Army Chaplains' Blog

Archive for February 2011

This was yelled to me one morning…Words out of a Warrant Officers mouth…not mine! I won’t educate you on what the … was! I wouldn’t say we necessarily need more female padres but we do need more padres and with only 4 Regular Female Padres currently serving, a few more would be good. Of course it’s not all about being a Regular Chaplain, many Ministers enjoy serving in the Territorial’s, with the Army Cadet Force or as an Officiating Chaplain which is being linked with a local unit, as these can be done more local to home on a part time basis.

On speaking further with the Warrant Officer he was suggesting Female Padres can make even more links with the wives, may be easier to open up to, and can be someone for women hurt by men to turn too. All of these things have certainly happened with me, but of course male padres are equally able to be there in each case as well and I am sure there may be some men who haven’t wanted to speak to a female.

This all said it would be great for more men and women to consider Army Chaplaincy . Last week I accepted an invitation at Church House, Westminster to share in conversation with 60 female Priests who were exploring their vocation. It was great to get along so many different women, to hear some of their stories, to see a deep desire to serve God and to see them trying to discern how that be. There were Hospital, School, Uni and Prison Chaplains and in the Army I would say you get a little of each. There were a number interested and a few other women along the way have expressed an interest so in May I am running a Visit…so if you are interested or know someone who may be, glance downwards…

And for those that think this entry has been all too girly, next week you’ll get to hear from the other side of the story…from men!

Have you ever considered Ministering in the Army?

Are you Ordained (for two years as a Priest) and under 49years?

Are you able to give at least three years to Ministry in the Army?

Interested? Why not spend three days with some female chaplains, from the Regulars, Territorials, Army Cadets and an Officiating Chaplain?

This is a rare opportunity to see soldiers at work around Salisbury Plain and Deepcut, Surrey, as well as having time to chat with us!

Tuesday 10th May – Thursday 12th May All this and it’s free!

All you have to do is arrive at Amport House, Amport, Andover,
on Tuesday 10th May by 12noon.

If you are interested but unable to make this date, please still get in touch and we may be able to make an alternative arrangement.

So, if this experience, sounds interesting for you or for someone you know, please do make a comment to this blog and I will get in touch. I will not publicise your interest as a comment, just let me know and I will contact you privately!

From becoming a Priest I have been in favour of offering ‘Marriage Preparation’ for couples I am marrying. Increasingly, world wide sadly we are seeing an increase of Marriages not working out. For me, although the course does not offer a life time guarantee, hopefully doing anything in preparation for marriage is better than not. There are many different courses and I have tried several. For myself and my husband, having attended a residential course where we are invited to take off our watches, be guided by a bell, writing love letters to each other and spending a Saturday evening hearing several couples read from a script about ‘sex’… we decided to offer something slightly different. On the plus side the weekend brought my husband and I closer to each other as we hated exactly the same things.

This has hopefully helped us to be more sensitive to a couples needs and up till recently we have offered a day course with lunch and lots of refreshments. The day was a combination of DVD’s, personal testimony and time for couples to speak together over some guided exercises. Sessions covering topics such as Commitment, Commitment, Dealing with Conflict and Sharing Values allow couples to explore a whole ranges of issues as well as having many laughs along the way with those who have gone before!

This year, we linked with a local church initiative which offers a weekend of activities. Supper and a contemporary film (Licensed to Wed – a funny and yet very apt Robin Williams film), kicked it off on the Friday evening, with Saturday following a similar pattern to what we have offered before. On the Sunday, couples go along to the church where they are going to be married. Perhaps sharing stories of indelible ink being splashed on a brides dress and sharing how my husband nearly died on our wedding night (dehydration!) and then woken by a fire alarm at 7am wasn’t that helpful! But actually the couples all seemed to have a laugh as well as taking away more knowledge. Most importantly there was plenty of time for them to discuss issues between themselves!

I have to confess I was a little cautious inviting some of our soldiers along and yet bless them they have all readily took it up and even though this one was over the Valentines weekend, they were keen, enthusiastic and turned up! It was great to work with local churches, not least to share resources but also for our soldiers to share the experience with many civilian couples! So thank you to the Portway and Danebury Team Ministry, especially Revd Vanessa Cole (OCM of Middle Wallop) for having us along, to my husband who has now done more Marriage Preparation than is possibly helpful and of course to the couples for taking their marriage seriously.

I have been asked this many times by friends and family! Although our soldiers are often seen on the News in Afghanistan and elsewhere, many people wonder what our soldiers do whilst they are not in far away countries. In addition to what may be expected such as Physical fitness and drill, the Army spends a lot of time on courses, such as education, career progression and driving etc. Exercises and training take up a considerable amount of time and this is conducted all over the world, in particular Canada, Kenya, and many parts of the U.K. This is where my particular unit comes in. For the past 18months and for the next 6 months, attached to the Land Warfare Centre, they have been providing invaluable training, which has included many units who are soon to deploy to Afghanistan.

Hosting our Armed Services and other nations, 1RRF and others conduct training in the U.K. Vast expanses of land for periods of time turn into a mock Afghanistan, and the terrain becomes filled with little villages, market places and small holdings. The soldiers I work with, become mock Insurgents, Civilian Population or whatever is needed. For weeks on end in traditional clothing, they become Afghan’s, maintaining customs such as attending markets, holding Prayers, effectively living in the middle of nowhere waiting for troops on training to interact with them. There are a number of serials which will include events and challenges to test those being trained. The training provided is excellent.

For my guys week in week out it has been a long 18months, often working nights and days on end, over weekends, most recently in freezing temperatures. I have been proud of 1RRF who have very much made their mark on the training. Inheriting only one or two market stalls, I came across a mock market last week with over 25 stalls. They always 110%. They make the training area look as close to Afghanistan as they can! Our Battalion has tried where possible to make this time for our soldiers as comfortable as possible, providing additional warm kit, fresh rations where possible, and most recently small gymnasiums, but honestly little can stop the cold and often boredom for our guys. Some of them can be living like Afghans for over a week, only for no patrol to ever find them!

On the plus side, they are often pleased to see me. I confess though I should have got shares in a sweet shop as most weeks I can get through any number of packets. It’s always good to visit them, to chat and to share in their experiences, but this in itself has not been without its risks. Last weekend alone I ‘interacted’ with 5 mastiffs and several warriors as well as having to convince some Latvian’s, I was who I said I was (bribing with sweets helped!). Reading a map continues to be a challenge for me and it’s getting a balance between visiting my guys but not wanting to get in the way of essential training. Although I want to see my guys, I don’t want to interrupt or get in the way! Well here’s to another 6 months before we hand over to the Royal Welsh!