Airport Chaplains: A Welcome Surprise in an Ever Changing Religious Landscape.
Like me, maybe, you might be surprised to learn that airport chaplains exist. Airport chapels and their corresponding chaplains have a long history in airports, here in the U.S. and around the globe. And like most religious phenomena, airport chaplaincy has reflected the ever changing religious landscape.
Airport chapels, at least in the U.S., began as a means of ensuring Roman Catholic employees could attend mass. Eventually other religious traditions followed suit and built single faith chapels in many major airports. But that trend has morphed into the modern iteration of interfaith chapels or meditation spaces. It is interesting, though unsurprising, that every airport has negotiated the presence (or absence) of chaplaincy differently, and airport chaplaincy–where it exists–is shaped by local history, religious demographics, and ”influence decisions.”¹
The airport chaplaincy program at Dallas Fort Worth Airport provides a ministry of presence and is the largest airport chaplaincy program in the world. Which makes sense if you understand that the DFW property itself is larger than the island of Manhattan, boasts its own city designation, zip code, police, fire, and EMS departments. DFW provides 60,000 jobs and hosts 72 million travelers each year, which means it’s larger than many cities.
The DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy manages 5 chapels, one in each terminal, and they provide weekly services for both employees and travelers alike. DFW volunteer chaplains build relationships with concession employees, assist travelers, and provide spiritual support to distressed travelers, some of whom are traveling to visit sick or dying loved ones.
The chaplains at DFW also assist with dignified transfers for military personnel who have fallen in the line of duty as well as repatriated remains of MIA/POW from previous conflicts.
If you’re curious to learn more about the work and ministry of DFW chaplains, plan to join us on May 17th when we visit with three chaplains from the DFW airport and hear more about their exciting ministry!
Resources for More Information -
International Association of Civil Airport Chaplains: https://www.iacac.aero/
Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta's Airport Chaplaincy Program: https://vimeo.com/131229094