Author Archive for Daniel DeBlock – Page 17

Ministry beyond the battlefield

Pastoral Ministry Beyond the Battlefield

One of the main goals of the MCA is to extend pastoral ministry beyond the battlefield.” We, as current and former military and VA chaplains, along with our partners in the CAP, have a tremendous amount of training, experience, and empathy to bring to the table in the care of our warriors.

When we (under the authority of the President) send young men and women into battle, we also incur the responsibility, the moral imperative, to bring them all the way home. Getting their whole or broken bodies back in the States is not enough – we must bring their minds, their souls, and their value back to full incorporation in normative American society.

One way we can leverage our experience and training is to train local congregations where we now live, work and worship to welcome veterans and their families into full membership, to recognize the virtues and stresses of military life, and to offer our counsel in addressing the unique issues that continue to play on their hearts and minds. “Moral and spiritual injury” is almost unavoidable for warriors trained to be kind as children and then trained to kill and destroy as young adults. Clergy, of all the people in the nation, are in the best place to recognize that injury, to assist the combatant in making confession, and, yes, in pronouncing forgiveness and absolution. We cannot erase memories and actions, but we can help our veterans to find God’s presence and meaning within the horrific actions of war, and to dig through the silt and debris to find the gold.

The other non-profit I try to lead, Care For The Troops, has a congregational guide to help you teach your civilian congregations to do their part in bringing our men and women all the way home. There is no cost to using that guide and anyone can download, print, modify, and distribute as you see fit.

May God bless you as richly as you continue to bless our military members, veterans and their families.

New Chapters

New Chapters for New Ministry Opportunities

Among our goals for 2013 is the establishment of some new local chapters of the MCA.  We currently have active chapters in Pennsylvania, the National Capital, South Carolina, Florida, and Washington.  As I look over the list of places with a dozen or more members living within a few miles of each other, I can find about 30 additional communities where we can make a positive and united impact on our continued ministry to the armed forces, veterans, and their families.  Efforts are now underway in two of those locations to establish chapters.

  While I am not particularly fond of meetings for the purpose of fellowship alone, I am very concerned about doing work with like-minded colleagues.  Here are a few suggestions for our members, particularly those of us no longer in uniform, to consider:

  • Provide on call readiness for crises in military family lives
  • Meet military members traveling on emergency leave to offer pastoral support to them and their families
  • Respond to requests for funerals of veterans when a uniformed chaplain is not available
  • Teach congregations and civic organizations about the value of veterans and their families as members of their communities
  • Train our own congregations to understand the stresses of military life and to form focused ministries to respond to those stresses
  • Raise awareness of presence of Reserve Component families in the community and of the pastoral needs they have
  • Work with the National Guard to develop Partners in Care programs
  • Provide chaplains to other VSOs in our communities

Active and Reserve Component military chaplains, as well as VA chaplains, cannot meet all the demands on their time.  Retired and former chaplains can support them by giving a little of our time to take some of the burden.

Christian Unity

Christian Unity

Most chaplains are probably aware that the week of prayer for Christian unity begins on 18 January (the feast of the Confession of St. Peter) and ends on 25 January (the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul). I have always found it interesting that this week of prayer is set between Peter & Paul since these two pillars of the earliest Christian community did not get along all that well. They argued over the proper way for Gentiles to enter the Church, who could eat with whom, and other issues, agreeing to go their own way and let time sort it out. In the 37 years I served in Episcopal Church leadership, I found that people within a single denomination can have terribly divisive fights over terribly important issues. The idea of “Christian unity” seems very foreign to our experience, and yet devoutly to be prayed for.

In the 23 years I served as an Air Force Chaplain, I discovered that Christians (and Jews) can work together for a common concern, respect each other’s differences, and even support and honor those who completely disagree on one or more issues of faith and doctrine. In the complex world of 21st century religious pluralism, the chaplaincy of the United States has a lot to bring to the table when it comes to developing a civil society where people who love God in vastly different ways can not only coexist but work together for the common good.

One hope I have for the MCA in the next few years is that we, especially retired and former chaplains, can work with civilian congregations and civic organizations to broaden our perspective, deepen our respect, and strengthen this nation to always be a land of free exercise and expression when it comes to matters of faith and religion. The specifics of how we believe are not nearly as important as the One in whom we believe. And may that One give us the wisdom and strength to love, guide, and care for His people.