Answering Divine Appointments
Chaplain Frank Riley, LT, USNR
“Our job is to provide for our own, but we facilitate for others. We want to make sure that each person has the right and the ability to worship as their own faith dictates. And for me, that’s a sacred duty.”
— Chaplain Frank Riley, LT, USNR
Throughout his life, Chaplain Frank Riley has been amazed at how God has steered his ministry, time and time again, leading him to untold blessings upon answering the call.
“God sets up divine appointments,” he says, quite simply.
Originally recruited to the Naval Academy, Chaplain Riley’s call to ministry was stronger. So at age 18, he took the path toward theological study. The Southern California native graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a BA in biblical literature and earned master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
As a full-time pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, Chaplain Riley already served a number of Marines and Sailors in his congregation. But he grew troubled as he learned of the shortage of military chaplains.
“It broke my heart to think that our nation was at war and that there were servicemembers out there who might not be able to get to a pastor. I found myself thinking, ‘Hey, somebody’s got to do something about this.’ A friend of mine said, ‘Well, why not you?’”
At that moment, he realized God had been calling him to expand his ministry. He applied for and was granted a Reserve Commission in 2006. “There was a sense that, by joining the Navy, in some small way I would be coming alongside the people in my own congregation, even if I wasn’t going to specifically serve in their units,” he recalls.
Besides serving one weekend a month and two weeks every year as a Navy Reserve Chaplain, he has ministered for three weeks in Okinawa. He has also mobilized to Iraq, where he served as Flight Line Chaplain, bringing spiritual care to more than 20 squadrons and 5,000 Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen stationed on the flight line.
In turn, the Navy Reserve has provided professional development training, encompassing everything from stress management to family and marital counseling. All this, while also offering the benefit of perspective.
“A lot of times in ministry, we become insular. We become creatures of habit, but this gets me out of the habit. It allows me to look back on my church and see some things…it refreshes the spirit,” Chaplain Riley says.
He emphasizes that the things you see, the experiences you have, the lessons you learn ministering in the Navy all become things you are able to draw from and apply back home.
Currently, Chaplain Riley serves as Reserve Battalion Chaplain for the Field Medical Training Battalion W at Camp Pendleton – where he does everything from pray to hike alongside his congregants.
A Great Gift – And A Great Responsibility
“We wear that Chaplain cross…people notice it right away and know what you’re there for. It’s not uncommon for people to pull you aside and, all of a sudden, you’re having a spiritual conversation.
It’s a reminder to me that God’s setting up my ministry.
Because you wear the uniform, you’re going to have access in a way that no one else has it. You can go anywhere as a Chaplain. That is a great gift. But with that comes a great responsibility.”
— Chaplain Frank Riley, LT, USNR