Becoming a Church for Military Members and Families
Bishop Susan Brown Snook recently appointed The Rev. Frank Munoz, retired Navy chaplain and Priest-in-Charge at Grace Episcopal Church in Menifee, as our first military missioner—and the first known diocesan military missioner in The Episcopal Church. On Saturday, September 19, the Rev. Munoz offered a workshop to 15 members from around the diocese that covered the importance of military ministry and ways to offer our gifts to military families.
The most obvious reason to minister to the military is that they are in our midst (“fish in the sea,”), and so they are neighbors in need of pastoral care. In addition, military families have unique needs. Marriages can be strained due to long periods apart; families move often; and they often experience financial strain. Some active and retired military are healing from physical wounds, PTSD, or other disorders.
At the same time, many military families do not want to be thought of as different from other people. Many of us have the experience of a military family coming to our churches while they live near us and fitting in quickly, until they are deployed to another base. While they are with us, they want what many of us want from a church community: fellowship, education, prayer, sacraments, and pastoral care. The problem is that not all military families find churches easily.
That’s where we come in. We have huge military installations in every corner of our diocese: from Carlsbad to Chula Vista, from Coronado to Yuma. So it makes sense for us to be far more intentional about reaching out to the military and inviting them in. But how do we do that, when it’s not always easy to establish contacts at military installations?
During the workshop, the Rev. Munoz explained ways we can make ourselves known. First, he can be a liaison between churches and chaplains on base and at VA hospitals. In addition, he encouraged us to register our churches with the Military Chaplains Association as Veterans/Military Friendly Congregations so that chaplains can send people our way. We also can advertise our military ministry on our websites, in church bulletins, and in newsletters.
Once they come our way, they may appreciate what we already offer, and they could also benefit from retreats, small groups, and Bible studies, and finance workshops geared to military families. In fact, a very popular, effective series of spiritual retreats that used to be offered by the military is not currently funded, and so local churches can offer their sites as a place for these retreats to be offered again.
As we approach the Year of Evangelism, military ministry offers us a way to tell the Good News to our many neighbors in the military and to give the opportunities to use their spiritual gifts while they are with us. If you want more information on reaching out to military members in your neighborhood, contact The Rev. Frank Munoz at firstname.lastname@example.org.