On a cold and windy fall day a group of young infantry recruits in Wainwright, Alta. shouted “Silent Night” as they rappelled one-by-one down a 60-foot wall. At the top of the tower was their chaplain, Captain the Rev. Eric Davis, holding a video camera and cheering them on.
“There were a lot of wobbly knees and many were concentrating on their instructor,” laughed Mr. Davis, who has done the same backwards vertical walk many times. “I was filming it for a couple of hours and only some guys could sing and rappel at the same time.”
This unusual combination of skills was performed in support of the Silent Night Project. All Canadian Anglicans are encouraged to gather their communities, film them singing “Silent Night,” and send in a video to the national office by December 14. Videos will be made into a documentary, to be shared online by Christmas. There is also a fundraising aspect to the project: all singers are encouraged to chip in a toonie to support the ministry of Anglican military chaplains like Mr. Davis.
Chaplain’s ministry among young soldiers
Mr. Davis serves full-time at this Wainwright training camp, working mainly with recruits under age 25. He interacts both with Christians and people of other faiths who may be struggling with anything from marital problems to ongoing questions about life and God.
“I’m in there almost every single day with these kids, who are young and hyper,” he said. “They see me more as a friend than an officer. I know a lot of them quite well so I can walk by and they don’t call me ‘sir.’ They call me ‘padre,’ which means ‘father.’ ”
Mr. Davis, 37, joined the military 18 years ago and initially served as a medic. He heard a call to ministry in 2000, and was ordained in 2006.
“I love being with the troops,” he said. “It’s a continuation of being in the military, but now in ordained ministry. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Proceeds from the Silent Night Project will support chaplains by supporting their leader, Bishop Ordinary Peter Coffin. Bishop Coffin acts as a caregiver to these caregivers. With funds from the Silent Night Project, Bishop Coffin will be able to visit chaplains more often and better provide pastoral support.
“The bishop is heavily involved in making sure that I’m okay,” explained Mr. Davis. “I spend 98% of my time being there for other people, but I know I can concentrate on my job because he’s concentrating on taking care of me.”
Watch the whole rappeling crew from Wainwright sing “Silent Night.”
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