Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Prayers on Parade

Watching the military parading with their medals and ribbons on Anzac Day reminded me again that my service as Territorial Force Chaplain was involuntarily stopped just a few months short of earning the Efficiency Decoration for seven years of meeting the requirements. I could have had a medal!
We had moved to Dunedin where a much larger workload suggested that I could not take out three or four weeks in at least the first year for chaplaincy work. So I applied to go onto the Reserve of Officers.
However, I found that my application duly appeared in the NZ Gazette as a resignation, thus closing the door to any opportunity of further chaplaincy service.

I didn't make an issue of the administrative bungle because I wasn't into medals and - more importantly - was always very uncomfortable taking prayers at formal parades. Indeed, over most of my chaplaincy career I sought opportunities to visit the smaller, remote units rather than ponce around with a clutch of other dressed-up clergy all vying for the opportunity to stand in front of the thousand-strong Battalion Parade for a few moments of fame.
Instead I had many a Padre’s Hour with small groups of people who often asked questions that got to the heart of what life is about. This was, for me, meaningful ministry at the flaxroots. Sometimes we got into quite “religious” issues but mostly I think my willingness to face up to any and all questions said more about me and the faith I stood for than any amount of formal prayers on parade.

Those experiences coloured my convictions about public prayer of all kinds – and even words used at weddings and funerals - and I have tried to ensure that people were invited to participate in public ceremonial with sincerity and integrity.

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