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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Military Chaplaincy and Worker-Priesthood

Rev. Dr. A.C. Piepkorn
By Larry Beane

As part of what I hope to be a helpful discussion on bi-vocational pastors, I'm reproducing a letter I received from a brother pastor who is also considering worker-priesthood in the form of military chaplaincy.  I've redacted his letter a bit for privacy and removed some personal comments.  But I've left intact his commentary regarding the changing nature of military chaplaincy and I hope this will lead to further discussion.

Dear Revd Fr Beane:
I read your article entitled "Diary of a Worker-Priest" and I wanted to respond to you....
One of the ways many pastors in the past have supplemented their incomes was to become a Reserve or National Guard chaplain. The late great Dr. Piepkorn did this in MN back before WWII. Many others have since.
As a pastor in a small parish..., I have long considered this option, especially as Navy vet. Prior to 2001 this was a viable option for many pastors in small parishes. I can now report to you, in our state of perpetual war, this is no longer an option for small parish pastors. With perpetual war the reserve has moved from a "strategic" role to an "operational" role. You now hear reserve and guard leaders refer to our "operational reserve." When talking with recruiters about chaplaincy they all told me expect to spend at least one year away every three or four. In a small church this is devastating.... The reserve has been used to such a degree that it is increasingly becoming harder and harder to determine who is reserve and guard and who is active duty. As such more and more chaplains in the reserve are coming from non-parish settings like VA chaplains, hospital chaplains, teachers, and non parish based ministries. So for intents and purposes military chaplaincy is not really an option for the worker priest like it once was.
I just wanted to share that, because it has weighed heavily on my mind, since I read your article and I have struggled with this for a long time. I am called parish pastor and intend to stay there. I am blessed to be able to do it full time.... I'll probably be a ministering to a circuit in a few years when the Boomers all leave....