It was at the start of his first deployment to Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines when Lieutenant Commander Chaplain Jonathon Maloney experienced a defining moment that has influenced his ministry ever since.
In December 2012, Maloney had been in the Navy for about a year when he was flown to Combat Outpost Hanson. He arrived just as the platoon returned to base mourning the combat death of one of their own. As per usual, a memorial service was scheduled to take place in a few days, and a funeral would be held by the Marine’s family and friends back home.
But when a grieving young sergeant approached Maloney saying they needed an impromptu service that day to honor the fallen Marine, Maloney paused to consider the unusual request.
Equipped to lead by listening
Prior to commissioning, Maloney had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion from Olivet Nazarene University, and then a Master of Divinity from Nazarene Theological Seminary. He also had seven years of local pastoral leadership. What he learned in the classroom and from practical experience had taught him to listen when people asked him for things like this.
“I could have dismissed the sergeant that day, saying, ‘We’ve already got the memorial service in a couple of days,’” Maloney said. But he asked himself a few questions instead: “’How can God work in this situation right now?’ Listening to God, I asked, ‘What can I do here? What is it that these guys really need? They need something out of me. There’s something going on here.’”
As Maloney prayed, he was given the idea to organize an impromptu prayer service for the fallen Marine. It was standing room only as the entire company gathered. Maloney told them his personal story of grief, as he and his wife had recently lost a daughter in the womb. Maloney then led them in a moving time of praying for their fallen comrade and his family, and praying for each other.
“It was very formative in my naval career,” Maloney said. “It probably grew me up a little bit that day as a minister. You’re in the midst of everything: of conflict, trauma, and our grief. That’s probably been where God used that day for them and then for me as well.”
He credits his years at NTS with equipping him for ministry.
“The leadership stuff I got from seminary: how to run a church or how to do administration. And the theological training seals up your faith to be able to be in hard places. If you walk into a place where you’re the only Christian in the room, it emboldens you to be better within yourself and to be more secure in your Christianity,” Maloney said. “It felt like I had a really good toolbox to take into my first pastorate; and those tools are still there.”
From missions to local church to military
Being a chaplain is a form of missions, Maloney says. Appropriate, since he experienced a call to missions as a high schooler during a Nazarene camp meeting on the Illinois District.
While studying at Olivet Nazarene University, he planned to pursue international missions afterward.
“Then, 9/11 happened,” he said, referring to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. “I started feeling God saying, ‘I really want you in the pastorate.’ So, I changed my focus.” He graduated in 2003 and pursued an MDiv at NTS.
In 2008, following graduation, he accepted a senior pastorate at Taylorville First Church of the Nazarene in Illinois, where he served until 2011. But in 2010, God started to place chaplaincy on Maloney’s heart. Through prayer and discussions, he and his wife Mindy agreed he would pursue it.
The Church of the Nazarene provided his required endorsement, and he was commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Chaplain Corps, United States Navy in March 2011.
The military mission field
“It’s huge missions,” Maloney said. “Most of the people I minister to are between 18 and 25, and it’s just an awesome opportunity to minister to sailors and Marines,”
As a Navy chaplain, Maloney has the unique opportunity to live and work with members of his unit who are Protestant Christians and those who are of a different faith. He provides worship services for those who share his faith and facilitates for others by pointing them to resources and ministers of that respective tradition. Chaplain Maloney cares for all by providing confidential counseling and advises his chain of command on morale and welfare issues.
Chaplain Maloney been privileged to serve in a variety of assignments. These have included infantry and artillery Marines in Camp Lejeune, NC and the 4th Marine Corps Recruiting District in New Cumberland, PA where he ministered to Marine Corps Recruiters across a ten-state region. He was the command Chaplain on the USS San Diego (LPD 22), where he deployed in support of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Malony completed a one-year Pastoral Care Residency at Naval Medical Center San Diego, CA, earning four units of Clinical Pastoral Education. Now he is in his first year of a three-year assignment as Command Chaplain at the Naval Hospital in Pensacola, Florida. His responsibilities include leading a team that ministers to nearly two thousand staff members spread across 10 clinics in five different states.
“It can be overwhelming, but it’s very rewarding,” he said.
Chaplain Maloney and Mindy have four sons: John, Eli, Nathan and Asher. They also have a daughter in heaven named Charlie.
Learn more about studying at NTS at www.nts.edu/info.