Anglican parishes and the offering of spiritual and pastoral support for Canadian Forces members deployed on overseas or domestic operations,
and care for their families at home.
Canadian military personnel can be deployed overseas to many different types of environments and levels of threat. Deployment overseas might be to a hostile and aggressive theatre of operations; to a politically stable yet socially and psychologically disturbing theatre of operations in which the military member may witness severe poverty and abusive government control; to an area of the world where there is relative stability and prosperity yet requiring the presence of military personnel to maintain peace within a country or in a border area between countries; or to a place of reconstruction after a natural or civic disaster
Military personnel may also be deployed within Canada on domestic operations. Some are routine (e.g. a six month tour of duty in Alert, Nunavut), but it is possible that a situation may develop in Canada with a significant threat level that will require the presence of military for an extended duration in a specific location.
Regardless of environment, when a military member is deployed away from home and family for significant periods of time, the Anglican parish community with which the member or family is associated will want to be spiritually and pastorally supportive of both the deployed individual and her/his family at home. This leaflet will offer some practical suggestions to the parish that seeks to offer such support.
A full-time member of the Canadian military (Regular Force member) is obliged to go to any area of the world and serve in any situation or conflict in which the Canadian military is involved and where his or her presence is required. A part-time member of the Canadian military (Reservist) normally is not required to participate in any specific overseas or extended domestic operation, but is often given the opportunity to volunteer for such an operation. This requires that the Reservist make arrangements with an employer or school for the required time to train, deploy and debrief. This can be as long as one year for a single deployment.
Most of the dynamics of pastoral support appropriate to deployed military members and families at home are applicable to both Regular Force and Reservist members. But there are some obvious differences that are highlighted in this resource. For example, a significant difference for the Reservist from a rural area who returns from deployment is the greater distance from health-care resources that are located typically in urban centers and near or in military bases.
When is it appropriate for a parish to offer spiritual and pastoral support to deployed members and families at home?
Nonetheless this is an important and difficult question upon which the parish leadership must reflect, because it is very easy to confuse support of the member and family with support of the operations on which the member is deployed. The intent of this resource is to describe ways in which parishes might offer support regardless of the nature of the operations to which the member is deployed. In any particular military mission in which Canada is involved, some individuals in Anglican parishes will be highly supportive of Canada’s presence and role. Others will have doubts about the nature of Canada’s involvement. Some will be determined that Canada should withdraw its troops immediately. In addition to these varying opinions on a particular mission, some Anglican pacifists will oppose violence in any form at any time.
Many Canadians support most of the conflict interventions, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian relief activities with which Canada’s military becomes engaged. However, since this level of support is not always present it is critical that support of military personnel and families not be tied to the perceived moral right or wrong of a particular mission in the eyes of the parish or individuals in the parish. The emotional, psychological and relational stresses along with the spiritual needs of the individual deployed and the family at home remain real, regardless of the overall judgment of the moral worthiness of the intervention and participation of military personnel. It is too easy perhaps on the one hand to equate the offering of pastoral support to military members and their families with ideological support for military intervention, and on the other hand, to be slack in offering pastoral support because of one’s disapproval of Canadian military involvement in a specific situation.
There are approximately two hundred Regular Force Chaplains and one hundred and thirty Reservist Chaplains in the Canadian Military. This includes forty-five Anglican priests in the Regular Force chaplaincy and thirty Anglican priests who serve as Reservists. The Canadian Forces chaplaincy is ecumenical and inter-faith. Chaplains (Regular Force and Reservist) accompany military personnel on all significant operations. For example, during the Afghanistan operations there were always four chaplains in theatre (situated in the base camps and regularly traveling to the forward operating bases), two chaplains in a staging area outside Afghanistan ministering to personnel as they entered and left the area of conflict, and one chaplain in the military hospital in Germany where the significantly wounded were taken. In addition, Regular Force and Reservist chaplains play an integral role in the ‘rear party’ pastoral support offered to families at home in Canada.
Military chaplains are highly trained and experienced in dealing with the psychological, emotional, relational and spiritual challenges of both deployed personnel and families. They are available to meet with parish leadership to share important insights as a parish seeks to establish appropriate and effective patterns of pastoral and spiritual support to members and families.
What follows is an attempt to outline some of the stresses that are typically experienced by the deployed member on operations and his or her family at home. The following is written in non-technical language for the average parishioner. If you want to explore more deeply and precisely the psychological, emotional, physiological and
spiritual dynamics of the effects of military deployment on members and their families, we advise that you consult with health care professionals.