The former Vicar of a Lancashire parish has written about his move from parish life to Army life as a chaplain.
Six years ago Giles Allen left his role of Vicar of the rural parish of Lund on the Fylde Coast to become a Chaplain (or Padre) in the Army.
He writes about his experiences in a recent edition of The See, the journal of The Church of England in Lancashire, distributed to parishes across the County every month.
The article is part of a regular series profiling overseas missionaries and chaplains with connections to the Diocese of Blackburn; providing insights into their work to aid people in parishes to effectively pray for them.
Padre Giles Allen’s article follows:
In 2012 I said goodbye to Lund, a rural parish on the Fylde, to become an Army chaplain.
Five years later, in October 2017, I flew to Kenya to begin a two-month long exercise with my current unit – 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.
I was to be the only chaplain to the 3 Para battlegroup - 1200 personnel including infantry, logisticians, engineers, artillery, medics and military police. Being part of the Army’s airborne brigade, the exercise was going to be light, fast and challenging.
And challenging it was - particularly the hostile environment of Archer’s Post, 185 miles north of the capital Nairobi, with heat regularly over 40 degrees, frequent thunderstorms and flash flooding. The lions, scorpions, and snakes also made life very interesting indeed!
Each day for me was framed around prayer, I lived alongside our soldiers, going where they went. With bags of sweets in my patrol pack and a large dose of love and affection, I listened to their stories, while sharing their joys and sorrows, their discomfort and tiredness.
One day we heard that lions had been seen at our location just one hour earlier; as a result, that evening I also shared their anxiety!
Sometimes we prayed together and I also prayed for them myself every day. As chaplain I was there to make Christ visible in their midst.
An army chaplain brings a huge dose of morale simply by being with his flock. But at times we bring something concrete by way of support too; such as when a Kenyan local tragically died in a flash flood or when I visited soldiers in hospital in Nairobi.
The role of an Army chaplain may be hard and sometimes dangerous work but it is also a wonderful role.
It’s a privilege to work alongside young, fit and motivated people who work for the good of others. Please pray for our personnel, and for people who are called to military chaplaincy.