Chaplains to the Navy, Army and Air Force have an incredible opportunity to provide a Christian presence as they draw alongside personnel of every rank and flavour. Much of their time is spent with younger adults as the average age of UK Regular Forces personnel is 31 (or just 26 for the Army). Yet, uniquely, they assume the rank of the person they are speaking so can identify with the lowest rank yet talk frankly with the most senior if led to do so. They provide listening and pastoral support to people of all faiths and none as necessary. They serve as local ministers offering Christian worship and teaching to those who want it, but where ‘local’ could be anywhere in the world. This might place chaplains on the front line of operations, even whilst they themselves are not armed.
Chaplains are posted to different units for periods of two to four years. So they might spend time on a military base in the UK, in a field of operation overseas or, if in the Navy, out at sea. Military chaplaincy can be varied and exciting, but also costly and demanding and it is necessary to foster strong spiritual, physical and emotional resilience. However, chaplains in the Armed Forces are well supported, as are any family members. This includes an annual three-day conference to which all regular and Territorial Army chaplains are invited.
All chaplains are commended to the Armed Forces via the United Navy, Army and Air Force Board. The Board interviews candidates for chaplaincy to ascertain if they are suitable, after which they commend a minister to one of the Forces. Baptist ministers usually need to have been accredited for three years before being considered. If you are interested in military chaplaincy, the United Board’s website has much more information including first-hand descriptions of the varied roles chaplains fulfil. The website also tells you how to contact the convener of the United Board who is the first point of contact for those wishing to apply.