Chaplain (Lt. Col) Buster Akers has learned more about Facebook Live now more than ever before. But, he’s fine with that, as garrison’s deputy chaplain gets up to speed on how to help Soldiers and their families stay spiritually connected, especially as the coronavirus upends traditional worship.
“It’s been a plus,” Akers said. “It’s helpful to learn this. It’s how people under 30 get information.”
Besides using social media formats like Facebook Live, Akers and the others at the Religious Support Office have devised additional ways to ensure people’s spiritual needs are met.
Last week, the RSO started distributing sealed communion kits available for worshippers to pick up at Woodlawn Chapel parking lot.
On Friday, Chaplain (Maj.) Luis Garayua, Woodlawn Chapel’s community pastor, passed out communion kits and palm fronds, leading up to Palm Sunday, as a steady stream of drivers arrived, ready to receive them.
“Without meeting in person, we have no way to get the palms out to our congregants, so we decided to do these for timed events at Woodlawn Chapel,” Garayua said. “It gives us the opportunity to pass out the palms and communion kits. It also gives us a contact point to actually meet our congregations or people who just want to come out.”
To ensure enough communion kits were available, Akers said they bought the final 700 boxes at a local Christian store in Springfield Mall and plans to buy more online. While maintaining proper social distancing, worshippers are also picking up other materials that are in line with their faith.
Pastors are conducting services virtually in different ways, whether pre-recorded or from their offices on the day of a service.
Akers sees their work as business as usual in one important way.
“Our jobs as chaplains is to maintain calm,” Akers said. “We remind people of the holistic approach. Their physical health is important. But their spiritual health is as important. We’re here as leaders to help them maintain a healthy well-being.” Garayua agreed.
“It’s challenging to maintain community, when everyone’s at home,” Garayua said. “I don’t live on post, but we are available. We let people know the chaplains are available and we try to get out as much as we can, to minister to those in need.
Paul Lara contributed to this story