Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben was in the 8th grade when she was called into ministry.
“I’m a Presbyterian, so it wasn’t anything dramatic,” Kibben said at the Military Chaplaincy Information Session hosted by Regent University’s Office of Military & Veterans Affairs on Thursday, March 3.
But what her story lacks in drama, it makes up for in humor, passion and a willingness to serve. And from the moment she received her calling – influenced by her youth minister and her father’s former experience in the military – she had her ministerial mission statement set.
“I wanted to eat, sleep, breathe and endure the same things my congregation was eating, sleeping, breathing and enduring,” said Kibben. “It’s a privilege to serve in uniform, and it’s a privilege to chat with folks in the thick of their own ministerial journeys.”
That, to Kibben, is the lifeblood of being a chaplain. She worked through her schooling and the candidacy process, and vowed to stay in the Navy, as long as the Navy liked her. Since she entered active duty in 1986, she said the two are in a “mutual admiration society.”
She now serves as 26th Chief of Chaplains of the United States Navy, a role she’s held since August 2014.
“Not that I haven’t had moments of, ‘God, what were you thinking?’” said Kibben.
As the first female chaplain at the U.S. Naval Academy, Kibben has learned what it means to be a representative of her faith within the military. Breaks down what it means to ensure the freedom of all religions stays protected into four tasks: provision, facilitation, caring and advising.
She sees her job as a gateway, a way to encourage others to think about their spiritual journey. Even if her constituents practice a different faith tradition or don’t consider themselves to be “religious” at all, she believes her providing a place to have meaningful conversations allows God to move – she’s called to serve people wherever they are, from struggling with paying a bill on time or grieving the loss of a loved one.
“As a chaplain, you’re called to be with people the days that they’re not in their ‘Sunday best,’” said Kibben. “When they’re just trying to get through Monday to Friday.”