Army Chaplains' Blog

Archive for November 2010

This past week I have reflected my life is like a Christmas Cake. No I’m not nutty or a fruit cake, but rather Army Ministry is a curious mix of different elements. Last week I was away with fellow Army Chaplains at Amport House, exploring ethics and morality as well as deepening our understanding of developments in the Army. We started off our time together with a quiet day which was a good start as we spent time with God in silence, which helped many of us to draw closer to God. Afterall as much as our role is often about doing and being with our soldiers, we also need to be close to God, as we seek to be there for our soldiers in our presence but also in prayer. It’s important as Padres, that even if our soldiers rarely know or think about it, that they are held in our prayers.

Being away with so many padres from so many different denominations is always a joy. I love being part of a Department that is a small symbol of the Kingdom of God, with Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican Christians. Sharing in times of worship and prayer are always powerful reminders that God is bigger than any of us.

While it was good to be away, don’t get me wrong, I missed my Battalion so after a Wine Tasting Evening with the officers on Thursday Evening, on Friday I spent time with those who are soon to deploy. Giving out sweets yes, but I was also there to listen to their fears and to answer questions, such as; How do I get married on my return? My wife is pregnant, will she be cared for while I am away? Where is a decent cemetery in Newcastle? In the evening I had fun and games with the All Ranks Wives Christmas Party, where we enjoyed food, drinks and entertainment. Over the weekend there was still little rest as there was a Party for the 0-6’s…yes we’re still in November but with the Fusiliers Christmas is here!!

I have just returned from a Retreat for Tidworth Garrison Church. Organised by my husband and led by myself, we had a wonderful opportunity of taking 25 people away for the weekend in the beautiful surroundings of Amport House, Hampshire. We were young, old, Military, Civilian, MOD, church and unchurched and everyone seemed to get on well. There was laughter, tears, quiet, noise, reflection and even shouting (but this was mostly at my husband as he bravely led a quiz on Friday night).

There were times of refreshment, singing, Bible Study, fellowship, prayer, times of healing, Quizzes in the Bar, walks, food and even more food. Some friends of ours assisted with leading the music and times of prayer and it was lovely to be working with other Christians. The staff looked after us fantastically well. It was interesting for me to be around so many civilians with their quirky eating habits, as within the Army our soldiers pretty much eat what they are given, which at the moment is often ration packs. The theme of Taste and see the Lord is Good (Psalm 34 v.8) was very appropriate as we ate much food and received much teaching from God’s word. We focused on Ruth and Judges, looking at how in the Ordinary we can be extraordinary, and how God can use both our weaknesses and strengths. God seemed to be at work in people’s lives, particularly in the Communion Service today, which was a privilege to see and hear of.

So from one experience of Amport to another as I return to the same place tomorrow. This time with 30 Padres from around the South as we meet to study, pray and discuss issues relevant to us. Sometimes it is strange being away doing the whole Padre thing when I know my Battalion are away on exercise. I did at least get to see them last week as they once again were dressed up as Afghans providing invaluable training for those soon to deploy. This week many of them are going to Wales and although sadly I am unable to join them up Pen-Y-Fan, they remain in my thoughts and prayers. I look forward to being with them all the following week as they have a week on the ranges.

For your Information. Some people off line have been asking where they could catch up with the Radio Interview from last Sunday. You can catch it on listen again…It’s the 7am on the Lee Stone Show.
And if you do listen – Yes I did manage to get my Robes all ironed and sparkling for the Remembrance Service in Tidworth later that day!

Ok, so it’s the Autumn and we’re just going away for 48 hours, but some of us from St Michaels Garrison church are all going away together. So to Amport House we go, Jack my husband has been organising and running with it and I am speaking – hopefully I may even finish the talks this week!! We are looking forward to rest, relaxation, great food, in beautiful surroundings, talks, quizzes, the bar, Bible Study, fellowship, worship and whatever else God has in store!
In my short time of being in the Army, I have come to greatly value the worshipping congregations of Garrison Churches. They are truly quite amazing people, as from what I have seen, they are the most tolerant, faithful Church goers going. From week to week the services and Padres chop and change. One week they could be swinging from the rafters with incense, the next they are quiet with BCP, and then they could have a Padre who prefers a worship band with powerpoint. The Padre could be Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian (Roman Catholics have their own churches)…and yet the faithful worshipping communities attend week in, week out.

Some vergers (other unsung heroes) can name a dozen, if not more Padres they have worked with…The churches may have Fellowship Groups, Bible Studies, Children’s Groups, Alpha, Choirs, Puppet clubs, Youth Groups…and the congregations kinda just get on with it.
In the Parish whenever I preached on the visions of Revelation 4 and 5, I used to become despairing as rather than seeing Gods people worshipping God, I saw Christians picking and choosing which services to go to, which churches to attend. Nearly every PCC meeting discussed at some point the issues of people picking and choosing…but in churches of the Army, especially in Germany, there is less choice and Christians meet where there is a church. Sure in the U.K there is more choice, if you don’t like the Garrison Church, you can join with a local congregation, but actually a fair few Christians choose to meet together with their Padres.

As an aside, local churches are great how they welcome our soldiers in, often not seeing them every week, as there are weekend commitments, but making them welcome and praying for them and being there for them, THANK YOU! We may soon be running an Alpha course with some said local churches which is great way of people seeing churches working together.

So back to singing; ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday’, some of us from the Garrison are shortly are packing our bags and heading off for retreat together…So if you don’t hear from me, I may just have stayed there!

The priority of many Padres this week will be organising and leading Remembrance Services. These I am sure will range from large gatherings involving a whole Garrison, to small groups of soldiers around a Mastiff, with everything in between!

For me, this week consists of several Assemblies in Infant and Junior Schools – no mean feat – as many of these children have parents serving abroad. It is important to get a balance between remembering those who have died and those who are serving without upsetting the children unnecessarily! And then on Sunday, before being back in Tidworth for our Garrison Remembrance Service, I am speaking on BBC Wiltshire on their Morning Show. I believe it is important to get the balance right between remembering the past and yet acknowledging the present, not least thinking of the many soldiers we know in danger this very week.

I believe over the past few ten years or so, more churches around the U.K are observing Remembrance Sunday. By this I mean, in addition to civic services and gathering around World War Memorials, more and more churches are praying for and looking at the work of the Armed Services. I wonder whether this is because the Armed Services are in the News most weeks, more local communities are sharing in the loss of soldiers through memorial services but also more Cities are giving their home regiments a great welcome home through parades and the like. Events around the world are not only affecting the soldiers and their families but many others too.

When it comes this week to Remembrance Services, many churches will be remembering both those who fought in the First and Second World War but also those who have lost their lives more recently or are still engaged in conflict around the world. I think there is a need for both. It is important not to forget those who have gone before us, but equally there needs to be time to remember those currently in conflict.

So the role this week of the Padre is to lead others in their remembrance, of either those they know, or those from many years ago who may be only a name on a plaque but to someone they were a loved one! If you want to hear more of these thoughts, why not tune into BBC Wiltshire next Sunday 0745.

Well done to Kerry Lawford for trying had on my mini quiz set last week…prize on its way! To remind you the phrase to translate was: ‘You lunatic, you’re an admin vortex, you man up, there’s a brew over there, fill you boots’. The answer is…’You wally you are useless at sorting things out, get yourself sorted, there’s a cuppa over there, have as much as you’d like’ Or it was at least something to that effect!