The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego has the largest concentration of military presence in the world with 110,700 Active Duty personnel and 118,300 family members, which represents 7.6 percent of San Diego County’s total population. More than 240,500 veterans reside in San Diego and they account for 9.0 percent of the entire San Diego population. Bishop Susan Brown Snook believes that this large and growing population of military members and retirees in our area makes this an ideal focus for our diocese’s evangelism and service work. As a recently retired Navy Chaplain, I have been brought on the Diocesan staff as the Military Missioner. In this role, I will assist our congregations in evangelism and service to active-duty military members, their families, and veterans. Very soon you will be hearing from me as I consult with vestries and bishop’s committees on ways they can reach out to military populations, I will coordinate events and trainings, will maintain relationships with military chaplains, and will provide resources to our diocese to assist in military ministries.
Military families face problems that are unique. There are also the challenges of moving, family separation, fearing for a loved-one’s safety, and the stress of transitioning back and forth through deployment cycles. First-term Marines and Sailors mainly E-5 and below and in committed relationships are overconfident in their ability to navigate the difficulties of marriage and they are idealistic about marriage. This results in divorce rates that are three times higher than their civilian peers. These divorces are having a significant negative impact on operational readiness and rates of suicide. For single military members, far away from home and away from their roots and families, this can be a time of distraction, loneliness and temptations. Maintaining their rootedness and good values in a Church community can bring life-transforming moments that can yield lifetime benefits.
At the core of our mission as Church is what Jesus Christ said in the Great Commission. Therefore, single service members, young military couples and families can benefit from the Church’s outreach to them. As such we can come together and affirm to our military and veterans that we care about them. As the old proverb says, “A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved, a joy shared is a joy doubled.”
I will be visiting our churches to further the diocesan vision and commitment to military ministry, connecting our churches with resources that can help their existing active military and veteran parishioners and their families. Our churches can become more military/veteran-friendly. I will also be available to teach congregations about this exciting and highly diverse mission field by conducting vestry workshops, diocesan forums, and other opportunities as they emerge.
As a Navy Chaplain here in San Diego, I ran the CREDO program that offered Marriage Enrichment Retreats, Personal Growth Retreats, Women’s Retreats, Family Enrichment Retreats, Middle School Weekend Retreats and Warrior Resiliency Retreats. In my new role, I can coordinate and assist parishes and Navy Chaplains involved with these services to offer some of these programs in our local congregations where we can provide facilities, food and childcare (which was and remains a problem for couples with kids to attend any CREDO programs). When couples with children visit our churches, they will hopefully experience the hospitality and care we can provide so that they experience a place for further theological reflection, spiritual formation and pastoral care.
Please visit our Diocesan website under Ministry to the Armed Forces and join me in this wonderful ministry opportunity by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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