When the holidays roll around our thoughts turn to home, family, friends and often, those who don’t have a home, or can’t be with their friends. One group of folks who are often away from family during the holidays is our military. As a military chaplain, we have the twofold challenge of serving those who serve while often being away from those we love as well.
I’m often asked what a military chaplain does. And my answer varies along the theme of, “We’re pastors who serve the military community. So we do what pastors do, just in a different place.” And that’s true. We lead worship services and religious rites for those of our own faith group. We offer pastoral care and counsel for those in need. We also sit in on staff meetings and advise leadership on the spiritual, religious and ethical implications of different actions. One example of this is a calendar of religious holidays the Chaplain Corps offers to the planning section so that the planners know when large sections of the base population may not be available for an activity or event.
Personally, I serve in the Air Force at Travis Air Force Base. I have two major areas of ministry. I serve the Protestant Community on Sundays as the Executive Pastor – helping with the volunteer and activity management, supervising our religious education coordinator, and preaching a little more often than a third of the time. I also serve about 3,000 Active Duty members in 10 squadrons across the base. For them, I provide ministry of presence in their workplaces, pastoral counseling as needed, and I consult with leadership on all sorts of cases where spirituality comes into play. One unique feature of Travis is our hospital. In addition to responding to patient needs, chaplains also have the opportunity to attend CPE courses with students from off-base ministry contexts. This has been a huge gift to the ministry on base.
While my family and I love the adventure God has us on, we also are grateful for our roots. We continue to look on our time serving in Albany Presbytery as a homebuilding time. Each fall, my family and I enjoy the Facebook pictures posted by our friends of the changing colors. And each winter we hope for a white Christmas along with them. We plant our gardens a little earlier and grow different vegetables through the summer. And I read the eNews and the Presbytery Meeting packets to know what’s going on in Albany Presbytery.
So thank you, Albany Presbytery. Thanks for giving me a place I can call my ministry home. Thanks for giving my family a place to connect to the roots we put down in New York. Thanks for embracing alternate ways of communicating so people serving outside the bounds can remain connected. And thanks for caring about those who are not at home this holiday season. Please continue to pray for a support all those who are away from home, and may we all see peace on earth soon.