Presidio Chapel celebrates Day of Prayer
May 10, 2012
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - The National Day of Prayer was observed at the Presidio of Monterey Community Chapel on May 3. Keynote speaker for the event was Reverend James E. Shaw, Chaplain (Colonel), US Army retired.
For Shaw, who currently resides in Georgetown, TX, it was not only a time for prayer but also for reminiscing. Shaw had served 24 years on active duty as an Army chaplain that included a stint as post chaplain for Fort Ord from 1973 to 1977. This was the sixth service that Shaw had performed at the Presidio Chapel during his long and storied career.
"Brings back a lot of memories," Shaw said during an interview at the breakfast following the early morning ceremony. "Our old house at 314 Finch is still there and looks the same. That is a credit to the maintenance and the way our Nation can take care of its resources."
Shaw used some of these memories as material during his sermon, including a very personal story about his son Joel that illustrated the importance of prayer and the tolerance and cooperation within the Army Chaplaincy between different denominations. Midway through the telling, Shaw was forced to pause and collect himself after being momentarily overcome with emotion.
"I was speaking at a Torah dedication and there was a large crowd for the auspicious occasion. I had prepared a short welcome," Shaw, an ordained Lutheran, recollected. "Just before I was to get up to speak the Jewish chaplain came over to me and said quietly and excitedly 'Your son Joel has just been hit by a car.' He was riding his bicycle. The first things our Jewish friends did for us was to pray."
Shaw said he believes freedom of religion is the hallmark of our Nation's freedoms.
"Over the years I have had great friends of all denominations and it's wonderful to have those relationships, and [chaplains] are not in there to proselytize we are just there to affirm and see that [Soldiers] needs are taken care of," said Shaw. "We can be objective and teach what all denominations believe in common and then when it comes to differences we teach what each one believes and why. You don't go out and denigrate other faith groups, but you inform people what they believe. People should identify with that faith group that is meaningful to them and teaches what they believe in."
Shaw was joined at the Presidio Chapel by his eldest son, Col. Jonathan E. Shaw, command chaplain for the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who provided a benediction during the observance. The younger Shaw, during his father's time at Fort Ord, lived with his family in the house on Fitch Ave., just blocks away from the observance site and graduated from Monterey High School in 1974.
The elder Shaw mentioned how proud he was to have his son follow in his footsteps.
"It is overwhelming and gratifying," said Shaw. "He was going to work for IBM but he didn't find that psychic income that he wanted so he became a pastor. Jonathan is one who has been gifted an awful lot of talent and intelligence and now he has been selected to be a professor at the Army War College."
Shaw also expressed his deep appreciation for the opportunity to return to Monterey to celebrate the National Day of Prayer and that he was honored to speak to our service members.
"It has been my privilege to be here and to have served Our Nation and these people this long and sometimes you are just overwhelmed that you can still be used to the old age that I am, it makes life rich," said Shaw.
It was on April 17, 1952, that President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer. In 1988, the law was amended so that the day would be held on the first Thursday of May. Two stated intentions of the National Day of Prayer were that it would be a day when adherents of all great religions could unite in prayer and that it may one day bring renewed respect for God to all the peoples of the world.
In his 2012 proclamation released May 1, President Obama stated:
"Prayer has always been a part of the American story, and today countless Americans rely on prayer for comfort, direction, and strength, praying not only for themselves, but for their communities, their country, and the world."
Obama's proclamation says to pray for those who are suffering around the world and includes a paragraph directed towards our members in the military.
"Let us also pay tribute to the men and women of our Armed Forces who have answered our country's call to serve with honor in the pursuit of peace. Our grateful Nation is humbled by the sacrifices made to protect and defend our security and freedom. While we pause to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending liberty, let us remember and lend our voices to the principles for which they fought -- unity, human dignity, and the pursuit of justice."
The history of a day set aside for the Nation to join together in prayer dates back to the first moments of our country's infancy when the Continental Congress issued a proclamation recommending "a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer" to be observed on July 20, 1775.
Since July 29, 1775, approximately 25,000 Army Chaplains have served as religious and spiritual leaders for 25 million Soldiers and their Families. Army Chaplains have served in more than 270 major wars and combat engagements. Nearly 300 Army Chaplains have laid down their lives in battle. Six have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Currently, over 2,900 Chaplains are serving the Army representing over 130 different religious organizations.