DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy celebrates 40 years of service

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By Ariel Graham

The DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplains celebrated 40 years of service at the annual “In The Spirit of Thanksgiving” luncheon, hosted at the American Airlines Training and Conference Center in Fort Worth, on Friday, Nov. 3.

The event raised funds the airport’s Interfaith Chaplains, a group of pastors, reverends, and clergymen from various denominations who maintain five interfaith chapels throughout DFW Airport, one in each terminal, so travelers may have a place to pray, meditate, and attend services while in transit. In addition to maintaining the chapels, the chaplaincy also provides counseling and support for passengers, airport employees, and military personnel.

Growing areas of ministry for the chaplaincy includes their work with American Airlines Honor Team and Angel Flights, which helps return fallen soldiers home. Chaplain Gary Turner said the chaplaincy provides an invaluable source of comfort to military families; from the time they meet their fallen family members on the tarmac, to supporting and assisting those families.

“Our mission as chaplains is to provide a ministry of presence,” Turner said. “So whether it’s at the site of a plane or simply providing babysitting for a young widow trying to manage her four children, we strive each and every day to fulfill our mission.”

This year, Senior Chaplain Bishop Donald “D.D.” Hayes received of the chaplaincy’s annual Ministry of Presence Award. Hayes served in the United States Air Force for 20 years before joining the DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy, where he became the Senior Chaplain in 1997. Upon receiving this year’s award, he was happy to be recognized for all the good work the chaplaincy does.

“It feels good knowing we’re doing something here that will help the airport,” Hayes said. “I love helping people, so it’s great to receive this award for what we do, which is also what I love doing.”

In addition to helping passengers and military personnel, the chaplaincy also provides an important service to the many employees of DFW Airport.

“This airport has over 60,000 employees; it’s a small city,” Hayes said. “Not having a church in a city is unheard of. The chaplaincy provides a church for the airport and moral support. We’re glad to be a part of the ministry and a part of this mission.”

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy. The chaplaincy was first established in 1977, and today, remains one of the largest interfaith chaplaincies in the world. Reverend Andrew Jackson, 2nd Vice Chair of the Chaplaincy’s Board of Directors, said that the number 40 is not only a significant number for the chaplaincy, but is also significant in scripture.

“From a Biblical standpoint, 40 means so much,” Jackson said. “It’s a time of testing and a time of judging. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses talked with God for 40 days on the mountain. Moses slew an Egyptian, and at the age of 40, he ran for his life in the desert. The church of Israel wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, and Jesus Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness.”

The chaplaincy has also seen its own share of struggles in its 40th year.

“This was a tough year for the chaplaincy,” Jackson said. “It was a very difficult point in our life. We almost had to pull the plug on some resources, because we didn’t have the support we normally would receive. However, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. We are still here, thanks to so many people who stepped up and supported us.”

The chapels can be located at Gates A24 (before security), B25 (after security), C15 (before security), D21 and E5 (after security) and are open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.