For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. —Ephesians 2:8-10
In my Reserve duty, I serve at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, as a chaplain. Besides leading worship, I visit people in their workplaces, offer counseling, such as spiritual, marriage, or individual counseling, advise leaders on religious accommodation requests (such as religious holiday observance of different faith groups, morale, and spiritual matters), train to stay current in my call, and pro- vide or facilitate the free exercise of religion to our women and men in uniform along with their families. When asked, I pray with and for our airmen and their families. We have had several base events that I supported or participated in, such as the National Prayer Breakfast, Disaster Mental health training, attending the Interfaith Breakfast hosted by NJ local representatives to learn more about area resources available, and offered an Invocation at the Parade of Wreaths to honor the men and women who have given their lives so that we may live free. Often I have overlooked Memorial Day’s significance, excited to have a three day weekend, without pausing to reflect on the sacrifices made by over 675,000 military members from our country who have died in the line of duty, having answered our nation’s call to service and paying for our freedom with their life. It used to be that many people had been exposed to the challenges and hardships of war, but now less than 1% of our nation serves in the military. The further removed we are from someone who serves, the less we understand the sacrifices made on our behalf and how we might be able to minister to the military member and their families. I will begin a series of news- letter articles about chaplaincy. If you have a military connection, please e-mail me.
A great blessing is that my ministry is shared with other active duty and reserve chaplains, civilian pastors and priests and religious affairs airmen, sailors, and soldiers. Most have different faith back grounds, which allows for the free exercise of religion offered in the United States Constitution. Working together for the common good of our airmen I can see a glimpse of the kingdom of God. In my chaplain capacity, I have felt called to help connect congregations to the base, so that more airmen might see the light of God in their darkness.
The base chapel currently teams up with a local congregation, who supports monthly dorm dinners and Operation cookie drop for the airmen. The airmen have access to a food pantry on base and the chapel community visits local veterans and nursing homes. While I feel called to parish ministry, every time I serve my Reserve duty, I continue to feel called to serve as a chaplain. The most challenging part for me is the lack of relationship building that is caused by the transient nature of the military and the fact that I typically serve the base 24-60 days a year.
Many airmen, coastguardsmen, marines, sailors, and soldiers worship off base. I invited a family to come worship with us. Their 6th grade daughter wrote a letter and won second place in her grade for her essay on what Memorial Day means to her (see pg. 3). You will find that letter in the newsletter, unedited. Chil- dren have a way of speaking truth and Jesus welcomes them into his kingdom. May God open our hearts and minds to what children have to say.
One blessing I had this week was to offer the Invocation for the Parade of Wreaths honoring our fallen women and men in uniformed services. We had all the branches of the military represented along with the NJ State Troopers. Monsignor Michael Mannion from the NJ State Police offered a beautiful benedic- tion and the 5th and 6th grade students sang after we heard from two children what Memorial Day means to them. Below you will read my prayer, in light of the pluralistic gathering at this ceremony:
Gracious and Merciful God of the living and the dead, we give YOU thanks for the men and women in uniform, who selflessly served before, with, and after us, as we come before you, today, remembering your love for all you have created and honoring those who of- fered up their life, in service to our nation, so that we can be free to proclaim the light of your love and grace for all. As you have taught us, greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. May your love and the love of those who sacrificed all for us, inspire us to live, so that others may live. Be the healing balm to our broken hearts, bodies, minds, souls, and nations and renew us through your Spirit of grace to love and serve our neighbor regardless of difference of opinion or belief.
Bless, guide, guard, and protect the great women, men and families who continue to sacrifice and serve our country and shine your light in and through our leaders so that they may work together for the good of all people, as you continually lead us from darkness into light through your grace, until the day when you will bring an end to all terror, conflict, war, tears, and suffering and replace it with your everlasting peace. In your Holy name, I pray, Amen.
If you would like to pray together, know more about chaplaincy or how to support our military community or have ideas you wish to share with me, please e-mail me.
God’s Easter Blessings and Hope in the Empty Tomb.