New handbook promotes care for military families

How do churches pray for someone heading for Afghanistan? How can a community welcome home a parishioner injured in battle? A new resource offers answers to these questions and practical advice on how Canadian Anglican churches can care for military members and their families.

“It was meant to be a very simple and practical guide that is applicable to all parishes,” said the Rev. Canon Dr. Gary Thorne, primary author of the resource. He said the handbook focuses solely on pastoral care, not the deeper psychological help that military members may need.

The handbook suggests care for people at stages of deployment, gives a background on military chaplaincy, and offers sample prayers.

Mr. Thorne noted that these resources are useful to all parishes, regardless of their opinions on the particular mission, or war in general. The Anglican Church of Canada does not have one stance on these topics. Within recent years, Canadian Anglicans have spoken out both in favour of pacificism and “just war” theory.

“These are intended to be guidelines for the care of soldiers and their families,” said Mr. Thorne. “There are prayers that can be said at any time that Canada has troops anywhere, whether or not the parish, the rector, and parishioners are pacifists, and don’t believe in war at all, whether they happen to agree with a particular mission, or whether they violently disagree with the role of Canada in a particular mission.”

Some Canadian Anglican priests have chosen to walk alongside the Canadian Forces as either regular or reservist chaplains. Of the 330 chaplains in the Canadian military, 75 are Anglican ministers. Chaplains accompany military personnel on all significant operations, and can perform other tasks like receiving soldiers’ remains and ministering to families of soldiers who have been killed.

As a reservist military chaplain for 19 years, Mr. Thorne has first-hand experience with these issues. In 2003, he served at the Israel-Syria border for six months during the American invasion of Iraq, where he ministered to Canadian and UN troops.

Currently Mr. Thorne serves as chaplain at the University of King’s College, Halifax. He is also a member of the Faith, Worship, and Ministry Committee (which first suggested this resource), the Primate’s Theological Commission and the Chapter of the Anglican Ordinariate, the body that advises the Right Rev. Peter Coffin, Anglican Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces.

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