Army Chaplains' Blog

Archive for January 2011

Being Pregnant that is…This is what I was told when I asked a soldier to help me carry a very large box…He did carry it after some banter!

I was a little apprehensive to tell the Battalion that I was pregnant, not least because I am currently with an Infantry Unit. I felt awkward being one of the few women attached with them, only to say I was pregnant! Especially, as although there are less than 20 females with the Unit, 9 of us are either on maternity or are pregnant (Clerks, Medic, Chef and now the Padre). I needn’t have worried though as the Colonel was fantastic about it and everyone has been so encouraging and supportive, I guess age is also in my favour as I am considerably older than many in our unit who are pregnant.

Having a baby, planning a baby has involved some tough discussions for myself and my husband over the years. For so long the time just never felt right. We got married when we were at College, followed by a Curacy (training in the Parish), I then joined the Army, was in my first posting and then my second posting was with the Infantry. I just didn’t want to let people down. But then again we had to reason I am now 36yrs and as everyone keeps reminding me I am not getting any younger. My husband, bless him will be the Primary Carer which helps us a great deal, so within time I can return to work leaving him with Junior. I know I am not irreplaceable or indispensable but I do feel strange, how a life choice impacts on other people, whether that is people having to cover me, or me being paid for a while to essentially help raise a family (maternity leave)!

In some ways I justified any time which I may have to have off to myself thinking, well when Junior goes to Nursery and School I can go along etc and get to know different people…and make new links. However, I wasn’t prepared for the new aspect of ministry which seems to have already developed…many people with children are speaking to me in a different way – as if I have become a member of a different group…many male soldiers have opened up to me about their own families, yes some of them have enjoyed sharing the horror stories but actually many of them have spoken more deeply about their own situations. So perhaps unknown to me, there is an even deeper ministry out there. But to clarify, I do not believe you have to be married or have children to be able to relate to those married with children, it’s just personally I am having deeper conversations as a consequence.

On a more practical issue, for those interested, in the Army on becoming ‘with child’ you are downgraded to P4. So no parachuting, flying a plane, carrying heavy bergens or deploying for me. I have to admit not being able to do the Physical Activity I used to do is hard, and being tired is frustrating but heh ‘it’s not a disease’ and plenty of women have gone before me! Pregnant women in the Army, as in the Civilian world are entitled to the same maternity benefits. We haven’t decided whether I will take full maternity or whether I will come back to work gradually after a couple of months – some conversations need to be had with my seniors first. But for any female Ministers considering joining the Army Chaplaincy but perhaps hesitant over the whole having children thing and how you are treated…from what I can see so far, there should be no worries. Of course for me having a husband who wants to care for Junior helps enormously!

Don’t get me wrong, I know this blog may sound quite clinical and practical, I am looking forward to this baby and during a week of Christmas leave I spent time reading a fantastic book; ‘Dear Lord I feel like a whale’, which really helped me to grow closer to God. I realised hormones, needing food instantly, even feeling nauseous can all be ways of drawing closer to God. After all God knew for a few weeks I was pregnant even before I did. The God I worship and serve is the Creator God and to have something created and growing in me is pretty awesome, so although I may come across as quite practical thinking of the future, I will never under estimate the enormity and privilege of bearing and having a child…I hope to continue during this pregnancy to draw closer to God and I continue to pray for patience…I’ll keep you in touch…

Many of our lives are full of variety; family; work; leisure; ministry and everything in between…I have reflected this week (which has been as varied as usual) that one of the greatest things of ministry in the Army is how Kaleidoscopic it really is. Through the good, bad, normal and obscure it is important to remember the centre remains the same…God is there no matter what, in the times we remember and I am ashamed to say He is even there in the times we may forget. Thank you God.

So without betraying confidences, in brief this week has included the following (and much more that I can hardly remember).

MONDAY: Visit to the RMO* to be downgraded to P4**, UHC***which lasted for 6 hours – an opportunity to review and discuss policies of health as well as looking at our soldiers who may be unwell. In the evening, Dinner at the Colonels Wife with other Officers wives – a really lovely time of chatter and catching up. Increasingly families are no longer living on the local patch**** to the Unit which means many partners can feel isolated, so social times are very important.
TUESDAY: A G1***** Study Day with all Officers and SNCO’s******looking at various policies, Discipline, Welfare and Pastoral Care followed by visiting some soldiers working around camp, a short cycle ride and later Bible Study.
WEDNESDAY: Morning prayer with fellow Chaplains, followed by a School Governors Away Day, then several Soldiers wanting to see me in confidence. I have to admit later after falling off my bike, (it was a spectacular slow motion over the handle bar job), what with a baby on the way, I came back shattered and I was in bed by 8pm!
THURSDAY: Swimming at 0730 followed by Sermon Preparation and Admin before being at the Officers Mess to receive the Colours*******,which had been residing in the Sergeants Mess during our Mess’ refurbishment. The afternoon was followed by more Admin, visiting soldiers around camp, conversations and then back to the Mess for the evening for Op Antelope********.
FRIDAY: Supposedly visiting soldiers, Admin and Emails, instead no word of a lie 14 telephone calls and several visits. All worthwhile but not as planned. Thankfully the soldiers had a rare whole weekend off so the phone went quiet during the afternoon!
SATURDAY: Hearing our soldiers won their Boxing Fight in Bolton! A day Bowling with my cousins.
SUNDAY: Leading a Church Service and enjoying the celebration of the latest addition to our church, Lauren all of 4 days.

Conversations have included;
Please pray for the Boxers as they fight in Bolton in this week;
I don’t want to do my extra duties;
I want to return from being AWOL but it’s been a long time;
I’m Pregnant; I’m getting married; Will you baptise my baby;
And there have been many reactions to their Padre being with child…from surprise to pure making fun of me…

And to maybe help you out, the *’s show there is always jargon to learn but it doesn’t take long…*RMO:Regimental Medical Office i.e Dr. **P4:I am pregnant! More to follow! ***UHC:Unit Health Care committee. ****Patch:Housing Estate. *****G1:Welfare Issues ******SNCO’s:Senior Non Commissioned Officers. *******Flags to most civvies but so much more to those in the Army. ********Op Antelope:Families were invited to the Re-Opening of the Mess.

In whatever you are doing this week, I hope you have a full and varied one…

…no wrong song…’It started with Assemblies’ (but heh it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!!), but it did and now I am a school governor…How did that happen? Fortunately my first Governors Meeting was on a high as they did really well at an OFSTED! Being involved in the local school is great, fellow Governors are really welcoming and friendly. They have a no nonsense, get on with it, putting the children first so we all get on well – we even an away day this Wednesday being hosted on the Army Base.

As a Curate I was involved in schools and saw it as a great way of being involved in the local community – One of my concerns of joining the Army was that perhaps such involvement could be limited. Thankfully I have been blessed with different opportunities wherever I have served to be involved with the local community and schools – whether this be Assemblies, Services, Visits and now I get to be a Governor. Yes, it does take time, often out of the regular Army hours but I consider it to be really worthwhile and a great privilege to be involved in this way.

It’s nice to hear; ‘Hello Padre Tracey’ when you are in the supermarket, and at regular festivals it is awesome to have the church filled with children. This year we are even having a day of celebration for Prince Williams Wedding…I’m not sure whether I’ll be marrying two children together, or teddies or who knows. (I will keep it legal – the Verger will see to that!). But actually it’s more than this, such involvement enables us to get on with parents from our Regiment as well as contributing to the wider community. On occasions local people to where our Soldiers are based can be a little wary of the Army. Being involved, having your face out there can help allay some of these fears as well as building bridges. It’s not all selfless though as it enables us to stay in touch with important issues outside of the Barrack Fence, issues which affect many of our soldiers who are parents.

For me my outside involvement is being a school governor and being involved with local churches, for other padres it can be Youth work, Musical societies, different past times or sport clubs (Did you know one of our Padres Heather, currently serving in Germany, won the Army Badminton Championships?). Whoever we are, whatever we are interested in doesn’t have to cease when we put on the green uniform. Due to exercises and deployments we may not make every meeting or session, but we can at least be involved in different areas of life. Afterall it won’t be that long for some of us before we return to being civilians so it’s important we keep in touch.

It’s been a quiet few weeks on the soldier front – hopefully they have been enjoying some well deserved leave…So, although I have been popping in, keeping an eye on ‘Rear Party’ and have still been involved in services, I have also had some time to devote to community involvement, in schools but also in the wider life of the Anglican church!

Prior to joining the Army, I was hesitant of possibly becoming too ‘Army Barmy’, and losing some of my Anglican roots. Of course any Church service we are apart of, is in accordance to our own tradition but I have also tried to stay in touch with the Anglican Church through reading the Church Press. Ok so I do a catch up during leave when I read several copies, but I have been trying!! Attending an Anglican Conference each year for Anglican Chaplains refreshes us on what we should know or be aware of. Attending and visiting Anglican Churches is also helpful, as is having a ‘Reader in Training’ working alongside me in the Garrison Church. But actually for me, being a ‘Vocations Advisor’, assisting the Army’s DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands) has been a great way of me having to keep in touch with what is going on in the Anglican Church.

Being a Vocations Advisor involves me getting alongside a few people who are considering ordination. Such thoughts, or sensing a calling is never easy and the process for some can be over many years. For those in the Armed Services, the additional difficulty is we move around a lot more than the average person, so rather than to expect Dioceses to cope with people from the Army, chopping and changing where they live, we have our own DDO.

I get to meet up with those assigned to me, where I listen to their journey, hopefully advising in the right way, pointing them to good reading material, praying with them, as well as assisting with form filling and whatever is required. It’s good for me to keep in touch with current thought through reading up to date material and through attending conferences. Although the Ordination process for me was just 11 years ago, things have changed already so hopefully, I will shortly be attending and shadowing a Bishops Advisory Panel to keep me in touch with the mysterious goings on.

To the outside world it seems friends and family who are interested in Ordination disappear for three days, are generally tested, analysed and watched before those in the know say yeah or nay to them becoming ordained Priests. Those in the yeah, then have to grapple with going to College while those in the nay are left wondering; ‘so, what has God called me to’. Having known people in both camps it can be a process of both joys and sorrows…
We have someone from the Army attending shortly and our thoughts are with them.

Maybe you are reading this blog and are someone who is going through this process yourself, if so I pray and hope you may hear Gods voice in amongst all the reading, paperwork and prayer! It doesn’t always come as we expect and it may not always be the answer we want…but I hope we all keep listening and seeking God’s will…and if you become Ordained and are interested in serving in the Army, why not get in touch!

P.S I am an Anglican but of course Padres are from many different denominations…Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian etc etc