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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 April, 2004, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Kirk faces army chaplains drought
Service in the desert, British Army photo
An army chaplain leads services wherever soldiers are based
Not one Church of Scotland minister has signed up to be an army chaplain in the past year, a new report says.

The Kirk's report, published ahead of next month's General Assembly, said the shortage was due to fewer ministers carrying a greater workload.

The armed forces have 33 Church of Scotland chaplains.

A Kirk committee member called the shortage "surprising and disappointing" and said the Church of Scotland had to find a way to attract new chaplains.

Professor Herbert Kerrigan, convenor of the Kirk's committee on chaplains to the forces, said it was a great challenge for the ministers to turn the situation around.

The soldiers see the chaplain as someone who can help them to process thoughts and fears
Stephen Blakey
Former army chaplain
Stephen Blakey was chaplain to the Royal Scots in 1990-1991 during the Gulf conflict, where his role was to conduct church services and provide help and guidance to soldiers.

He told BBC Scotland: "The vast majority of soldiers have got no church contact at all and for of their service when they are based in home stations or in Germany, they are not really interested.

"But when they're in operations and faced either with danger to themselves or if they are working in a Bosnia-type situation where there's a lot of suffering and a lot of questions about humanity and pain, then they look to the chaplains.

"They see the chaplain as someone who can help them to process those thoughts and fears."

Muslim soldiers

Reverend Ian Barclay is staff chaplain at army headquarters and is responsible for the TA and army cadet force chaplaincy for Scotland and Northern England.

He said it was important for the chaplain to be in the army "in the full-blooded sense".

"You would have much less credibility if you were not really in the army.

"It is the fact that you are prepared to volunteer to go wherever they go, to bear the hardships, the burdens, anxieties, fears, and very often the fact that your life is on the line, just as theirs is," he said.

With almost 300 Muslims currently serving in the British forces, a working group is looking at the possibility of having a non-Christian cleric appointed to provide them with spiritual support.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Scotland's Elizabeth Quigley
"Chaplains have been part of army life for generations"



SEE ALSO:
A man of God in the Army
13 Mar 03  |  UK
Church ministers 'under stress'
18 Sep 02  |  Scotland


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