This article originally appeared in the November 8, 2016, Mid-Kentucky Presbytery Weekly Newsletter, Mid-Kentucky Calling
“There are no atheists in foxholes” is a famous quote attributed to U.S. military chaplain William Thomas Cummings. I am not here to argue whether Father Cummings’s observation is true in all circumstances, but if it is even directionally correct—and since there are 1,281,900 people in active duty in the U.S. armed forces with an additional 801,200 people in seven reserve components, not to mention spouses and families—then there are conservatively millions of U.S. citizens whose spiritual health and well-being are entrusted to the ministry of military chaplains.
Presbyterian spiritual support for military personnel and their families can be traced to the Revolutionary War. A Presbyterian chaplain, John Rosbrugh, was the first U.S. Army chaplain killed in battle. He perished in the Battle of Assunpink Creek on January 2, 1777. Providing for the spiritual nurture of our country’s military is part of our Presbyterian DNA.
Presbyterians Caring for Chaplains and Military Personnel (PCCMP) is the organization through which our church provides the “ecclesiastical endorsement” required by all who are called to military chaplaincy. The PCCMP supports Presbyterian Church (USA) military chaplains and their families during active service. The PCCMP also helps in the transition to civilian life once active chaplaincy has concluded.
With protracted and ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and the wars on terrorism calling many military personnel into active conflict—and with the military’s decrease in mental health funding and services—military chaplains are increasingly being tapped to attend to the spiritual and mental well-being of servicemen, servicewomen, and their families.
I encourage all of the 53 congregations and eight new worshiping communities of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery to examine their commitment to the spiritual care and nurture of military personnel and families. I c all for us to pray for Mid-Kentucky Presbytery teaching elder member, Colonel Brenson Bishop (ret.), Chief Chaplain Robley Rex VA Medical Center, Louisville, Kentucky. And I ask that we consider supporting the Presbyterians Caring for Chaplains and Military Personnel (PCCMP) as an extra-commitment opportunity of the PC(USA).
I leave you with an excerpt from a litany for veterans written by teaching elder Tom Williams of Whitefish Bay, WI:
“We pray, gracious God, that you remain with us as we celebrate the service of all who dared to go forth in our name. Remind us that such service is not a movie, an adventure, nor something to be glorified. Remind us that war is a failure by us to overcome hatred with love, injustice with righteousness, violence with peace. We give thanks for those who protect us from such failures. May we truly be your people and be makers of peace.”
Rev. John Odom, presbyter for community life, Mid-Kentucky Presbytery
Today’s Focus: Mid-Kentucky Presbytery
Let us join in prayer for:
Mid-Kentucky Presbytery Staff
Rev. John Odom, presbyter for community life
Rev. Jerry Van Marter, stated clerk
Rev. Andrew Hartmans, recording clerk
Mary Kutter, office manager
Stephen Bartlett, staff, Hispanic/Latino ministries
Tom Vandergriff, COM staff
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
When we open our hearts to your love, O God, we can share stories of our seeking and finding you with people of all ages and conditions, and so receive new experiences of your grace. Thank you for the blessings you pour into our lives when we reach out to one another. Amen.