Chaplains at the winter Olympics

The Salt Lake Tribune writes about the ministry of chaplains at the winter Olympics.

Kristen Moulten writes:

Every Olympics has its small cadre of chaplains whose job is to tend to the spiritual needs of athletes. But rarely does that care confront the big issues — life and death — as it did in Vancouver just hours before the 2010 Opening Ceremony.

Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, died Feb. 12 during a practice run when he lost control of his sled and slammed into a steel pole at 90 mph.

The Rev. David Wells, who leads the interfaith team of chaplains at the athletes’ Olympic Villages in Vancouver and Whistler, said his first action was to confirm his hunch that the fallen luger was Russian Orthodox.

His second was to find the priest who could comfort Kumaritashvili’s teammates. It turned out that the Orthodox priest accompanying the Russian team was willing and stepped into the role of chaplain for the Georgian athletes.

Chaplains who speak Russian were posted in the multifaith centers in each of the two villages and remembrance books were set up in separate memorial rooms for those who dropped by.

Moulten talked to the Rev. Caryl Marsh, an Episcopal priest who served as a chaplain during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City and helped provide 24-hour coverage at the Olympic Village’s interfaith house.

Besides private rooms for prayer and meditation, there was a living room with coffee and cookies at interfaith house, which had walls painted with such words as “unity,” “peace,” “harmony” and “love.” A chapel across the street staged religious services for various denominations.

“Mostly what we did was hang around and be available [in case] they just wanted somebody to talk to,” remembers Marsh, who was one of 30 chaplains.

Read the rest here.

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