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Chaplains get creative to inspire during COVID-19 restrictions

Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Dawson, 436th Airlift Wing chaplain, speaks during a service recording April 25, 2020, at Chapel 1 on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The recordings are created during the week and aired on Sunday due to COVID-19 restrictions. The recordings allow the chapel to provide services while ensuring people's safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Dawson, 436th Airlift Wing chaplain, speaks during a service recording April 25, 2020, at Chapel 1 on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The recordings are created during the week and aired on Sunday due to COVID-19 restrictions. The recordings allow the chapel to provide services while ensuring people's safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

A chaplain lights a candle before recording a Sunday service April 25, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Due to base and state shelter-in-place orders, Dover AFB chaplains pre-recorded services during the week and posted them to social media sites on traditional days of worship. These virtual services allow members of Team Dover to participate from the comfort and safety of their homes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

A chaplain lights a candle before recording a Sunday service April 25, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Due to base and state shelter-in-place orders, Dover AFB chaplains pre-recorded services during the week and posted them to social media sites on traditional days of worship. These virtual services allow members of Team Dover to participate from the comfort and safety of their homes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

Chaplain (Capt.) Andre Davis, 436th Airlift Wing chaplain, speaks during a service recording April 25, 2020, at Chapel 1 on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The recordings are created during the week and aired on Sunday due to COVID-19 restrictions. The recordings allow the chapel to provide services while ensuring people's safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

Chaplain (Capt.) Andre Davis, 436th Airlift Wing chaplain, speaks during a service recording April 25, 2020, at Chapel 1 on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The recordings are created during the week and aired on Sunday due to COVID-19 restrictions. The recordings allow the chapel to provide services while ensuring people's safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --

With restrictions in place to keep people safe and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, base chaplains channeled their creativity into finding new ways of inspiring Airmen and offering innovative methods to support Team Dover’s spiritual resilience.

“We started recording our Sunday services during the week in parts, so that each part comes together as if you are almost viewing the service in person,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Abner Valenzuela, 436th Airlift Wing head chaplain. “Using the camera, audio devices and editing tools is something that I am new to and enjoying learning more about. We are currently taking as much feedback as possible while trying to provide the best videos, so that others can still continue their services or spiritual guidance online.”

The Catholic service airs Sundays at 9 a.m. and the Protestant service airs at 9:30 a.m. on the Dover AFB Chapel Facebook page.

“This is the way we have adjusted for the COVID-19 environment,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Andre Davis, 436th AW chaplain. “Nobody else is here except for us when we are recording it. We can watch it as a party with others, and the chaplains can interact with individuals during the live time.”

The services are available anytime after the premier on the Chapel’s Facebook page.

A “Thought of the Day” video on spiritual resiliency, ethics or morality is also posted every day at 9 a.m. The Dover AFB chaplains rotate recording and posting them.

“We have been gaining some great momentum in our online services and intend to see how we can integrate this into normal operations moving forward,” said Davis.

The chaplains, along with first sergeants, also began weekly visits to Airmen in the dorms, while still observing health protection measures.

“We meet with the first sergeants of the squadrons we are assigned to, and they have a roster with all the Airmen’s names on it,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Dawson, 436th AW chaplain. “After viewing the roster, the first sergeant and I will go room by room and knock on their doors. When the Airman answers the door, we make sure to keep our social distance while wearing our masks and ask how they are doing, and if there is anything that we could do for them.”

Dawson said he offers Airmen his cell phone number just in case they ever need guidance or someone to talk to. He emphasized he’s only a text or call away.

Taking an extra step and doing their best to reach out to all members on base, chaplains also make squadron visits, delivering food, snacks and offering a friendly face or ear to those in need.      

“Chaplain (Capt.) Ryan Taylor-Byers and I just went and purchased a couple hundred dollars' worth of snacks and food (recently),” said Dawson. “We then went and delivered the snacks to the squadrons, and Airmen were glad to help us bring it in. In about two or three weeks, we will go and replenish the food and snacks.”

Every week, chaplains text or call leadership to see how they are doing, giving them updates on Airmen and seeing if there is anything else they may need.

“We want everyone to know that the chaplains are still available 24/7 if anyone needs to talk,” said Davis. “We ensure confidentiality and will take the appropriate steps to take care of you, whether it be through Facetime, text, call, Facebook messenger or face to face, wearing the appropriate gear.”

For more information, to watch a service or to contact Dover AFB chaplains, please follow or message their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/dover436chapel.

If you need urgent help from a chaplain call Command Post at 302-677-4201 to request assistance.