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The Role of Army Chaplains -
A Brief Introduction


According to 2007 figures, there are about 280 chaplains (or padres) in the armed services (Army, Royal Navy and RAF).  Over half of those chaplains are attached to the Army, normally to a specific regiment.  24 are Church of Scotland chaplains.

During World War II uniformed Jewish rabbis were employed directly by the army, but nowadays (2007), all recruited chaplains within the armed services are Christian.  However the military also employs civilian Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist religious leaders to care for recruits.

Whilst in the Army, a chaplain remains attached to their individual denomination of the church.  They remain Church of Scotland; Baptist; Roman Catholic; Church of England... clergy.  The Church of Scotland, for example, has a “Committee on Chaplains to HM Forces” which meets each year as part of the General Assembly deliberations.

The role of a military chaplain is not to fight (no chaplain carries guns), but to provide religious and moral support to troops.  They are therefore expected to undergo the physical training of a soldier, but not the weapons training.  Their job is part conventional minister, part moral support to troops.  The work involves conducting military services, including inevitably funerals, plus marriages and baptisms, as well as military commemoration and remembrance services, discussing moral issues with troops as well as counselling for both soldiers and their families, plus visiting the sick, the injured and the bereaved.  The job has tours of duty overseas, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

Most chaplains are established parish ministers at the time they are recruited to the army, with the average age of new recruits being well into their 30s.

Many, but not all, army chaplains are attached to a specific army chapel or church.   St Andrew’s Garrison Church is one such church.

Sources:
  • the 2007 figure for the number of chaplains in the armed services come from the BBC website, as does the average age of recruits;
  • number of Church of Scotland chaplains from Life And Work magazine, June 2008 edition; and
  • details about the Committee on Chaplains to HM Forces can be found on the Church of Scotland website.