Friday, June 01, 2007

Battlefield Worship

As a chaplain, I distinguish between religious services and religious programs (worship--on the one hand, and education--on the other). Religious services are rather complicated. Chaplains either perform or provide religious services for every soldier in need. Although I am ordained and endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as far as the Army and the Chaplain Corps (although not necessarily individual chaplains) are concerned--I am a Protestant Chaplain (who simply happens to be LDS). In this role, I PERFORM worship services and conduct bible studies and other forms of Christian education. I pray, preach, teach, and counsel from the perspective of faith, without drawing on those beliefs and practices which are exclusive to my own denomination. Because my denomination restricts me from performing or participating in communion or the Eucharist outside our denomination, I must PROVIDE this for the Soldiers in my care. I do this by coordinating with another Protestant chaplain who does not have these same denominational restrictions. Similarly, Sergeant Tremain, each Saturday, goes to Camp Ramadi with a convoy of gun trucks to retrieve Chaplain Barkemeyer: a Catholic priest who PERFORMS mass for those here at Camp Blue Diamond. During the High Holy Days, we will get our observant Jewish Soldiers to Ramadi to meet with the Rabbi; otherwise, there is a Jewish lay-leader who performs Shabbat Services every Friday night.

However, when we go out to visit our Soldiers at the combat out posts during the week, worship is pretty simple. It is non-denominational and usually about 10 to 20 minutes in length. I usually preach a simple message from that week's Revised Common Lectionary. We don't sing much, but we do pray, and afterwards--if mission allows--Soldiers often linger and raise personal questions and concerns more spiritual in nature than what we normally discuss. These fighters are less concerned with their personal safety than you might think--although they often confess to me their fear for one another. They are primarily concerned with family matters and issues of personal morality. The most common message I share with Soldiers is that God is not in the business of judging them--but saving them. God is and will be our Judge, but that judgement is designed to convict us and reveal our need for his love and forgiveness. I encourage Soldiers not to restrict their sense of spirituality to the concerns of foul language and pornography. Studying God's Word, being patient with your fellow soldiers, and learning what it means to love our enemies is just as essential to what it means to be a disciple.

I am including a few pictures of what field services look like when we're out at COPs Anvil, Aggressor, and Warrior--as well as a picture of me preaching a few months ago during our Easter service at Camp Blue Diamond.


Belladonna said...

This is a GREAT post, and does much to let those of us back home better understand how faith and fellowship are played out in Babylon. Know there are many praying for the safty of your body and peace for your spirit - as well for the families you've all got waiting back home.


Anonymous said...

Chaplain Kline-
I just want to thank you for your blog. My husband is part of 3-69, mortar platoon and I am currently living out of state. Even though he does not attend worship, although you do cut his hair,I appreciate your site because we dont get many other updates. I love seeing the pictures and all the info. It gives me a better sense of where he is at and what he is doing. Thank You. Miranda Schryver

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