Over the past few weeks I have been pondering on my time as a deployed chaplain to Camp Mirage (a support element of Task Force Kabul), while at the same time trying to catch-up with things Anglican — what a task! There are many images from my six months in the desert, some wonderful, some not so wonderful, but it was an experience I would not trade for the world.
One of the things that Camp Mirage chaplains do is support the ministry of chaplains in places like Kabul, and on one of these occasions I had the opportunity to be with Recce Platoon for a day-long patrol in the city. It was as cold as sin, but I was privileged enough on that day to be in the back seat of a G-Wagon, which meant I could see out (as opposed to a Bison, in which there are no windows).
We spent the day driving around the areas assigned to us, stopping only for lunch on one of the hills surrounding the city of Kabul. It was a depressing sight. While we were there one of the soldiers I was travelling with told that one of the locals was asking to speak with me.
He was a gentleman of indiscriminate age; he could have been 30 or 50; hardship does that. He gave me an orange, a precious gift from his family to the Canadian soldiers who were providing shelter for them. Through the translator, he kept on thanking me; I learned that he was here tending the graves of his family, some of whom died in the many battles in and around the area.
Minutes later we were on our way, but the experience had made the people of Kabul more human somehow, more personal. I began to look at my surroundings in a different light. It was then that the real lesson of the day dawned upon me. As I looked at the bombed out buildings of people’s lives I started to see incredible signs of hope. Nestled right in the middle (and I mean right in the middle, where once stood a kitchen or gathering room) were tiny new buildings built with the bricks of the old. People had taken the building-blocks of their old lives and re-constructed them in a new way. Small shed-like structures lay nestled, providing shelter and protection to the cold, living places for the people.
The other thing that stands out in my mind is the last meeting of General Synod where I was elected to the national committee, Faith Worship and Ministry. The first meeting was in October, and I was late due to a meeting of Air Force Chaplains in Winnipeg. As usually happens when one is late, one gets elected to work on something that may not be the first choice of the nominee. In my absence I was selected to work with a group to provide resources for discussions around human sexuality. Having heard the pain and confusion, the polarization and the anger, surrounding the whole issue at General Synod, quite honestly, I did not want to touch the thing with a 10-foot barge pole. This was chaotic stuff , but then we are a people who recognize that out of chaos comes incredible hope! And the hope is in thankful and love-filled communication, and the willingness to get into the mess and rebuild.
And here is the link—literally. Over the past nine months, Faith Worship and Ministry has been compiling materials from all over the church in order to facilitate the conversation around the issues of human sexuality. It is our hope that these materials, can become some of the building blocks for our discussions as we struggle to find a place of peace and comfort for us all — Jesus Christ, as always, being the chief cornerstone.
You could use these materials in a parish group, in a diocesan forum, or even as private reading. Remembering that listening to the stories of those around you — no matter how difficult to understand — will open your eyes in a new way, no matter where you stand on the many issues of human sexuality that confront us in this day. And do not be afraid to use translators: people who understand the life-stories revealed there. I am not talking about people who come from a different country, but rather people who come from a different life-experience.
Here is where you will find the resource list, we offer it to you in love and faith https://www.anglican.ca/faith/ethics/hsrg/index.htm. One thing we ask: if there are documents or resources we have forgotten, or omitted, please assist us by sending us the information. In addition, we also ask that this discussion not revolve around one issue of sexuality alone, but around human sexuality in general.
Michelle Staples is a member of the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee of General Synod
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