Friday, 22 February 2008

Winging it

Two days this week have been spent with the RAF. Brilliant! The highlight was sitting in a Harrier jump jet which, in spite of me flicking switches (which I had no idea what they did) did not jump into the air (shame, really).

The guest of the RAF I was welcomed and escorted by RAF chaplains. What a great bunch they are too. And what an important ministry in the name of Christ and his Church.

I mention here three things they made clear. First, how marginalised they feel in relation to the 'normal' ministries of the Church, and sometimes how misunderstood. What was clear to me, even in a matter of 36 hours, was the profound impact for good they have on so many lives: service people, dependents, a whole community.

Second, they note how their ministry has changed shape in recent years. A key part of their role historically was to lead a worshipping congregation; now there is less of that (but not none of it) and much more involvement in a wider ministry of welfare, training (especially cadets) and co-ordinating various needs of the whole services community.

Third, all this is done ecumenically at a profoundly ecumenical level.

Lastly it is quite clear that the 'mindset' of people in the services is undergoing a change in light of being active in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some engineers I met have been out to A four times in the last 3 years. They are clearly weary and stretched. The context is affecting recruitment - which in turn puts more pressure on existing staff.

And in the midst of all this, alongside some stunning officers I met, are chaplains. So please pray for them, and their valuable ministry.


Anonymous said...

How wonderful, Martyn, to read this post. My husband was an RAF Officer for 17 years and as a Local Preacher I was often asked how I as a Christian could live and be a part of the RAF. My response was that God's love doesn't stop at the camp gates and that all who I knew were working for peace, surely a part of Jesus' mission.
Wives,girlfriends and men knew that, everyday when their partners went to work, they may not come back support and prayer was vital.
So thank you for supporting our Forces Chaplains in these very diffficult times for them.

Methodist Preacher said...

I started a brief discussion on the role of military chaplains on my blog:

I'm sure that 20 years ago there would have been a lot of anger that a Methodist President sat in a bomber, and obviously enjoy himself! Times have changed.