Installation chaplain plans to foster community
March 4, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- In 1977, Bart Physioc, then a newly commissioned Coast Guard officer, was on his way to his first duty station in Guam. He was looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead of him, but something did not seem quite right.
"When I was on my way to Guam, thinking of what I had left behind, the adventure that was coming ahead, I felt like something was missing and I couldn't put my finger on it." Physioc said.
A friend invited him to attend church and Physioc said he never stopped going after that.
Thirty-three years later, the journey of faith that started in the Pacific led Physioc to become the installation chaplain on Fort Jackson. Physioc, now an Army lieutenant colonel who is scheduled to be promoted to colonel within the next few months, left the Coast Guard after 3 1/2 years to heed his call to the ministry.
He became a protestant Army chaplain more than 20 years ago and has served in places as diverse as Fort Bragg, N.C., Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Heidelberg, Germany.
During his time in Heidelberg, Physioc and his wife, Dawn, began a tradition that has been a staple of his chaplaincy ever since.
"My wife and I have a real love for hospitality ministry," Physioc explained. "So we opened up our home as a hospitality house for Soldiers, especially single Soldiers, and others working with the military community."
The fellowship included meals, Bible studies, music and trips. It is that sense of community experience that Physioc hopes to establish as installation chaplain, he said.
He has taken on the role of senior pastor at the Main Post Chapel and hopes that his continuous presence there will help the congregation grow and diversify, he said.
"I'm trying to build a community there and do some things that engender a real sense of family," he said. "I really believe, whether it's a chapel or a church in the civilian world, it needs to function like a family. People know one another. They care for one another.
We don't just come for worship services and for Bible studies, which I think are important for our spiritual growth, we come to care for one another. And you can't care for one another unless you know one another."
Physioc will preach at the chapel three times a month. The first Sunday of each month, the congregation will be invited to communion during the service and a fellowship meal afterward. Physioc said he also plans to expand the programs available at the chapel, including establishing a children's ministry and classes for all age groups as well as specific constituency groups, such as singles and women.
"I believe that Main Post Chapel, in some ways, needs to be the flagship chapel. I don't say that to indicate that it's better than the others, but it's the main post chapel," he said.
"I want to showcase it, if you will, not for its own sake, but because I think it represents Fort Jackson in a unique way."
Another cause Physioc said is important to him is spiritual mentoring. Fort Jackson, as the place where all of the military's chaplains and chaplain assistants are trained, is an ideal place to provide that kind of mentorship, he said.
"What I want to do, and I've been working toward it, is develop a close relationship with the chaplain schools," he said.
Instead of just being observers, future chaplains are able to participate in Sunday services on Fort Jackson, Physioc said.
"It gives them the opportunity to have hands-on ministry experience in all of our services," he said. "It helps them and it also helps my subordinate chaplains here to provide some supervision and some leadership. It's a win-win situation."
Physioc is quick to acknowledge that he tends to put a lot on his plate, but he said he thrives on the challenges and has a great staff to work with.
"I really love being given the opportunity to be creative and to find the best way of doing whatever it is that I'm given to do. I want to afford the same to my staff," he said.
Whether it involves growing the faith community on Fort Jackson or mentoring young chaplains, all of these activities fit neatly into his role as installation chaplain, Physioc said.
"As the installation chaplain, I have oversight and responsibility for all the spiritual activities that happen on post and providing the support that is needed," he said.
"Whether it's different stylistically or denominationally or a different religion - faith is important to people and we want to provide for that and protect their right to worship how they choose, where they choose."