Army Chaplains' Blog

Archive for April 2011

After some leave, which included meeting up with a Missionary partner and conducting a wedding, it’s back to Tidworth which is as full of variety as ever!

Ok, so we can’t all attend the wedding of Prince William and Kate, but many people will be enjoying an additional Bank Holiday, perhaps watching the big event as we are, as a Unit at the British Legion…Clarendon Infants however, are getting in the mood the day before with their own special celebrations. Staff and children alike are turning up to school in their wedding finery, before walking to St Michaels Garrison church for their own spin on a wedding. Having heard today of the importance and value of weddings, as well as the what’s, how’s and where’s, they seem eager to see one for themselves.

Having been to more weddings than I can remember, it was important to be mindful that for many children this would be their first wedding occasion…while I thought it was going a little far to marry two children together, two teddy bears are rising to the occasion, so in full finery will make their way down the aisle. Best man, Father of the Bride, Bridesmaids and Pageboys in attendance we are going through a scaled version of a wedding. Songs will be sung, prayers prayed, an interactive talk given and all in all it is hoped the children wil learn more about weddings before Prince William and Kate’s big day!

Many a good wedding is followed by a feast and entertainment and Clarendon Infants will not be out done…so a barbeque and disco will follow.
In amongst all this, a new head needs to be appointed at the Junior School this week, there are baptism visits galore, our new Colonel will be dined in and I aim to get around our guys, many of whom are on exercise again this week. But with a three day week followed by a four day week I am hoping that morale will remain unusually high!

P.S. Happy Wedding Day to our Chaplain General who is getting married to Lydia this Saturday. Sadly I have to miss it as I am taking a Baptism, but may we wish them all the best for their marriage.

One thing which is always hard to get used to is how often many people move around in the Army! Whilst some soldiers may stay in the same Battalion for 22 years, others come and go frequently. However, because the Army is used to this, everyone just mucks in and gets on with it quickly and apart from those like a Colonel, the comings and goings go fairly quietly!

Saying goodbye to the Colonel has taken over a week as he has been ‘dined out’ (i.e lots of food, speeches, drinks, playing of drums and games), by the Officers Mess and Sergeants Mess as well as the Battalion all saying good bye as he was escorted off camp in a Warrior! Pulling ropes attached to the Warrior the reaminder of the Battalion lined the route saluting as he departed …Our new Colonel arrives and I am sure will be ‘dined in’ shortly. We have also had a new RSM recently with several other changes, so it doesn’t take long for a Battalion to seem quite different quickly!

Change in the Bateson Household continues too – sadly I had to spend money last week on maternity clothes, I was hoping just to wear the old suits which had become too big for me, but Junior has had different ideas! Re. my uniform, I wore my Mess dress and Service Dress for the last time recently (well until Junior arrives!) – no matter how many safety pins were being used, they just weren’t going to do the business for a while. My combats have been modified and I now have a very gorgeous kangaroo pouch instead of a zip, hidden under my jacket!

Bump is doing well, growing at the right speed, using me like a gym and seems to either adore the Drums Platoon and Organ or hates them – at any rate, he gets very excited when they play loudly. I couldn’t believe it recently though, I am now 5 months pregnant and yet I still got mistaken for a man!!!

The soldiers and Officers continue to be really nice asking after my health and making sure I am ok. I stumbled recently in church at a parade service and I have never seen so many Sergeants rush to help! I have to admit I felt quite the fool!

Hope you all have had a good Easter and enjoy the celebrations of the Royal wedding…more to follow soon!

My journey began in 2009 when I was happily serving in the community of Chipping Sodbury on the edge of the Cotswolds in South Gloucestershire. After 16 years in church pastoral ministry as a Baptist minister the prospect of being a Padre in the British Army was not top of my bucket list. During my church ministry I’d had the opportunity over the years to serve voluntarily as a Children’s Hospice Chaplain and a Civic Service Chaplain to the local Council Chambers and a Police Chaplain. Not all at the same time, you’ll realise. But it seems that as far as God was concerned He had more in store!

God has a funny way of taking you out of your comfort zone and believe me I was very comfortable in Sodbury. However 2009 was one of those years where God was very evidently nudging me to think further outside of the box. It took the form of repeated and unplanned encounters with several Forces Chaplains, which I’ve come to believe were not coincidences but God incidencies! It seemed wherever I went I would encounter Padre’s from the Services. The year began with a retreat in Lee Abbey North Devon in January and an encounter with a chap just about to enter the department. Next April at the Baptist Union Assembly, I met Deputy Chaplain General Jonathan Woodhouse. Then in June my mate Richard Ellingham came to visit. Richard at the time was serving as the Bish (that’s what the Navy call their Padre’s) on HMS Ark Royal. He also encouraged me to consider Chaplaincy in the Services though I think he had the Navy in mind. Then finally in September I went to a ministry refresher conference provided by the Baptist Union every five years of ministry. Low and behold, who was there but Padre Cole Maynard. Well by this time I was sure God was at work. So 2010 began with my wife Juliette and I spending three days at Tidworth and Bulford garrison, where I met with a number of Padre’s who gave us an invaluable insight into Army chaplaincy. One of those Chaplains was Tracey, who was tremendously helpful and a great advertisement for the department.

This visit was a real turning point for my wife Juliette, giving her a real vision for this ministry. She would describe me as coming alive over those days as I encountered and conversed with Soldiers of all ranks. This was crucial as in many ways it is the family who make the sacrifices associated with kind of ministry. Next I spent a day of interviews with my sending denomination, which resulted in them recommending me to the department for consideration. Then in May 2010 I spent three days at Westbury Army Officers Selection Board, which I would have to say was quite stressful, though I think that was the point, to see how you would cope. At the end of the three days I was offered a short service commission subject to medical. I then had to wait 5 months before I had my medical in October. This wasn’t the easiest of times, feeling the future was all up in the air and unknown, but was an opportunity to get physically fit down the Gym.

Having passed my medical, then came a another wait till May of this year. On the 2nd May I will finally be entering the department, 5 stone lighter in weight, very excited and full of apprehension at the prospect of caring for the young men and women who give so much to the security of our nation. I feel incredibly inadequate but at the same time privileged to able to serve God in this significant ministry. The journey of dependence upon God continues as we await to hear where I will be posted after my initial training at Amport House, where Army Chaplaincy training takes place. I will be there for six weeks and then posted to my first regiment and then in October I will attend Sandhurst for 10 weeks on the Professionally Qualified Officer Course. My children of 18 and 16 both have final exams to do which means the family will stay at Chipping Sodbury until the middle of July and then join me. I would greatly appreciate your prayers as we make this exciting adjustment and that God will continue to lead and empower us for this new challenge.

Revd Tracey Bateson: Having met Carl and his wife we really look forward to having them within the Department working with our soldiers…and now due to a spot of leave, there may be a little gap before the next blog, but if you put us as a favourite or make a comment we can automatically feed into your inbox! or so the techie people say!

The Army loves its traditions…In every unit we serve, we learn about different battles, customs, and have to get used to various ways of doing things. Does the port leave the table as we pour? Do we get a loo break or not? Do we use utensils for dessert? Will we drink Champagne or G&T? Will we be eating a Rose ( I did this on Minden Day) or a Leek (this is for Welsh Battalions). The past week or so has been one learning curve after another for me. The Officers Mess (where they eat and live) has recently been renovated and there has been great pride at various Battalion Dinners in hearing about battles depicted in paintings. We have learnt the history of Colours and flags and various pieces of silver. But more than this as part of the Battalion we are invited to share in their customs.

Over the weekend we ‘dined the Colonel out’. Col. Jim Landon is leaving and as is customary we had a meal in his honour, which involved lots of speeches, Mess Games (best kept secret), as well as being entertained by the Drums Platoon. The Colonel even had a go with the drums and he did pretty well – he was then given the honour of receiving a drum himself. I think the last of the revellers left after dawn! I am afraid I had to abscond earlier due to ‘bump’ having got quite excited at the playing of our drums platoon. Fitting into my Mess Dress took some prayer as well.

One of the biggest days for the Fusiliers is St George’s Day and this year we are celebrating early (as St George’s Day clashes with Easter). The day begins with Gunfire, (tea and a drop of whiskey) given to all our soldiers at 6.30am by the Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (Sergeants, Colour Sergeants and Sergeant Majors). This is followed by a champagne breakfast and Church Parade Service. Last year we had a drumhead service where the drums formed the altar, but this year we are having a Parade Service in Church. The Colours (flags) marched in by the Colour Party, will be received and draped on the altar, followed by a service of remembrance and celebration for St George. We will hear the Order of the Day, sing Hymns, the National Anthem, pray and hear a sermon. Last year they enjoyed a Rap of St George so this year we will continue this ‘tradition’ although they are being treated to two raps this year. The other on the Prodigal Son!

And then the games begin, in more than one sense…the Champions cup will be fought over, with each Company hoping to win the honour of being the sportiest one. Families are invited to witness the Football, Tug of War and Volley Ball during the afternoon, which will be followed by more celebrations, barbecue and the odd drink or two.

Our Battalion has been flat out since Christmas aiding essential training on Salisbury Plain so it will be great for them to have a day of celebration with the families. My two jobs as always are to pray for good weather and to lead the service, the latter always being the easier of the two! It’s a week for dressing smart as well, as I am on duty at Salisbury Cathedral on Wednesday as an Assistant Chaplain, so if you are passing and fancy catching up in person I’ll be there between 1030 and 4pm.