From pastorate to Army Chaplaincy
Revd Martyn Groves
It was when I was at Spurgeons College (2001-2004) that I had my first introduction to Army Chaplaincy. The Senior Chaplain from 16 Air Assault Brigade preached at College and had an informal chat with a few of us about Chaplaincy. The important part of this was an invite to the Theological Students Week - a look at life in the Army as a Chaplain.
I went on that week, with no serious intention of becoming a chaplain, but I came away from it with a really strong sense that God was calling me into Army chaplaincy - it seemed to tie in with my understanding of what an incarnational ministry was all about.
For me the process was quite long, I spent some time overseas when I graduated, then a year teaching in a school, before being ordained in 2007. The nagging call to Chaplaincy never really went away, even though I got stuck into, and loved my job as Associate Pastor at Gold Hill Baptist Church. In 2010 I knew that I need to start the process and went on my Army Officer Selection Board at Westbury and was subsequently offered a Commission in the RAChD. Around the same time our daughter, Elissa, was born and we discovered that she had Downes Syndrome, so we paused our entry into the Department whilst we got our head around what that would mean for us as a family. Then, in 2012, we took the plunge and I started my initial Chaplaincy Training at Amport House.
The support provided by the Army for my family, especially Elissa, has been brilliant; her medical and educational needs have been taken into account with our subsequent postings. Yes, we've had to be positive and flexible - but we have always felt supported when we needed it. Yes, you need to join the Military thoughtfully, but the support is there for families.
A highlight for me during my first year was going to Sandhurst on the Professionally Qualified Officers' course. It lasted for 3 months, and was hard work; never more than 5 hours sleep a night and constant activity both physical and mental. What a rite of passage and sense of achievement.
There have been lots of great experiences - I love going on exercise or adventurous training with my unit - so far I've been to Kenya, Arizona, California, Italy, France, Germany and lots more in the pipeline. You go to some pretty unique places to minister with your congregation!
It's not all fun and play though, there are some pretty harrowing and difficult pastoral situations that I get involved in, and unless you have a strong spirituality they could easily pull you down. You have to develop resilience and a robust approach to ministry. And at the heart of it, this is why I joined, to walk alongside and bring the Hope of God to a unique, flawed and utterly brilliant bunch of people.