Army Chaplains' Blog

Archive for October 2013

Chaplains require an adventurous character if they are to make the most of the opportunities for ministry presented to them in their service of the military community. Below, Padre Stewart MacKay reflects theologically on a visit to the Falkland Islands:

I have been working with 2 PARA since January 2012. During that time the whole battalion has rarely been together in one place as exercises, operations (Op OLYMPIC and Op FIRIC) and leave have happened mainly at company level and many of our troops attend courses in between these. Whilst there is plenty of pastoral work to be done in camp exercises provide the best quality time to spend with troops. This can be illustrated through a trip to the Falkland Islands, some 7,900 miles from the UK, to visit C (Bruneval) Coy, who were undertaking a two month exercise package as the Falkland Islands Roulement Infantry Company (FIRIC).

The exercise package included two cycles through the ranges, patrols and Quick Reaction Force, culminating in a final exercise. There were also battlefield tours and platoon socials between phases. This context delivers many opportunities for pastoral ministry. Sharing some of the experiences of the troops embodies what I believe to be the necessity of incarnational chaplaincy approach if it s to bear fruit of any kind. One such activity was a sixteen mile TAB from Onion Ranges back to Mount Pleasant Camp. I suggested to one of the soldiers that it would be great if I had a cross to carry and he quickly volunteered to make me one! And cometh the hour I strapped it to my Bergen after having it signed by the troops and off we went. Weather is massively changeable though fairly consistently very windy. About five minutes is enough to produce four seasons. We certainly experienced those seasons on this TAB. Not so much rain, but snow and horizontal hail stones proved something of a challenge to exposed faces. With heads bowed and the odd groan we journeyed on, thinking to ourselves how tough it must have been for the soldiers to survive, let alone fight, in the 1982 South Atlantic winter.

As I tabbed with the blokes I displayed not only the incarnational aspect of the gospel but also the sacrificial as I carried my cross. Sacrificing personal comfort and sharing the burdens of the troops is something chaplains have done for a very long time, often in extremely dangerous situations, and at times to the cost of their own lives. And as Christ ministers to us incarnationally and sacrificially so we, in turn, minister Christ to those whom we serve.