Chaplain Chronicles Adversity as Female Minister

After a 20 year break in service, Chaplain (Capt.) Kathleen Williams has found the job her spirit desires.

Williams, now the chaplain for the 244th Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade, first entered the military in 1978 and served a five year stint in the U.S. Air Force. As a staff sergeant, her duties were in the administration field.

She then served in the Navy and served another four years in administration as a petty officer second class, before deciding to leave the service for other pursuits.

Williams said she received her calling to the ministry at the age of 8 years old, when God told her that she would preach in Africa.

Growing up in the Baptist belief made her goal seem unattainable, Williams said, as females were not yet allowed to be ministers. They perform missionary work instead. So, after her previous enlisted military experience, Williams began missionary work.

“I liked the mission work, but I had a call to preach,” she said.

So she started her training to become a clergy member. She graduated bible college and received her bachelor of arts degree in Biblical Studies. She attended seminary to complete a master of arts degree in Christian Education. Years later, she received a doctorate in organizational leadership from the Argosy University in Sarasota, Fla.

In 1997, she was ordained a female minister under the Church of God. Williams was able to obtain her lifelong goal of preaching in Africa. Her first mission that year found her stationed in Kenya, East Africa.

As the president and founder of Women of Purpose Ministries, Williams has built a ministry in Kenya where she oversees 40 churches and built a school for pastors. Since rejoining the Army in 2007, Williams has not been back in Africa, but has plans to return later this year.

Williams said she has found her spiritual niche in the Army serving as a chaplain.

“It was truly a calling to come into the Army, in the middle of war,” said Williams. “When I looked at the young men and women joining the military, I asked God what I could do to help.”

And God answered. On a trip with a friend to renew her Family member ID card, she stopped in the Army recruiter’s office and jokingly inquired if she was too old to join the military. The recruiters responded no, and began talking to Williams about her options.

After discovering she was ordained, they immediately suggested the Chaplain Corps. The thought of serving as a minister hadn’t even crossed her mind, as she had never met a female chaplain in the Air Force or Navy.

Williams said at some locations, she got the feeling that she didn’t belong there as a female chaplain.

“I would hear, I’ll send my females over to you, but they didn’t understand that I was there to provide guidance for males and females,” she said. “Fort Lee has been more welcoming and open to having a female chaplain, all the way from AIT students to the installation leadership.”

Williams said she has a lot of experience being the first or ‘only’ of something. In her first church, she was the first female minister. While she’s not the first female chaplain in the Army, she’s usually the only female chaplain on an installation.

“We need more women chaplains,” continued Williams. “Women are nurturers by nature, and we can nurture women and men in faith. I encourage all females who are interested in being a female chaplain to just do it. It’s a very fulfilling ministry.

“To me, being an Army chaplain is a ministry, not a job,” continued Williams. “I’m not focused on promotion. I just want to be a guide for the Soldiers as they prepare to go into war. If I can be the last face they see, or say the last word that they need to hear to guide them, I want God to use me for that.”

In the meanwhile, Williams will get her opportunity to preach here in April when she will begin conducting the gospel service.

“I’m excited about it,” said Williams. “It’s a good opportunity for me to stand before the (Advanced Individual Training) Soldiers. Not only will they see me in the battalion in a counseling aspect, they can see me in a worship setting and see firsthand my commitment to God.”