Saturday, December 27, 2008

++Katharine visits Pentagon's Episcopal chaplains

War is a reality, but so is peace. And what does the Episcopal Church have to do with the military? Plenty. We have Episcopal chaplaincies whether there is peace or war. And where both of these contrary concepts and realities exist, the Episcopal Church USA is there, on the ground, going at full speed to meet the needs of all--Episcopalians and others--at the drop of a helmet, a stole, an olive branch...

Here, ++Katharine, chaplains and family bless a young man about to leave for a tour of duty.

Courtesy of Episcopal Life Online, a story by Lucy Chumbly on the Presiding Bishop's visit to the Pentagon to speak and minister to Episcopal chaplains.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori concluded a three-day visit to military chaplaincies in the Washington, D.C., area with a December 23 trip to the Pentagon.

Jefferts Schori arrived at Bolling Air Force Base on December 20, and spent the following day there, preaching at the 8:15 a.m. service and learning about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Rev. Michael McEwen, an Episcopal Army chaplain.

Touring the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on December 22, the Presiding Bishop spoke with soldiers who had lost limbs in service and met with the families of those suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

"It's been very, very good," Jefferts Schori said as she traversed the Pentagon's corridors with the Rt. Rev. George Packard, the Episcopal Church's bishop suffragan for chaplaincies; the Rev. Gerry Blackburn, director for federal chaplaincies; and members of the Pentagon's Episcopal community. "We had long discussions with the chaplains about the work they do."

But this day she was quiet, thoughtful.

Putting on sunglasses and turning up her collar, she stepped outside into the bright, cold morning to visit the memorial to the victims of the September 11 attack on the Pentagon.

She crunched along the gravel that surrounds the 184 memorial units -- marble benches with water flowing beneath -- and stopped next to one. Putting one arm across Packard's shoulders and the other across Blackburn's, she said a quiet prayer, accompanied by the sound of flowing water and jets taking off from nearby Ronald Reagan National Airport.

"Father Blackburn and I worked at Ground Zero in New York," Packard said. "So to cross the threshold [of the memorial] just after 9:37 a.m. was really something for us. It's a very powerful memorial."

There are 360 military installations in the United States and overseas, Blackburn said, and 106 Episcopal chaplaincies, including some on Navy ships. He and Packard prepare twice-monthly reports for the Presiding Bishop on the work of these chaplains.

Full story here. Additional photographs here.

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