United Navy, Army and Air Force Board

A Day in the Life of an Army Chaplain

Revd Clare Callanan, 26 Regiment, Royal Artillery, Gutersloh, Germany.

Sorting emails.  Attending meetings.  Preparing sermons.  Planning teaching.  Having conversations.  Leading funerals, weddings, baptisms.  Mediating conflict.  Sharing hospitality. Sound familiar?  Surely this reads as a job description of any minister in any church; a role and a calling that we have all had at some time.

It also reads as a description of my role as a chaplain in the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department, which I joined in 2009, after three years in civilian ministry.  It is a role that has all the above issues and yet… all this takes place within a group of people who are predominantly male, mainly within 18-28 year group, generally physically and mentally trained to their full potential, and at readiness to deploy to any part of the world to perform their duty in any conflict or disaster.

It is in that difference that the military chaplain ministers in a way that is challenging, rewarding, humbling and frustrating.  It is a way that honours my calling as a minister and yet works within an environment where people face similar issues on a daily basis but with nuances and situations that do not exist in civilian daily life.

My calling to this role took many months of discerning and doubting.  I asked, Who me?  God asked, Why not you?  It is hard to argue with that; ten weeks at Sandhurst nearly proved God otherwise but then he has this way of getting you through things!

I see God at work in many ways but especially in those ‘chance’ encounters and conversations which would never happen if I was not walking the workshops and the offices, sleeping under canvas on exercise, and drinking endless brews!  This is an incarnational ministry in a very vivid way.  The older soldiers who struggles with teenagers at home who are resisting yet another move, needs to know the prodigal will return.  The wife who is tired of not being able to get a job in Germany needs to know that her skills are valued and will be used.  The young soldier with the empty eyes who carries a heavy burden of grief and anger needs to find the safe place where, over a period of weeks he can visit those memories.  Then with prayer and grace we can lift that burden together and know the peace of God.