By Wayne Sollows
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Pembroke
The threefold nature of the call to military chaplains—minister to their own, facilitate the worship needs of others and care for all—presents a chance to engage with those whom they’re called to serve. Chaplains are afforded the opportunity to work and live in both routine and challenging environments, whereby close relationships can develop between sailors, soldiers or air personnel, regardless of rank, trade or gender.
Being a military chaplain allows one to “stretch their ecclesiastical legs” in different ways. At home they may minister in a chapel as part of a team, serve a unit as their chaplain or while on deployment they may function as the sole religious/faith adviser. For a pastor turned Padre, they provide military members with the means to maintain or enhance spiritual resiliency and faith, and they also provide the chance for those with questions to engage or explore matters of faith and spirituality—maybe in direct relation to the experiences they’ve had.
In the same vein, working in a multi-faith, pluralistic environment, the chaplain is prepared to arrange for the religious needs of all. It’s a conscious reminder of the diversity of those who make up the Canadian Armed Forces or indeed the forces of other nations; for regardless of language, colour of uniform or branch of Service, matters of faith and religion transcend national boundaries or political ambitions.
To be able to exercise a ministry of presence, sometimes referred to as “loitering with intent,” is a privilege granted to the chaplain. It’s about time spent with members; to drop in or drop by to check on the well-being of a particular member, to hear—or offer—some good news from home, to provide encouragement or work with the chain of command in support of a mission; to share a coffee with one member, or meet many at a worship service in the field, in a ship at sea or a chapel on an air base. They’re things which may not fit into a training calendar or present as tangible points to be measured, but they represent those small victories that are won, one life at a time, through personal relationships between the chaplain and the person whom they’ve helped and prayed for.
In all things and at all times, chaplains, in fulfilling their call to serve, strive to remain operationally relevant by being a resource on matters of faith, spirituality, religion, morals and ethics so as to provide commanders with the best people—best suited and prepared—to contribute to mission success both at home and abroad.
Christian Chaplains have the privilege and honour to be the hands and feet of Jesus. In doing so, through their life and service, they can show others how Jesus is:
The Light of the World – that they never need walk in darkness;
The Bread of Life – that they never need know hunger;
The Living Water – that they never need know thirst;
The Prince of Peace – that they may know the peace of God which surpasses human understanding and who gives them Peace in the heart, even amid war and conflict;
The Way – that they never be lost;
The Truth – that they may know God; and
The Life – that someday, when this life is over, they may be with Him in Paradise. Amen.