Tree enjoyed an afternoon yesterday in the office keeping half an eye on all the Twitter activity relating to General Synod. One particularly poignant tweet asked if anyone there was actually listening and voting, as everyone seemed to be tweeting the debates.
After the heavily tweeted debate on a motion (with amendments and amendments to amendments) about the Church of England’s relationship with ACNA, the Anglican Church in North America, things quietened considerably for the next session which was a presentation by military chaplains. Far fewer tweets, but all very appreciative of the work of the chaplains to our armed forces.
Having spent ten days of his theological training with a naval chaplain, Tree was gratified to hear that Synod had set aside time to consider this aspect of the church’s ministry. The Chaplains work with people who are largely of an age group that is notable by its absence in many churches. They deal with difficult circumstances on the cutting edge and provide a Christian presence and witness in what must often seem like very God-forsaken situations.
We have, thank goodness, moved away from the days of the First World War when the chaplains’ role was seen as being to instill “backbone” into the troops and convince them that God was on their side. During my brief attachment I sat in on sessions where some of the ethical and moral dilemmas associated with military life were freely and openly discussed with trainees. The chaplains I met were well respected by the people around them and provided real, and independent, pastoral care. And surely. if the gospel has anything to say, it has it to say to people engaged in this aspect of life that many would prefer not to think about too much or too often.
In a time when we occasionally hear stories of soldiers, sailors and airmen being treated shoddily and with hostility by some of the folks back home, it was pleasing to hear that the Synod gave these chaplains a standing ovation.