What is a Chaplain?

I sometimes get asked what a Chaplain is and why I go by that title. Well, I figure it is high time that I address that here in my blog.

What is a Chaplain?

A Chaplain is a clergyperson much like a pastor or priest that serves in a secular (nonreligious) organization or facility. You’ll commonly find chaplains in prisons, hospitals, and of course in the military. Chaplains can also be found working with police and fire departments, sports teams, and even Congress. While these institutions are not inherently religious, there is still a demand for someone to fulfill the spiritual and emotional needs of those living or working in a given organization.

Chaplains perform weddings and funerals, they provide counseling, and they offer religious services for those who may not have, or are otherwise unable to attend their own church. Chaplains can also act as advocates for those they serve by working with staff and leadership as an advisor, helping to meet the needs of the people they serve. So in a nutshell, a Chaplain is like a Pastor that works outside of the church. In other words, Chaplains bring the church to you.

Why Do I Call Myself Chaplain?

The words “Chaplain Chris” flow pretty well and look good together on paper, but believe it or not, I didn’t choose it. I became Chaplain Chris when I was hired to work as a Chaplain for a non-profit organization called the RTCA or Race Track Chaplaincy of America. Though it sounds like an awesome Indy Car organization, the RTCA actually serves the horse racing community. As stated on their website, “The overall mission of RTCA, through its councils and chaplains, is to make disciples for Jesus Christ through teaching, preaching, and ministering to the spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and educational needs of those persons involved in all aspects of the horse racing industry.”

http://yourcustomceremony.net/ - The RTCA logo


It may sound strange but there is actually a great need for Chaplains at tracks around the globe. If you’re like me, you’ll immediately think of gambling, but without getting too deep into the RTCA I will say that there are a number of people who live and work at these race tracks. There are the obvious horse owners, jockeys, and the gate crew, but many do not consider the trainers and grooms. All involved work long, hard hours and are often put in dangerous situations.

An old picture of me, my wife, and my daughter at Los Alamitos Race Track where I worked.

An old picture of me, my wife, and my daughter at Los Alamitos Race Track where I worked.


While owners and jockeys get paid the big bucks, these trainers and grooms do not. These staff members are mostly immigrants, and the majority of the money they make is sent home to family. As a result they often have issues with basic needs like food and clothing, but also more complicated problems such as immigration concerns and healthcare. As Chaplains we worked as confidants and advocates for these workers, and provided religious services and prayer meetings on a regular basis.

All that said, the RTCA hired and ordained me as an Associate or Assistant Chaplain where I studied under the head Chaplain and assisted him in serving our congregation. I loved serving the Lord and serving our congregation by helping to serve meals, teaching Sunday school, participating in praise and worship (by singing and playing bass guitar), and even preaching sermons. I also prayed weekly with the jockeys and the gate crew before races. Even though I don’t work there anymore, it was through my ordination with the RTCA that I began performing weddings.


My first wedding back in 2010.

My first wedding back in 2010.


These days becoming ordained to perform weddings is as easy as a few clicks of the mouse. There are plenty of online resources that will ordain you with nothing more than paperwork. Once the forms have been filled out you actually get to choose your title. How do I know? Because I have used these services too. Once my RTCA registration expired I used online ordination for added insurance in keeping my ordination current with the state. So I am not looking down on online ordination at all. It’s a reality of this industry. I simply mention it to illustrate that while some wedding officiants may have chosen their titles, I was given mine. If your name is Richard, Reverend Richard sounds pretty good for marketing purposes. If your name is Patricia you might choose Pastor as your title. If your name is Mike, you might choose Minister Mike. But Chaplain Chris was given to me when I began doing the work of a Chaplain. I suppose once I finish seminary, if I am hired on as a pastor of a church I will have to change it, but until then I will stick with Chaplain.

Why Hire a Chaplain?

Chaplains typically serve people of many different denominations and faiths. Military chaplains practice pluralism which is to say that they do not promote one faith over another, but instead recognize and respect all faiths. I am not a military chaplain but my position is similar in that I am comfortable working with any denomination or sect, and most chaplains will be also.

Therefore if you (or your future spouse) are a person of faith but don’t have a home church, or if your pastor or priest is unavailable on your wedding date, I am happy to perform your Christian wedding ceremony with the reverence and spirituality that you desire.

Chaplains are also comfortable working with the nonreligious, or with people of no particular faith. In any given institution not everyone will be religious, and as Chaplains we serve everyone. That means that if you don’t want any religion in your wedding at all, I can respect that and still deliver an amazing, custom ceremony.

Contact Me

So if you were wondering what a Chaplain is or does, and why I call myself Chaplain Chris and not Reverend or Pastor, that’s why. And if you are looking for a wedding officiant to perform your religious or nonreligious ceremony, call me now to check availability. My number is 949-342-4275, or you can contact me by clicking here. In the meantime check out my award winning reviews and pictures. You’ll be glad you did.