by Rev. Amor Woolsey
This morning, I worshiped with my church family at Kent Island United Methodist Church and we celebrated Holy Communion at all three services. I also was able to explain and celebrate Holy Communion with our 1st and 3rd grade Sunday school. The outward signs of an invisible grace abound! It was your typical Sunday morning worship with hymns, a sermon, music, prayers, and a whole lot of “Amen!” I also received many compliments on how “pretty” my blue Hawaiian print dress is. Now I do not mind receiving compliments (I love them), but I wonder if my dress is what the people in the pew were focused on. As I read the communion liturgy and said, “This is the body of Christ broken for you,” were they focused on my dress or on the sacrament?
After, I changed out of my “pretty” dress and into my Army uniform. I traveled to Ft. Dix, New Jersey to spend time with one of my companies, the 1229th Transportation Company. The unit arrived late the night before from Baltimore and Salisbury, Maryland and as soon as I was spotted by the soldiers, they came to me, saying, “Ma’am, we are glad you are here! We needed you to be with us last night. It was such a long journey!” They started to pour their hearts out and talked about the whirlwind journey they had through the Amish country and how a four-hour trip turned into a ten-hour trip. They asked when we could have chapel service and a hand-full of them asked for prayer.
I provided a ministry of presence at the M-16 range and encouraged them as they qualified on the weapons. Before they’re able to shoot their qualification rounds, each soldier needed to zero their weapon, meaning the soldier must achieve five out of six rounds in two consecutive shot groups within a 4-centimeter circle. To achieve this, one must adjust their sights and this could take some time. As a chaplain, I never have to do this. What I can do is be present and encourage them. I do know, there are times we do need to sit back and “zero” our faith. There are times when we get a misfire from our faith or we miss our target. We can get frustrated and discouraged by it because we know what we need to do, yet we fall short. Sometimes, we need that sergeant or mentor to stand with us and help us get back to basics. To zero our faith is to focus on Christ and our union with him.
I spent the afternoon with my soldiers, in the rain, in the dirt, and loving every minute of it. Though I may not have had my “pretty” blue dress on, the soldiers still noticed something about what I wear. They noticed the cross on my uniform and they understand who I represent. They noticed that I wear the same uniform they do and that I had taken the same oath they have. They noticed the willingness the stand in the rain with them and to eat the same army food they do. It is a great honor for me to serve as an extension of the ministry of the church beyond its walls. The chaplain ministry is one of the few ministries in which clergy actually march, sleep, eat, and train in the same way as their soldiers do. Best. Job. Ever.
CH (CPT) Amor Woolsey serves as the battalion chaplain for the 1297th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the Maryland Army National Guard. She is also the Pastor of Caring Ministries at Kent Island United Methodist Church in the Penninsula-Delaware Annual Conference. Amor is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, and currently lives in Chester, MD with her husband Scott, son TJ, and rescue mutt Remington.