Today’s post comes from Rev. Christopher Laughlin, chaplain at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
I was an Army Reserve chaplain and a parish pastor; I served a small, rural parish in Michigan. I currently serve as a basic training battalion chaplain at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; I’m one of three chaplains who lead worship at the “Liturgical Protestant Service.”
Attendance at this service fluctuates between 50 and 200, and it’s the youngest, most diverse congregation I can imagine; it is truly representative of “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9). While there are a few soldiers and families who are permanently assigned to Fort Leonard Wood in attendance, most are trainees who will attend our service for less than 22 weeks (many for only 9) while they complete Basic Combat Training (BCT) and/or Advanced Individual Training (AIT). They hail from every state and nearly every continent.
Some attend because this service is the most comfortable for them, coming from a liturgical or sacramental background (this was why I attended a similar service while in BCT and AIT). Others attend because they prefer hymns over praise music. Still others attend because of the relationship that they form with their chaplain, or because they are exploring different Christian traditions of worship. The singing fluctuates wildly in quality, as trainees are often hoarse from “being motivated” (yelling) all week.
Then there are those trainees who attend because congregations and individuals from all over the North/West Lower Michigan Synod send me cookies for the fellowship time which follows worship each week. This has been a real gift to the trainees – those cookies are a taste of home and comfort in what is, for many of them, the most difficult and trying time in their lives.
My opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the 2ndBattalion, 48thInfantry Regiment, the 3rdChemical Brigade, the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, the Training and Doctrine Command, the Chaplain Corps, or the United States Army.