On Monday, November 4, 2013, I experienced something that was borderline inconceivable to me. Sometimes, a short trip takes us a long way! We overuse the word “incredible,” but this event was on the edge of an entirely new thought—at least for me.
I attended an event at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, where the Interfaith Partners of South Carolina (of which I am a member) was hosted. We were given a tour of the chapels provided for various faith groups—Muslim, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Protestant. These are used not only for worship but also to train military chaplains.
Did you know our military chaplains are cross-trained? A Jewish chaplain is not required to baptize a Protestant, but he or she is obligated to make sure that such an option is made available. And, vice versa. A Christian chaplain must ensure that a Jewish soldier has the right to observe his or her high holy days. The free exercise of religion extends not only to Baptists, Methodists and Mormons, but also to Pagans and Hindus. All American military service personnel are entitled to worship freely within their tradition.
Typically, I don’t think of the military as cutting edge culturally, but they are way ahead of our congregations with regard to Interfaith accommodation and understanding.
I knew the Chaplain Center and School for the entire military was housed here in Columbia, South Carolina, and I had been on the site for a meeting once. But I had never toured the facilities, which include a small Chaplain Corps Museum. I am grateful for the foresightedness and commitment within the military that provides training opportunities for our chaplains.
If you would like for your church’s senior adult group to take a tour, Marcia McManus (803-751-8079) is Director of the Museum and Chaplain Lembke (803-445-4184) is Director of the Center for World Religions. The Museum will be enjoyable to senior adults because of the nostalgia of the mementoes. A tour of the school, which is small but impressive, however, may stretch some folks who have never given a single thought to the worship of other people with different faith traditions.