Chaplaincy is about a parish without boundaries, a parish that constantly changes. This means that Chaplaincy is about challenge and change with a message that doesn’t.
In a recent visit to the Station, some theological students were told that in a war environment many people find God. Over ten years ago an Army chaplain, who was at that time with a certain parachute regiment, said that although he may never see them in church, when the going got tough they would touch him on the shoulder and say we are glad you’re here padre.
I recently read an article about Padre Pugh who was posted to Takoradi and embarked on HMT Anselm carrying 1300 passengers for West Africa at the end of June 1941. The ship was torpedoed in the Atlantic in the early hours of the 5 July 1941. One torpedo hit a hold on Deck C, destroying the normal means of escape.
Padre Pugh came up on deck in a dressing gown and gave all the help he could. He seemed to be everywhere at once, doing his best to comfort the injured, helping with the boats and rafts and visiting the different lower sections where the men were quartered. When he learned that a number of injured airmen were trapped in the damaged hold, he insisted on being lowered into it with a rope. Everyone hesitated because the hold was below the water line and already the decks were awash and to go down was to go to certain death. He simply explained that he must be where his men were. The deck level was already caving in and the hold was three parts full of water so that, when he knelt to pray the water reached to his shoulders. Within a few minutes the ship plunged and sank and Padre Pugh was never seen again. He had every opportunity of saving his own life but, without regard to his own safety and in the best traditions of the Service and of a Christian Minister, he gave up his life for others.
Chaplaincy means being among the people, living among the people, engaged in their daily lives, through good and bad, at home and OOA. It was Field Marshal Montgomery who said ‘Padres are most important, because they remind us that we matter to God’.
We are in the people business, and from time to time we need to ask ourselves how is business, how are our people? For this to be effective we must be current in our thinking on the issues that affect our Service personnel and our pastoral work needs to be relevant to them. The people that come through our doors are looking for help and answers. Sometimes the right answer is not the answer they were expecting, or hoping for but the right answer may help them concentrate on the present while slowly building for the future.