Lieutenant Commander Takana L. Jefferson, Command Chaplain for Naval Support Activity Washington, has served in the military a total of twenty-eight years, with ten of those years active duty as a Navy chaplain. She has also served with the Marines twice, and the Coast Guard once. Jefferson is a non-denominational chaplain endorsed by the Coalition of Spirit-Filled Churches.
Jefferson is originally from Wartrace, Tennessee, where she was formed in the Church of God in Christ. When Jefferson arrived at Memphis Theological Seminary, she was a youth minister working at Germantown Christian Center, and she knew she wanted to serve as a military chaplain.
“I wanted to work with the Marines because as a corpsman, I saw a lot of Marines that were struggling with being in war and having to come back and reconcile their faith with the things that happened in the war.
A lot of them were really struggling and they needed a safe space to be able to talk, and that was really honestly one of my main motivations for wanting to become a chaplain. I wanted to be a safe outlet for them to be able to share their struggles, and to reassure them of their faith and their calling, and that they were not compromising their faith by serving their country.”
Jefferson received her Master of Divinity degree from MTS in 2011. Jefferson credits MTS with preparing her for the plurality that comes with serving in the military, as she provides spiritual support to a diverse array of people.
“Being in an ecumenical community experiencing the Eucharist, learning different terminology, and being with others, it definitely opened my mind when I became a chaplain. I feel like I walk as Jesus walked. He loved everyone, regardless. MTS provides you with the education and the experience that you need to be open-minded. A lot of schools are single-minded, but I believe that MTS has a broad horizon, everything from the DMin in Land, Food, and Faith Formation, to helping the homeless, to pastoral counseling classes, there is so much that is offered at MTS that really prepares you for ministry as a whole. Not just preaching, because that’s only one small aspect of your job as a minister, or as a Navy chaplain, or as a chaplain, period. A lot of your interactions are personal, and you have to be able to accept someone regardless of their faith background, sexual identity, and race.
“If people are your passion, military chaplaincy is a wonderful opportunity to connect and serve in a way that you would not be able to in a church,” Jefferson said. “If you look at my uniform, you’ll see a cross, and you’ll see my rank, and it’s learning about how to balance the two.”
This story originally appeared in the 2021-2022 President’s Report.
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