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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Remembering a selfless chaplain


George S. Rentz gave his life in 1942 so others could live

July 25, 2019

On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul. (Psalm 138:3, NRSV)

Chaplain George S. Rentz

Imagine being an observer of SINKEX 2016. A SINKEX is a Navy exercise in which a ship is deliberately sunk by being subjected to missiles and bombs until it slips beneath the waves to the bottom of the sea. SINKEX 2016 took place 117 nautical miles north of Guam on Sept. 13, 2016. The targeted ship sank after five hours and 22 missile hits. The vessel subjected to this tortuous end was the decommissioned USS Rentz.

For those familiar with the Rentz, this seemingly undignified end must have been filled with irony. After all, the Rentz was named for Chaplain George S. Rentz, a Presbyterian minister who served as a chaplain during World War II. Rentz died as a result of the sinking of the USS Houston on March 1, 1942. Having been in the water for hours following the sinking, Rentz relinquished his lifejacket to Seaman First Class Walter L. Beeson. Rentz then offered a brief prayer and kicked away from the overcrowded float and disappeared. By giving of himself, Rentz ensured others could survive. For his actions, Rentz was awarded the Navy Cross for valor, the only chaplain in World War II to receive the distinction.

USS Rentz

How ironic, then, that the ship named after this heroic chaplain should in the end sink even as the chaplain’s last ship had been sunk and caused his death. And yet, the sinking of the Rentz did provide good. Those who trained in the exercise were better prepared to take action to potentially save the lives of others who might be under attack. Chaplain Rentz gave his life so that others could live, and the ship named in his honor did the same.

When Chaplain Rentz died in 1942, he was only few months shy of his 60th birthday, which was July 25. He was working among sailors who could have been his grandchildren. His sailors said he had a fatherly concern for them and often referred to them as his “boys.” He loved them enough to give his life so that they could live.

As Jesus prepared to depart his disciples in his own voluntary sacrifice to bring us life, he said to them: “No one has greater love than this — that one lays down his life for his friends.” Chaplain George S. Rentz was a true follower of our Lord and Savior.

This day, please pray for all who serve to defend our nation, and remember our chaplains, who are deployed to all corners of our globe. May they be encouraged by Chaplain Rentz as they minister to those amid conflict and chaos and, ironically, bring peace.

Lyman M. Smith, captain, CHC, USN, retired; director of Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincies

Today’s Focus:  Chaplain George S. Rentz

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Analise Brown, PMA
Cora Brown, OGA

Let us pray:

Lord, as our Savior who loved us enough to sacrifice his life for us, may we love others enough to sacrifice for them. Even as your servant George S. Rentz gave of himself, we lift to you our chaplains and ask that you increase the strength of their souls as they bring your peace to those in need. Amen.

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