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Defence Sunday: 7 November 2021


“Most of the soldiers, sailors and aviators to whom we minister are not aware of Jesus’ comfort, so it is the role of the chaplain to bring that calm sense of assurance to the many and varied situations ADF personnel face,” says Air Force chaplain, The Rev’d Michelle Philp

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I was greatly encouraged by the response to the motion at our recent Synod affirming the ministry of Anglican chaplains to the Australian Defence Force (ADF). It was also a great thought provoker for me on the intersection between the two worlds I currently serve in – the Anglican Church Southern Queensland and the ADF. But, of course, these are not two separate worlds. There is only one world and that is the one over which our Lord Jesus is sovereign. Jesus not only cares for and protects those inside the Church, but also the soldier in the field, the sailor at sea, the aviator in the sky and all those who support them.

This brings to mind the passage in Luke 7.1-10 where a centurion sends Jewish elders to ask Jesus to heal his servant. As an officer in a position of command and control over others, the centurion recognises Jesus’ higher command and control. That is, he recognises that Jesus has authority over all things, so that he can heal this servant without even needing to enter the house.

When you live in a world of trusting the command of your military’s leadership, there is something reassuring in knowing that they, too, come under the authority of the one who is all seeing, all knowing and all powerful. One who can bring genuine healing and wholeness. Most of the soldiers, sailors and aviators to whom we minister are not aware of Jesus’ comfort, so it is the role of the chaplain to bring that calm sense of assurance to the many and varied situations ADF personnel face.

Like the centurion, we then (privately) turn to the one with the highest authority and request that he brings that healing and wholeness of body, mind and spirit to those whom we serve. My two worlds are indeed the one world under the sovereign loving care of Jesus.

On 7 November we will celebrate Defence Sunday across Australia. Since Federation, our Anglican chaplains, alongside other denominational chaplains, have served on point – for the country – in war, national emergencies and peace. Through and through, be it toil or harmony, the ethos of our Anglican chaplains has remained constant – to care

for service members, their families, and the communities where they live in what has and continues to be an ever-complex and continuously changing world.

Our heart is to provide ministry in the Australian Defence Force, to be ambassadors for Christ, and to represent the Anglican Church in the complex secular context that is Defence.

The Defence Bishop Grant Dibden writes:

“I am confident that through the leadership of our Anglican chaplains, the continued focus of our ministry, sufficient resources and sustained prayer, we will achieve our vision in His name and continue to build spiritual readiness across the ADF for decades to come – be it on the bridge, in the foxhole or in the cockpit. Let Defence Sunday be a celebration of our Defence Force and in particular of our Anglican leadership in service to our nation, but more importantly to God our Father and the souls he has entrusted to us.”

While the wages of chaplains are paid for by the Government, the costs of running Defence Anglicans, that is the supporting organisation of Anglican chaplaincy, is not.  We’d therefore like to invite you to consider contributing to this ministry through the Anglican Military Outreach and Service (AMOS) Foundation by visiting the Defence Anglicans website.

Most importantly though, we ask you to uphold Defence personnel and the Defence chaplains who serve them before the one who has authority over all things.

Editor’s note: Remembrance Day / Defence Sunday liturgical resources and a YouTube video are available on the Defence Anglicans website. Readers can also download this Defence Sunday poster.  

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