Fort Lee Chaplains Focus on Team Ministry
July 17, 2008
Fort Lee, Va. (July 17, 2008) -- For God and Country. It's the motto that has served the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps for more than 200 years. With the 233rd anniversary of the Chaplain Corps approaching, this serves as a time to reflect on the role of chaplains in today's Army.
The history of chaplains is a long one. Gen. George Washington, later to become president, personally petitioned the Continental Congress for chaplains approximately six weeks after the conception of the Army. Prior to the corps, the history of chaplains goes back to ancient Egypt and Rome when religious leaders would accompany armies on the battlefield to provide blessings and good fortune in battle.
Centuries later, the Chaplain Corps is a stable and growing force in the Army. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Penfold, Installation Chaplain's Office, said the focus of the corps is the same now as it has always been.
"Our focus is Soldiers," said Penfold. "We are working together to guide Soldiers and to give them life skills."
Whether leading worship, patrolling the motor pool or visiting the hospital, Army Chaplains are always on the frontline of Soldiers' lives.
"We are here as a ministry team to help Soldiers deal with real issues," said Penfold. "Sometimes that includes life and death."
With the ongoing war in Iraq, and a recent deployment to Kuwait, Chaplain (Capt.) Kathleen Williams, 244th Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Bde., said keeping busy was no problem at all.
"Being a chaplain is a 24-hour, non-stop position," said Williams. "In a war, many Soldiers are looking to spiritually connect and many want to find their purpose.
Williams recently redeployed and said that it is a bit more difficult stateside to guide Soldiers than in the warzone.
"With no danger of mortar attacks, many Soldiers feel like they can find their own way,"' said Williams.
Penfold said the main reason to see Soldiers locally is for counseling, although there are many other roles for a chaplain.
"Each chaplain is similar to a general practitioner until they reach the rank of major." said Penfold, "Then they focus in one area such as ethics and instruction, counseling, managing chapel funds, or special programs."
Ministry Team member Spc. James Boddie enlisted into the Army specifically to become a chaplain's assistant.
"Our team is strong and we work very well together despite our different beliefs."
The different beliefs are another reason the unit team is so important. Chaplains and assistants come from a variety of religions and beliefs. Chaplains can be ministers, pastors, priests, rabbis or imams.
"Our focus is still the same," said Boddie, "we all want to lead everyone in the right direction."