Chaplain Ed Underwood is currently in his third year of service as Chaplain of Canterbury Park in Minnesota and Chaplain of the Minnesota RTCA council.
“Not everyone is interested in why I’m here, and some people would be just as happy if I weren’t here, because my presence and voice carries with it the conviction of the Gospel.”
Chaplain Ed Underwood
Q: How would you describe your role as chaplain?
As the chaplain here at Canterbury I “wear many hats” as the old saying goes. While juggling many duties, I also endeavor to be available for people. I would describe my first two years here as the trust building phase. Now in my third year, I’m in the relationship building stage. Along with the spiritual aspect of chaplaincy, I also coordinate sports at Canterbury Park.
Q: How many services do you offer each week?
One chapel service on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. followed by dinner.
Q: How many total people on average attend your services each week?
Between 60-65 each week.
Q: Any examples of programs you started at the racetrack?
The only program in place when I started was ESL class on Monday evening. I’ve added a family movie on Wednesday evening and a kid’s movie on Saturday morning. And this year I’ve started a Men’s Bible Study that meets on Wednesday’s after training. On Thursdays I meet with two to three men for a time of sharing and prayer.
I host the Groom Elite Classes each year at the chapel. I also participate in the graduation by offering a prayer, taking pictures, and showing pictures from the Groom Elite Classes.
Q: Describe the scope of the work you do for the folks who work on the backside.
I begin each morning with a devotion using the P. A. system that goes to the barn area. Two mornings a week, I’ll make barn visits shortly after the devotion. Then I return to my office where I’m available for visits and personal counseling.
Occasionally someone needs a ride to the local Wal-Mart, doctor’s office, or some service not offered at the track. These usually prove to be good relationship building times. On race days I do have the opportunity to go to the jock’s room for a brief time of prayer and I’m also able to meet with the gate crew for prayer.
I personally write the daily devotional I present each morning and it seems to be quite effective since people make comments about it each week. My approach is to begin with a quote from an author, leader, poet, etc. Then I transition from the quote to a Bible verse that’s relative to the topic and end with a one to two line prayer of application. I keep this devotional to around one minute, and I also read to aloud in Spanish.
Q: What are some of your greatest challenges?
When I began as chaplain here at Canterbury, the relationship between the chaplain and the other track and backside organizations was severely strained.
Q: How have you worked to overcome this challenge?
A couple of weeks prior to opening for training, I made calls and set appointments to meet with the drug and alcohol director and a couple of other organizational leaders as well. I met with each person individually and encouraged him or her to ask me any question they wanted. I wanted to assure them I was a team player and was willing to work together however we could. I included these people on my list to receive my monthly report and also looked for an opportunity to serve them. For two years, the drug and alcohol counselor used my office on Saturday mornings. This built a bridge I have since benefited from on more than one occasion.
Q: What would you say to encourage other racetrack chaplains?
Not everyone is interested in why I’m here, and some people would be just as happy if I weren’t here, because my presence and voice carries with it the conviction of the Gospel. That’s a good reason to for my being here. And I’m here because I believe that it’s where the Lord wants me.
Q: Do you have a favorite scripture you’d like to share?
Proverbs 18:24 A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (NKJV)