(Editor’s note: Presbyterian News Service is grateful to Hans Cornelder of Church and World, formerly PresbyWeb, for tipping us to this story. ― Jerry L. Van Marter)

WASHINGTON ― Rear Adm. Margaret G. Kibben relieved Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd as the chief of Navy chaplains during a change of office and retirement ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard on August 1.

Both Kibben and Tidd are teaching elders in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Both Kibben’s promotion and assumption of duties marked a historic event for the Navy and its Chaplain Corps as Kibben became the first female chief of Navy chaplains and the first female Navy chaplain to hold the rank of rear admiral upper half.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert was the retiring officer for the ceremony, and during his remarks, he acknowledged the Tidd family’s more than 100 years combined of distinguished naval service.

“The community has thrived under his leadership,” Greenert remarked, referring to Tidd’s tenure as chief of Navy chaplains.

He highlighted Tidd’s contributions to the Navy and nation and commended his decisive leadership during crisis response efforts after the Navy Yard shooting. He brought humanity and served as an expert advisor to the leadership who sought to console and comfort those affected by the tragedy, Greenert said.

After being awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his tenure as chief of chaplains, Tidd addressed those in attendance.

"Part of the genius of the American experiment is that we’re committed to the right of each person to determine his or her deepest convictions, including one’s religious convictions,” Tidd said. “Chaplains are deeply committed to protecting religious freedom, day in and day out, in times of calm and times of crisis,” he added.

Tidd described the privilege of answering the call to serve and the sacred mission of serving those who serve the nation ― to share in their lives deeply. He also reflected on the camaraderie he and his wife will miss having been part of the Navy and Marine Corps family for the past 31 years. He thanked his wife and children for their support, love, and encouragement throughout their naval adventure as a family.

Kibben was promoted in a private ceremony in the Navy Yard chapel by Greenert prior to the change of office. As Kibben takes over the helm of the Navy Chaplain Corps, she committed to all senior Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard leadership present to stay engaged with them, to advise them on the spiritual welfare of their people, and to care for them, personally, as their chaplain.

Kibben also pledged to make sure her chaplains and religious program specialists are “where it matters, when it matters, with what matters” to take care of their Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and families so that they “grow spiritually, are certain of their moral and ethical foundations, and are free and able to exercise and enjoy a community of faith.”

She also thanked Tidd for “his unwavering dedication to our people and to the Navy,” and his ability “to bring [the Chaplain Corps'] capabilities into the institutional dialogue, and to bring the Chaplain Corps to a higher level of professionalism.” She went on to add, “I stand on ground enriched by your legacy and that of those who preceded you and pray that the stand I take will remain in God’s gracious plan for our Chaplain Corps and our country.”