The completion of the first Master of Chaplaincy Ministry Program in Bulgaria and its official accreditation with New Bulgarian University in Sofia has raised interest about the educational strategy implemented in the task.
As early as 2001, Cup & Cross Ministries International in partnership with the Bulgarian Church of God invited the Church of God Chaplaincy Commission and implemented the first short-term chaplaincy training in the country since the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Even then it was clear that if chaplaincy was to remain a national focus, a clear educational strategy must be in place. As a result, with the establishment of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association in 2005-2006, our team set course toward a three-level national educational strategy on the subject of chaplaincy targeting:
(1) local churches and denominations,
(2) ministers with a calling for chaplain ministry, who are willing to dedicated time and effort in earning a masters degree in the filed,
(3) and last, but not least Bulgarian government agencies who in part would be instrumental in the reestablishment of chaplaincy in all relative areas.
The first of these three tasks was completed fairly easily as churches and evangelical denominations were open toward understanding and embracing chaplaincy, while many pastors and ministers within them had already experienced the need or had served in a similar context. The Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association and Cup & Cross Ministries partnered with the Military Ministry of Agape-Bulgaria, a regional wing of Campus Crusade, and for a bit longer than a year lectures, media materials and personal meeting were brought to several hundred local congregations, as well as national leaders of various denominations, among which the Assemblies of God and the Church of God. As a result virtually all evangelical denominations in Bulgaria were brought in position of supporting chaplaincy, a term which was once foreign, now well informed of its usage and strengths. It was time for step number two.
As early as 2006, students from various church backgrounds and active ministers were invited to participate in the first ever Master’s of Chaplaincy Ministry in the country. Four years later with the partnership of the United Theological Faculty of the Bulgarian Theological Institute in Sofia we were able to bring one of the few complete master’s program in chaplaincy in the world fully contextualized for the Bulgarian cultural and after much work and anticipation with a very timely and necessary international government accredited with the New Bulgarian University. Within the perimeter of the program are the follow modules:
(1) Module 1 was presented by the International Association of Evangelical Chaplains for the intro level module of chaplaincy ministry with special focus on military, police and prison work,
(2) Module 2 was presented by selected faculty members in the filed of Theological Studies from the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute.
(3) While Module 3 in counseling, practicum and thesis completion was finalized by Cup & Cross Ministries International in cooperation with professors from New Bulgarian University.
Now the third level of education is at hand as chaplaincy is already being enforced by NATO and various EU agencies along with the realization on part of the Bulgarian government for the need of chaplaincy in various areas of administration even outside the armed forces, correctional institutions and the medical field. The role of our graduate students, who are now part of a well established and deeply rooted in the Bulgarian history and identity school of thought on how to do chaplaincy ministry, is imperative in this final task. To all that have taken it wholeheartedly, God speed and God bless.