On April 17, M. Gilda Dholah-Roddy, associate director of the North American Division Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries (NAD ACM), was commissioned as a U.S. Army Reserve chaplain in a ceremony held at the NAD headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, United States. In her new role, Chaplain (Captain) Dholah-Roddy will offer spiritual and pastoral support to the 55thsustainment brigade based in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
That day, Dholah-Roddy took the Oath of Office administered by Chaplain (Brigadier General) Andrew R. Harewood, the most senior chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserve and a Seventh-day Adventist minister. She vowed, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies ... and well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; so help me God.”
Harewood, whom Dholah-Roddy considers a mentor, stated, “[As a] brilliant and gifted servant leader, Chaplain (Captain) Gilda will be remembered for answering the call to say, ‘Here I am, send me!’ It is an honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with her. She will make an immediate impact on the thousands of soldiers under her ministry responsibility.”
While all U.S. Army Reserve officers must undergo a commissioning service and take the oath, they may determine the location and participants. “I intentionally chose [participants] who have poured into my life as a minister and leader,” Dholah-Roddy said. These included retired Chaplain (Commander) Paul Anderson, the former NAD ACM director who hired Dholah-Roddy; Rick Remmers, NAD assistant to the president; her current boss, Washington Johnson II, retired U.S. Navy Chaplain (Captain), now NAD ACM director; Anika Anderson, NAD Professional Services specialist and singer; and NAD Professional Services director and U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Captain) Rohann D. Wellington.
Dholah-Roddy’s children, Leah, 17, Gisèle, 14, Charlize, 12, and Jude, 10, also participated in the service. She relished their involvement, stating, “First and foremost, I’m a wife and mother.” She added, “[And] I've worked with them to be worship leaders. [So] having the girls sing the national anthem and my son join them for the Pledge of Allegiance was very meaningful.”
Chaplaincy: A Hands-on Ministry Experience
Dholah-Roddy will serve one weekend a month, two weeks a year, engaging in drilling and other activities alongside the soldiers to build trust. Her ministry will include counseling, religious education, pastoral care, conducting funerals and weddings, and supporting service members and their families in different ways. Finally, while Dholah-Roddy, as an appointed officer, is not enlisted in the army, deployment is a possibility — one she has prayerfully accepted.
In 2022, three years after joining the NAD, Dholah-Roddy became the first chaplain, and first woman, appointed associate director for NAD ACM. Her role includes serving chaplains in the Columbia, Atlantic, and Lake unions, as well as the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada. The NAD ACM provides endorsement, resourcing, and mentorship to more than 800 Seventh-day Adventist chaplains, including nearly 150 serving in the U.S. military. This support is crucial, as Dholah-Roddy emphasized that “chaplains are ministers,” performing ministerial duties including communion, premarital and marital counseling, weddings, and more outside the traditional church setting.
Dholah-Roddy’s diverse career encompasses serving as a pastor, church planter, conference ministry director, and chaplain in healthcare and educational settings in the U.S. and Australia.
While at the NAD, she felt a call to military chaplaincy and recognized the need to “exercise chaplaincy” to better relate to the chaplains she supports.
The military emphasis on leadership training, particularly in life-and-death situations, also spoke to her as a Ph.D. candidate in leadership at Capella University. “Being able to tap into [their training] and merge it with my current ministry — which is also life and death, a matter of salvation — will definitely enhance my leadership,” she said.
Johnson affirmed her, saying, “[NAD ACM] is very proud of Chaplain Roddy’s desire to serve God and country. I am positive that with her faith in God, commitment, and dedication to ministry, she will do an outstanding job as a chaplain of the U.S. Army Reserve.”
“My calling has been non-traditional,” Dholah-Roddy reflected. Born in Mauritius and spending her adolescence in Australia, she heard God’s call to ministry while finishing high school. She took a leap of faith, going to Oakwood College (now University) to study theology and music. She knew she’d said yes to ministry as a teen, but the exact area was “to be determined.”
While mowing lawns as a college job, she had a providential encounter with the late evangelist T. Marshall Kelly, with whom she shared her calling after he inquired about her career plans. Subsequently, Kelly connected her with Huntsville Hospital’s director of pastoral care. “That fall, I was in my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. That’s when I fell in love with chaplaincy,” she said. So, for her, the commissioning service was a full-circle moment — “the beginning of a new chapter of ministry [where] I was joining other men and women to serve this great nation.”
Dholah-Roddy concluded, “The interesting piece of my ministerial journey, wherever I’ve landed, I’ve had people ask, how did you get here? Is that something you wanted to do? And my answer remains the same. It’s a dream I never dared utter or wish for. I mean, who would have thought an island girl from Mauritius would end up serving in the U.S. Army? It’s humbling to see what God can do.”