A View From The Park

Dear Friends,
As you read this, I will be nearing the end of my tenure as the Chaplain to 2 Signal Regiment and York Garrison.  How quickly time flies when you are enjoying yourself!  Having spent eighteen years in parish ministry before finally answering a calling to military chaplaincy, I arrived in Fulford with much fear and in trepidation as a New Entrant Chaplain.   One of my main fears on beginning this new chapter in my vocation was how I would come to terms with not having that same sense of rootedness both spiritually and socially in a Christian community, as experienced in parish ministry.  Terence was one of the very first people I was introduced to in Fulford. His offer of friendship and spiritual support, along with your welcome and support as a congregation has been invaluable in helping me and the regiment function.  
As chaplain’s within the military community, there is danger in us distancing ourselves and our service personnel from the local church and become ‘Army Church’.  With this in mind it is vitally important that the spiritual well being of Imphal’s service personnel continues to be sustained and grown in partnership with St Oswald’s and the whole Christian community.  
The continued ‘incarnational’ work and presence of God, and the continuing revelation of the transforming  purposes of God in diverse social situations and people, is part of a necessary outward movement of mission.  The LYCIG course has been helping you reflect as a church on your mission to the wider community as you celebrated one hundred and fifty years of God’s presence in Fulford.  With your help and support the work of the regimental Chaplain is prevented from becoming ‘excarnational’ - out of the body of the church, and stays rooted as ‘incarnational’, ie, properly connected with the human body of Christ.  Through your willingness to welcome and host regimental services and pastoral services, military chaplaincy appears central to the local and wider Church’s identity and purpose, rather than peripheral.  
In these challenging times of indifference towards church and falling attendance for many parishes, we can become very disheartened in our mission and how we measure it’s success to the communities in which all baptised christians are called to serve.  We often need inspiration.
It is common practice in the regiments and corps for the younger soldier to learn of their regimental or corps heroes for inspiration..   As the Royal Army Chaplain’s Department (RAChD), we too have our own regimental heroes, the likes of Rev’d Tubby Clayton, the founder of Toc H and the Yorkshireman, the Rev’d Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy.  Studdert Kennedy may be better remembered as “Woodbine Willie”, a nickname given to him by soldiers in the First World War because of his practice of giving cigarettes as well as spiritual aid.  It was a name given in love and comradeship.
Although he soon grew to hate the war, he never lost his belief in the quality of courage, amply displayed in his own experiences. He was awarded the Military Cross for acts of conspicuous gallantry.
Woodbine Willie described his chaplain’s ministry as taking “a box of fags in your haversack, and a great deal of love in your heart” and said “you can pray with them sometimes; but pray for them always.”
These days I cannot take the fags but sweets are still a welcome alternative! Even more welcome from soldiers is the knowledge that they are not forgotten and that they are prayed for everyday.
May I finish by thanking you as a parish for your continued support in your generous welcome and for your prayers for our regiment and their families.  
May God bless you in all your endeavours and give you the courage to fufill your calling.

Rev’d Nia Williams, CF (Chaplain to the Forces)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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