Twice per year, in January and July, the USNA Chaplains Office spends down the religious offering fund to under $5,000 in order to ensure that the contributions are being spent in accordance with the wishes of the congregations.
“The donors give these funds as an expression of their faith and their desire to share with others and to help others who are in need,” said Capt. Michael Gore, senior chaplain.
Committees made up of members of each congregation choose and vet organizations to which they want to contribute and make recommendations to Gore, who administers the funds.
This year, the congregations gave $68,000 to organizations that support military members and their families, including the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, the Injured Marine Semper-Fi Fund, and COMPASS, which provides programming for military spouses.
More than $90,000 was donated to religious and charitable organizations that provide ministry to those in need, in keeping with the wishes of each faith community.
The bulk of the funds were given in direct support of the various religious clubs on the Yard or their parent organizations to support religious programming for the Brigade of Midshipmen.
"Our extracurricular religious activity groups meet the religious needs of those who are interested,” said Gore. “It helps them to grow spiritually, and as part of that, it fulfills the moral mission of the academy, because our faith groups are teaching them moral values. And I think it also strengthens resiliency for those who participate."
Resilience in future military leaders is a theme of a working group organized by the Commandant of Midshipmen that is exploring how we strengthen the resiliency of our midshipmen and, ultimately, the U.S. military. The group is looking at many factors including sleep, the flexibility required to handle constant change and, said Gore, spirituality or a sense of purpose or meaning.
"It's Secretary of the Navy policy to accommodate the religious needs of service members. The free exercise of religion is one of the Constitutionally-guaranteed exercises, and religion is of tremendous value to many people,” he said. “To those people who value it, it's a source of moral development, as well as resilience.”
Many of the organizations the USNA congregations choose to support are right outside the gate, helping people in the local community.
"Every week members of our congregations gather for worship, and as part of their worship, they tend to give, because giving to others is central our Christian faith,” said Gore. “They aren't only looking up, but looking out to the world around them to see where there are people who have need and how can we give in a way that helps those people."
The chapel is such a prominent historical landmark in Annapolis, it can be easy to forget that is houses “living, vital congregations,” said Gore.
“And that's why I think it's so important for the military community to support the chapel,” he said. “We're not giving those funds because we want the credit. We give those funds because we want them to be helped. That makes the people at the chapel grateful that they had the privilege to help someone."