heavy packs, riding in the back of 7 ton trucks, and sleeping on the cold hard ground with my Marines earned me their trust and the opportunity to care for them. This epiphany has made me a better chaplain and drives me to be out among the people I serve doing what they are doing, getting to know them, all for the purpose of earning their trust and having the opportunity to serve them and their families. I value spending time with those I serve during my off time as well. It is difficult to get to know people while at work and the time we spend together out of the uniform is valuable for letting our hair down and getting to know each other. Because I know this, I take advantage of the opportunities to volunteer and be active with those I serve. A couple of the off duty activities I enjoy doing with our Coastie family is hiking and playing ice hockey. I have played ice hockey for over 40 years and have played on two different military hockey teams. Working together on a sheet of ice to get a win has a way of earning trust and getting many to open up about their joys and their struggles in life, which then gives me the opportunity to meet them where they are at and give them motivation to live life to the fullest, grow, and impart hope for the future.”

    How do you define success as a chaplain?
    “The job of a Chaplain is difficult because most people's perception of us is that we are ‘odd ducks’ who don't really fit in anywhere. This is magnified by the fact that many do not consider themselves as religious these days and feel that they are unable to relate to a chaplain. Having said this, I believe a successful chaplain is one who can adapt and overcome this perception/stigma, meeting people where they are at in their life, care for them where they are at, and build a foundation of trust from which to help them grow physically, mentally, and spiritually. Because I am an older chaplain, many see me as a father figure, who can impart fatherly wisdom to help them in their relationships. This is important because many young people for a few generations now have grown up without a father ... I was one of those people. It is really amazing how meeting the people I serve where they are at often leads to conversations about religion and spirituality.”

    Do you have anything else to add?
    “Please, welcome your chaplain and give him/her a chance to serve you and to be shaped into a better chaplain by that service to you. I personally love to meet new people because I believe that I am not a finished product. God puts people in my path every day to shape me and teach me how to be a better chaplain, and to help those I serve to be better fathers, mothers, children, friends, and shipmates.”

    Do you have any words of encouragement for people going through a difficult time right now?
    “Many in our Coast Guard family are struggling right now, maybe even more than we ever have in our lives. Know that you are not alone in your struggles. God has put at your disposal chaplains, doctors, counselors, and shipmates who care about you and are standing by to walk with you through these struggles and help get you the resources and support you need to not only weather the storm but to thrive during this difficult time. Suffering is not all bad. The Bible tells us that we can actually rejoice in our suffering because, ‘suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’ (Romans 5:3-5). Like the refining of gold and silver, suffering exposes the impurities and blemishes in our lives that need to be identified, worked on, and removed in order to purify our lives, making us stronger, more resilient, and ready to come to the aid of others and support them in their growth and maturity as fellow members of society.”



    Date Taken: 11.27.2020
    Date Posted: 11.27.2020 18:04
    Story ID: 383890
    Location: JUNEAU, AK, US 
    Hometown: ST. PAUL, MN, US

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    Downloads: 1