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Blessed to be a Navy chaplain ‘for such a time as this’ (UM News)

November 10, 2023

I am a United Methodist and the U.S. Navy’s Senior Chaplain aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford and the chaplain for Carrier Strike Group 12.

It is an honor and privilege to serve the sailors of this group and to serve our country in defense of our way of life. I know that this calling within a calling has been exactly where God desired for me to serve, and while sometimes I wish I would have gotten to this ministry sooner, I am strengthened by the words of Esther, “For such a time as this.”

Those words have not only undergirded my military chaplaincy but are particularly poignant in this moment and place.

Every night aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, the chaplains have the distinct privilege to offer a prayer to the entire crew over the mass communication system that goes to every space on the ship.  On the night in which we learned of our orders in support of the defense of Israel, I prayed this prayer:

“Tonight I pray the words from the Book of Esther, ‘For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise from another place. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.’  Tonight, and throughout the last 10 days, I have received these ancient words of wisdom from friends and family alike, for they believe we are here, not by mistake or misfortune, but for such a time as this. 

“Tonight may each one hear them for themselves, the ancient words … that you have called us, each soul aboard, … for such a time as this. That we might each not lament over timelines lost or plans of our own making not being realized; instead may we turn to you O God, and remember that we are not to keep silent, but we are to bring your relief and your deliverance. … May we join together in your calling, in your plan and in your purpose for we are called upon for such a times as this. Amen.”

I share this prayer as one small picture of the ministry we offer among our Sea Services as we, chaplains in the United Methodist Tradition, live out the words and ideals John Wesley gave us so long ago: The world is my parish. I am truly honored and humbled to serve in a place and organization where I can be a true heir of those words.

My hope is to encourage other United Methodist clergy to hear this calling and respond to it. The rewards in this ministry are amazing. They include reaching souls that may never have heard the message of hope, love and salvific grace. They also include being a non-anxious presence in the midst of those whose service and sacrifice are never fully understood. 

This ministry is not without its difficulties, but all ministries have their mountain tops and valleys. The sacrifices of this one (being away from family, home and traditional support networks) are completely overshadowed by the amazing gift of sharing God’s love with those who choose to serve.

Commander Clark is a native of McMinnville, Oregon, and entered active duty in 2008 after 13 years of civilian pastoral ministry in The United Methodist Church. Her awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (six awards), the Navy Achievement Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, as well as other personal and unit awards.