The copper-green dome of the Chapel towers over the other buildings in the Yard at the Naval Academy and, in a sense, serves as a symbol of Annapolis to the outside world. This is more than a coincidence. Over the decades of our history, fighting Americans have learned by experience that there is a dimension to military leadership—both in and out of combat—that is essential to real effectiveness. This is the spiritual factor, the intangible quality we call moral courage.
It is this aspect of the academy’s mission that the Command Religious Program strives to fulfill: to foster spiritual growth and promote the moral development of the midshipmen within the tenets of their particular faith or beliefs. The Chaplains Office serves the religious and spiritual needs of the Brigade by ministering to the midshipmen through pastoral care, spiritual and religious mentoring, ritual and sacramental obligations and by providing pastoral care for all, regardless of their faith background. While attendance at religious services is optional, midshipmen are reminded that as officers of the naval service, their personal beliefs will often be tested, and that in time of stress their subordinates will look to them for spiritual as well as professional guidance. The Naval Academy has long believed that future officers owe it to themselves and to those they will lead to gain insights into moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions of military leadership. Midshipmen are encouraged to take full advantage of opportunities for worship and moral development at the academy. From the first day of Plebe Summer until the day of commissioning four years later, the academy’s staff of six chaplains serves and ministers to the needs of the Brigade of Midshipmen. Among other things, they provide personal counseling, ranging from faith-centered issues through crises of life and death to future marriage plans.
In exercising a ministry of “presence” throughout the daily life of the brigade, chaplains sponsor and participate in Bible studies, prayer groups and religious instruction classes. They visit in company areas and are involved in a host of other brigade activities—all of which are designed to share and build lasting spiritual resources and to cultivate the strength and inspiration that comes from a deeply personal relationship with God.