By Susanne Kappler, Fort Jackson LeaderJuly 22, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- For the third straight year, Fort Jackson chaplains have put together a series of summer worship concerts for Soldiers in Basic Combat Training. The monthly series, which features performers of different Christian and musical backgrounds, runs through September.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William Barefield, 193rd Infantry Brigade, said the concerts replace some of the regular Christian Sunday services and help unify Soldiers spiritually across cultural and denominational lines.
"Even though it's Christ-centered, and we make it very clear that this is a Christian event, whether (the Soldiers) are Catholic or Baptist or Assembly of God or Presbyterian, they all can worship together," Barefield said.
Sunday's event at the Solomon Centered drew a crowd of about 5,000 and featured the Lexington-based Christian band "Voice." Bert Baker, one of the band's founding members and a Navy veteran, said that performing for a military audience is a special treat for him and his band mates.
"When I stand up there and see the (men and women) in uniform, it makes me very proud," Baker said. "I feel like I'm giving back a little bit to them maybe, or hopefully can inspire them to continue on and push and do the very best they can."
For Pvt. Christopher Lucas, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, the concert seemed to have just that effect.
Lucas said he customarily goes to church at least twice a month and that he felt inspired by the worship service.
"It gave me strength to focus on what needs to be done, focus on the mission," Lucas said.
The Soldiers in attendance were not the only ones who drew inspiration from the event, though. Navy Chaplain Candidate (Lt.) J.G. Hayes, a third-week student at the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center, volunteered to help with the event and said he was impressed by the performance and the crowd reaction.
"I thought it was really well done," Hayes said. "People were really responsive to it. I enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm on the Soldiers' faces. It was exciting to watch."
Barefield said he receives a lot of feedback About the series from Soldiers who have attended.
"For some of them, this is their normal worship style," he said. "Others have said that they pass this building and get a little leap of joy in their heart from knowing that Sunday's coming. It just helps them hold on."
The summer concert series will continue with a gospel concert in August and a Hispanic concert in September to mark the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month.
"I call this a 'ministry of remembrance,'" Barefield explained. "We kind of trigger (the Soldiers') minds to remember their home experiences, their home churches, their home worships. And in this little bit of time we get with them, if they reminisce about their pastor, their Sunday School teacher, their priest back home, we've won, because they're healthier."