Army Chaplains' Blog

Archive for March 2011

For anyone who is interested in being a Padre but is anxious of not donning their vestments, there need be no fear. Although as this blog illustrates, a lot of our time is out and about with our soldiers, Padres are still required to be part of a lot of services. On top of Sunday Service commitments this past week, I was in Brookwood Cemetry, Woking. I was taking a Memorial Service for a Captain of ours who was killed last year. Such times whilst sad and painful are vital to be a part of. To mourn and to remember is of of course important, but afterwards as we gathered in a pub for lunch, those closest to Jon could also share their lives of the past year.

At Jon’s funeral, last year at Sandhurst, I spoke from Ecclesiastes as I had speculated that it is all too easy to think as Solomon the writer did; ‘Everything is meaningless’ and yet although Jon’s life was for only 29 years it was far from meaningless. The many messages and people the family have met over the past year give testimony to Jon’s full life. We remembered too that sadly all around the country and within Afghanistan there would have been families attending funerals and memorials for their departed loved ones.

At the memorial Service I turned to Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 which reminds us that there is a time for everything, a time to mourn and to be sad but also a time to be happy and even to dance. When we have lost loved ones, although we may never get over our loss, hopefully within time we learn how to live though it, never forgetting, but within time able to function and live. On occasions this may even include times of laughter and for this we shouldn’t feel guilty. As we reminisced over some of Jon’s pursuits and adventures we did begin to laugh and marvel at his spirit. The words on his gravestone sum him up; ‘Forever in our hearts your spirit of adventure kindness laughter and loyalty have touched us all’.

This week I look towards celebrating Mothering Sunday in Church, which always attracts many more people, not least this year as it is also a Service of Baptism so we will be welcoming new children into our family. (It’s bound to be organised Chaos!). Plans are already afoot to celebrate Easter with a local school as well as a Parade Service for an early St Georges Day with our Battalion. The Padre is expected to head up each of these and often has a free reign in the services. What wonderful opportunities to help our soldiers and young children to learn more of Easter and what church is all about, as well as hopefully welcoming them in to a place of worship. That should be over a thousand people coming to church who wouldn’t normally go!

But for now I am off on Exercise with our guys for 5 days, not exactly sleeping out with them or running around, (my bump of 23 weeks won’t allow it), but I can still give out sweets and pop along for a chat!

This week has quite blown me away and I write this entry iwith humility…I have had the unusual blessing and privilege of having had a week of soldiers wanting to either pray or ask a thousand questions about God!

In speaking with soldiers as I have mentioned before I make it a policy to be available for their questions, but at no point do I push God onto them. I always wait for their questions! This week has been exceptional for such questions. Over the past few months I have been blessed with a number of such conversations and to those whom it felt right, I invited them to an Alpha Course we were due to run. Initially the response was disappointing. In spite of their interest many soldiers were away on courses and exercises and were unable to attend, but this week some of them were in camp with questions galore.

It is such a privilege to come alongside soldiers in whom the spirit is working – no way could so many questions be asked otherwise. Each of them asked me for a Bible and each are looking forward to next week when we will meet again. As if this hasn’t been enough, other soldiers this week have wanted to out pour their hearts in confidence. When I feel it is appropriate, I say; ‘I will pray for you but if you would like we can pray together’, and this week has been a week when they have asked that we pray together and have then even gone on to ask how to pray.

In addition to being blessed in being part of different people’s journeys I was then blessed at the Lent Supper talks which kicked off this week with looking at the Bible in Worship. It was wonderful to be with people who were interested to know more about the Bible, as well as worshipping together through Evening Prayer and contemporary songs. We reflected on the Garrison Church and it was lovely to hear of faithful people who attend a church which to be honest is often very different every week. They have come to appreciate the breadth and depth of worship within different denominations and I have to say I was humbled by this.

Last weekend I was in Derby (at St Peter’s Church,  Littleover) talking about the Army, first in a Morning Communion Service with a music band and then a Cafe Church and I came away so enthused and felt if I had a choice it’s a church I would go to. Because to be honest I felt close to God, enjoyed the worship, felt it was bible centred and full of different people – a good enough reason to go to a church I guess…and yet at the Garrison Church in team ministry there are people week in week out who never choose for their own personal liking, but rather they go to church for God and for the soldiers who may come along.

This wasn’t the entry I had expected…to be honest I was going to praise the Drums Platoon who shared an assembly with me this week, but I just wanted to share that The God whom I and many serve is an awesome God, a surprising, loving, powerful, sacrificial, all knowing, amazing God who is at work with our soldiers. And all of this came not from me, as I have said I never raise the subject of God, but rather I believe it came from God’s spirit and the soldiers themselves. Praise God!

I’ll start with…and some more! As I have mentioned before my Battalion are currently providing invaluable training for those soon to deploy and no I haven’t deployed myself yet, but I am sure my time will come…BUT I have recently been made aware of a Padre who is in Afghanistan and you may like to follow his blog, to hear of life out there…so why not check out http://www.britisharmy.wordpress.com/category/3-para/

Shortly we hope to have a regular blog on this site from a deployed Chaplain…

The events of Afghanistan are never far from all of our thoughts and prayers. At a recent RAChD Dinner, a painting was unveiled to remind us of ministry under fire. A Chaplain holding a memorial service came under fire, and although they took shelter for a while, the service continued and all was quiet during the Last Post. The Artist captured the moment and when I find out where it is being displayed, I’ll let you know. Incidentally if you are interested, the Chaplaincy Dept does have its own museum at Amport House which can be looked around – appointments are necessary however.

So that was more, what of ‘this and that’? Although it is important to be mindful of the events in Afghanistan, one danger can be thinking what we are doing back home lacks importance. As I look back over this past week, once again I have been blessed with variety, but some of it just doesn’t seem as consequential as those ministering in war torn countries. As I quoted from Colossians 3:17 over the weekend however, I am reminded that in whatever we are doing, where ever that may be, the important aspect is that we are doing it for the Lord…so a snapshot of this past week has included; Teaching Values and Standards; Baptism and Home visits Galore; Planning Social events with our Wives Committee for the next few months; Governors Meeting; a photo shoot!!; attending an Army Archdeacons Council where we debated Female Bishops and the accommodation of those unable to accept it; a drinks do at Lambeth Palace with Military Organisations and charities; P.T; Vocations Advising Time; Visiting Derby to talk at a couple of services about my favourite subject – Ministry in the Army and a 20 week scan! So once again a far from boring week, with lots of variety, good conversations and time with many different people.

and for those interested…the scan went well. Junior has the right amount of feet, hands, kidneys etc and is doing well in the height, weight and size department so we are proud parents already! I’m growing at an alarming rate and although people say they still can’t tell, I can and I feel enormous! So much so, I’m having to resize my trousers already! It doesn’t help that Junior is an active one…less said…but the sooner Junior is doing P.T. out of the womb, the better – as it is I am sure circuit training and bungee jumping has been happening this past week! But it was at least good in a busy old week to lie down for 10 mins to see this new life forming…Wow!

Congregations of Garrison Churches as I have said before, to my mind, are amazing. If they are part of a shared Team Ministry they can be worshipping up and down the candle each week. Baptist one week, high Anglo-Catholic another, low evangelical, Methodist, Assembly’s of God, Presbyterian, Salvation Army and much more! For me it is a true picture of Revelation 4 and 5 where we see God, to my mind, being worshipped in the truest sense…in these passages we see it is less about us and our own preferences and more about God and worshipping Him because He is worthy of and deserving of our praise.

Being part of a varied team continues to open my eyes to the worshipping God in different ways. Being part of Afro-Caribean, Fijian and other congregations continues to remind me of all nations worshipping God and how our Lord longs for us to love, serve and worship Him wherever we are and however we can. It continues to sadden me when some people, threatened by others, by how they worship or how they interact with God, cause conflict or upset. Who is any individual (or dare I say denomination), to have the monopoly on how we worship?

This Lent, our Senior Chaplain thought it would be a great opportunity for us to explore the origins of such different spiritualities. Kicking off with an Ash Wednesday Service and Supper over the next few weeks we are going to explore Wesley, Spurgeon, George Herbert, the Bible and much more I am sure. Each evening includes worship inspired from such origins, prayer, teaching and of course food. It is hoped such times will help our congregation and ourselves to appreciate the differences between our Sunday Services as well as opening our eyes and hearts to more of God…time will tell!

When Tracey joined the army and we moved to Germany my first identity card said “Wife of Captain Bateson”. I didn’t mind the label, but I’d married a vicar, not a padre. Although I’d been in the Territorial Army years back, it didn’t prepare me for being married to the army!

My experience of the parish was of being involved. Our ministry was a joint ministry, even if I did spend the days at my own work. In the evenings and at weekends I was fully involved in whatever was going on, be it bible study, alpha, marriage prep etc.

However, army ministry is different. I’m not involved with the ‘camp’ side of Tracey’s ministry. It took some getting used too. But the garrison church is like any other church … just without the fund raising issues. Bible study, alpha, marriage prep, social events … they all go on just like in a Civilian church.

The big difference is the moving. Every couple of years we move house. Last time Germany, this time Tidworth, next time – who knows!? If, like me, you like being settled it can be a bit of a pain. But it breeds something across the military community which is quite special – because everyone mucks in straight away. There is no waiting around to get involved, we all just get on with it.

“Cracking on” makes for a stronger and more community minded attitude. This support is important when your other half can be away at war for months on end and you, the spouse, have been left in a strange area or country.

Another aspect of the garrison church which I find brilliant is the lack of denominational boundaries. Yes, we all have our sending churches, but as a community that doesn’t really matter, we are first and foremost a community of Christians. Everyone has different ways of doing things, but sharing in different forms of worship has lead to a greater appreciation of our wider calling.

Sounds good? Well, there are always down sides. Housing can be a bit hit and miss, we had a great house in Germany, but I currently dream of a leaky old vicarage. If, as a spouse, you’ve got your own vocation or career, moving every couple of years can be different. And this week I got really annoyed with the Royal Artillery for rattling the windows every day and night with the big guns. (He didn’t really, he was just annoyed he couldn’t identify what they were – Tracey)

But even after all of that, it is very rewarding, and it is a ministry which is very important to the young men and women who put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis. And as an army ‘wife’ my most important job is supporting Tracey, keeping her grounded, and reminding her that an AS90 isn’t something the infantry carry around!! (I’m not as bad as he thinks at identifying weapon systems, an AS90 is an Artillery Gun which to many people resembles a tank, whilst soldiers can carry on their person an SA80! – Tracey again!).