The chaplains of the Anglican Military Ordinariate play a vital role in supporting members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Posted to military bases and deploying with soldiers, sailors and air crew around the world, their work as pastors in a multifaith environment provides care and guidance to military members and their families on a daily basis. But who cares for the caregivers?
Pastoral care for chaplains is the primary responsibility of Bishop Peter Coffin, who serves as Anglican Bishop Ordinary. Providing a link to the chaplains’ “home faith community” in the Anglican Church of Canada, Bishop Coffin helps maintain the well-being of chaplains and their families while connecting them with the wider church.
“It is … important for the church to know of this ministry that they share and to rejoice in it,” Bishop Coffin said, noting the biblical call to “encourage one another” in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
“I am a story teller,” he added. “I tell stories both of the chaplains and those to whom and with whom they serve to the civilian faith community. This often provides a greater appreciation of the CAF’s mandate and role in and for Canadian society and further afield.”
Support for the Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Armed Forces was featured item in the 2015 Gifts for Mission gift guide.
Funds from Gifts for Mission help maintain the Bishop Ordinary as a dedicated part-time position, covering salary, travel costs, and technical resources to help the bishop communicate with chaplains. They also allow the bishop to engage in the gathering of chaplains as well as duties and administrative support that are not covered by military funds, such as civilian church visits.
Benefits to chaplains from the bishop’s support are palpable, noted Padre Jennifer Gosse (Lt-Cmdr.), deputy commandant and chief instructor at the Canadian Forces Chaplain School and Centre in Borden, Ont.
“Because you have the bishop supporting you as your pastor, you feel like the church itself is supporting you,” Gosse said.
“The bishop is a vital link to us, to our church heritage, [and] keeps us grounded in our faith so that we can serve in the interfaith environment of the chaplaincy.”
As Bishop Ordinary, Bishop Coffin also serves as the Anglican member of the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy (ICCMC), which represents the chaplaincy to the Government of Canada. The ICCMC endorses candidates of all faiths for chaplaincy; provides pastoral oversight to the chaplains, their families and chapel communities; and supports the Chaplain General and staff members.
Though primarily serving as pastor for Anglican chaplains, when visiting a base, wing or formation Bishop Coffin is available for all military chaplains in his capacity as a member of the ICCMC—an opportunity he calls a “particular privilege and joy.”
Among the more than 70 regular and reserve force Anglican chaplains, support from church members through the Bishop Ordinary has not gone unnoticed.
“It is an incredible privilege to be a part of such a ministry and such a team,” Bishop Coffin said. “Our chaplains … are affirmed by such support, and I am particularly proud that of all of the faith communities in the CAF, the Anglican Church of Canada is known for its support. Our Primate is a wonderful example of such encouragement.”