Eight chaplains, one team: Kaiserslautern’s Chapel Next

by Christian Führer
Chapel Next volunteer

In 1996, two Protestant chaplains at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, developed a novel form of contemporary Protestant worship. Their idea was to put more emphasis on the needs of young military families and to provide a Christ-centered spiritual experience in a come-as-you-are worship atmosphere. Barely four years later, the new concept became known as Chapel Next, a designation it retains to this day.

In the summer of 2012, a Chapel Next service was initiated at Kaiserslautern’s Daenner Chapel by Chaplain (Col.) Marc A. Gauthier, who at that time served as the 21st Theater Sustainment Command command chaplain at nearby Panzer Kaserne. The new service soon attracted people from all walks of contemporary Protestant life in the KMC.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Douglas L. Prentice, 21st TSC deputy command chaplain and current senior pastor of Chapel Next at Daenner Chapel, said the service focuses on “connecting with God, connecting with each other and connecting others with God. Many people in today’s military look for authenticity in faith, for a house of worship where they can meet fellow believers and experience Christ’s unconditional love in a casual atmosphere.”

Isaac S. Smith, a long-time Kaiserslautern resident who has been attending Protestant services at Daenner Chapel for many years, added, “Once the new service had started, the congregation began to grow with people coming from all over the community. It is encouraging to see people from many different backgrounds coming together for prayer and worship.”

No fewer than eight chaplains from U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz units are part of Chapel Next’s pastoral team with each chaplain holding responsibility for a particular activity.

While most of these chaplains “were raised in different Protestant traditions, they build on the common platform of the Chapel Next worship concept and thus form a genuine team,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Joshua H. Kim, Special Troops Battalion, 21st TSC.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Douglas C. Swift, U.S. Army NATO, who is also part of Chapel Next’s pastoral team, said, “Chaplains take turns preaching on Sundays, but all agree on the fundamentals that define Chapel Next: down-to-earth, scripture-based, authentic preaching that imparts a key message.”

Chapel Next offers a wide range of activities in which to get involved. Apart from small group gatherings, breakfast fellowships, a fellowship meal on the first Sunday of the month, children’s church during worship services, and a vibrant contemporary music and worship ministry, Chapel Next encourages members to join community-wide Christian activities, such as Club Beyond, Protestant Men of the Chapel and Protestant Women of the Chapel.

From time to time, Chapel Next members support outreach projects sponsored by other organizations in the community.

“Last fall, we volunteered with the Kaiserslautern Kindergraves Memorial Foundation to clean up the graves of American military children buried on Kaiserslautern’s main cemetery between 1952 and 1971,” said Mary Migala, Chapel Next parish and religious education coordinator. “It was a wonderful activity that brought together more than 20 members of our congregation and a great outreach opportunity that helped us minister to other parts of the community.”

Chapel Next services begin at 10 a.m. every Sunday, and child care is provided.

More information on the Chapel Next program at Daenner Chapel can be found at www.facebook.com/chapelnextdaenner.