Chaplains offer ideas, resources for churches
Feb. 20, 2007
NOTE: Photographs, video and related story are available at http://umns.umc.org.
A UMNS Report By Kathy L. Gilbert*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Military chaplains bring "holy vision" to the battlefield and are the church's best resources for helping congregations understand, welcome and support returning warriors.
That was one message that came out of a Feb. 12-13 task force meeting of active and retired United Methodist military chaplains brainstorming on ways for the church to be in ministry with U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Each chaplain has a unique story of ministry, pain and joy to share with congregations.
"It is the voice of the chaplain that brings holy vision," said the Rev. Dale White, who served 14 months as chaplain for a Marine unit in Fallujah, Iraq.
The meeting was sponsored by the United Methodist Endorsing Agency of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry and Board of Church and Society. The endorsing agency approves pastors to serve as chaplains and pastoral counselors. Currently, there are 359 United Methodist chaplains serving in the Air Force, Army and Navy, both in active duty and in the National Guard and Reserve.
During its first meeting, task force members suggested ways that local churches can care for soldiers, including to:
* Adopt a soldier or an entire military unit * Provide a safe place in the church for military families to meet together * Be good listeners and invite returning service members to share their experiences without talking about the politics of war * Hold special worship services for military personnel when they deploy, return and on occasions such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day * Learn about what chaplains do during wartime * Advocate for returning soldiers to have access to health care, living wage and housing, and for other needs to be addressed * Support the families of deployed soldiers
The group also talked about using chaplains as resources to educate churches, annual conferences, seminaries and other groups about what chaplains do and what military personnel face when returning from war.
They discussed the importance of offering retreats for chaplains and their families to provide a break from the care-giving role and to offer time for personal healing.
Since the Iraq war began in March 2003, more than 3,000 soldiers have been killed and more than 20,000 wounded.
Many United Methodist congregations have members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some churches even have seen their pastors deployed as members of the National Guard or the Reserve.
Numerous ministries are already touching the lives of U.S. soldiers worldwide. United Methodist churches have participated in a phone card campaign started by the endorsing agency in 2003, providing 10,350,395 free minutes of long-distance telephone service.
The cards are distributed to soldiers through United Methodist chaplains. The endorsing agency regularly receives e-mails of thanks from chaplains such as this one from the Rev. Bill Killough, battalion chaplain for the 54th Signal Battalion, serving in Kuwait:
"We got three envelopes of phone cards this week. THANK YOU so much!!! Your supply coincided with an influx of new soldiers to theater and "hit the spot" for these transitioning soldiers and family members. It makes me very proud to give out phone cards (which serve a valuable service) that have the United Methodist emblem on them. It communicates a powerful message! Thanks again!
For more information on how to connect with service members through United Methodist chaplains, contact the United Methodist Endorsing Agency at P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, Tenn. 37203-0007; by telephone at (615) 340-7411; by e-mail at umea@gbhem; or visit www.gbhem.org/chaplains.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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