…Is it actually relevant in a modern world and should a Christian fight for his or her right to visibly exercise their faith in the secular world?
Some Christian writers, bloggers, and would-be spokesmen have suggested that we have lost the sexual battles and need to get over it and move on: lost on the pre-marital sex issue, lost on the multi-divorce-remarriage issue, lost on the homosexual-bisexual-transgender issues, and certainly the homosexual marriage issue as well. The advocates of this position point to the changes both in culture and law that are taking place in Europe and North America, and these advocates seem to take the Anglo-centric view that what Europe and North America do is of course superior to what other continents, nations, cultures and peoples might think, believe or practice. The truth is, until very recently the entire Christian church family agreed on moral standards for individuals, family and marriage, and the battle for the Judeo-Christian understanding of marriage and family is anything but lost on a global basis. While many western denominations are rapidly declining in attendance and vitality, non-western Christian churches are booming…
On this day, February 7, 1776, General George Washington notifies his troops of a new policy regarding chaplains’ pay. He’d advocated for better treatment of his chaplains, and he’d succeeded!Shortly after Washington assumed command of the American army during the summer of 1775, the Continental Congress approved its first act regarding chaplains. This act set chaplains’ salaries at $20 per month just above that of lieutenants. Washington was unimpressed. He wrote the President of Congress, noting that the pay was “too Small to encourage men of Abilities.” He asked that a way be found to increase chaplains’ salaries.
Congress approved Washington’s request. It passed an act providing for the appointment of one chaplain to every two regiments. The chaplains had more responsibility, but their pay was also increased. Instead of $20 per month, they were to receive a little more than $33 per month. Washington announced the change on February 7, 1776.
After a few months, Washington decided that the system (unfortunately) did not work for logistical reasons. If regiments were separated due to the demands of war, one regiment might find itself without a chaplain for a while. Washington wrote Congress again. He asked that chaplains be assigned one per regiment, with a salary “competent to their support.”
Congress initially agreed, but the new policy did not last. Eventually, fiscal concerns caused chaplains to be assigned one per brigade. A brigade was a much larger unit of the army; it could be composed of several regiments. In other words, there were fewer chaplains, overall, in the army.
Washington objected again. Interestingly, his main concern was for religious liberty. He wanted many chaplains of a variety of faiths. If there were fewer chaplains overall, then, by definition, there were fewer choices for his men. They were more likely, he wrote Congress, to be compelled “to a mode of Worship, which they do not profess.” Washington preferred the old system, with more chaplains and a greater likelihood that the men could have “a Chaplain of their own religious Sentiments.”
Perhaps what is most interesting about all of these events is the great importance that Washington placed upon the presence of chaplains in his army. He thought they served a valuable function, and he advocated for them consistently. Remember that Washington often faced shortages of supplies and funds. Yet he thought it important to spend some of these valuable funds on chaplains.
My nickname, among those I work with as a railway chaplain, is the “Flying Vicar”. Being an ex-railwayman myself, I take it as a compliment. Usually my former colleagues can be depended on to come up with something so much worse.
Why “flying”, I’ve often asked? “Because you’re here, there and everywhere,” they reply. And that just about sums up the 37-hour week I’m contracted to do, plus the many extra hours I put in each and every week. I roam all over the place, from my home base in Preston, covering the whole north-west railway region.
I am one of 22 railway chaplains working for the Railway Mission. It was set up in 1881 to support everyone involved in the railways, but especially the staff. We are funded now by the train operating companies.
Our motto is “Meeting People, Meeting Needs”, and that is exactly what we do. If I were to say, “what shape is a church”, most people would draw something square or rectangular or cross-shaped. But I’d draw a circle. It’s what the Lord says: “Go ye out into all the world.” The church isn’t a building. It is about being there, being available, saying to people in times of trouble, “You’ve got a friend.”