at that time only pastors from denominations that were
part of the Canadian Council of Churches were acceptable. He then ministered as a pastor with the Pentecostal
Assemblies of Canada and served as a reserve chaplain
until, in 1996, he transferred to the regular forces.
“When you’re a unit chaplain, your office is within the
unit lines. You live and work with them,” says Bergeron.
“You’re out with them at 7 a.m. when they’re out jogging.
If you’re with a service battalion, you go to the mechanics’
bay. With an infantry unit you sit in
on map-reading classes. The more
time you spend with your troops,
the greater their respect is for the
A delicate balance – a great life
While rites, rituals and symbols become important to soldiers, chaplains are not asked to do anything outside the
bounds of their own tradition. They are required to work in
a multifaith environment, but, as Hunter says, “Neither the
ICCMC nor the Chaplain Branch requires an individual
[compromise] his or her position theologically.”
the reason they feel safe with you.”
Beckingham notes that when he shares his own story of
broken bones and a broken spirit from a terrible car accident
(the same injuries some soldiers experience), it brings “life
and love” into the relationship.
“Being present to someone also means knowing when
you’re needed and when you’re not,” says Parker. “Some-
times just knowing that you are there if they need you is
enough for the soldiers.”
Leslie Dawson, a chaplain in Kingston, Ont., describes
presence as “fluidity.” There is nothing coercive or forceful
about it. “you allow yourself [like a fluid] to take the shape of
the container you are offered. Sometimes that means waiting
at a respectful distance until called upon.”
“Listening is absolutely central,” says Dawson, “but a min-
istry of presence is much more than that. Sometimes you
have to be creatively proactive and intervene.”
She describes a time in afghanistan in 2003 when she vis-
ited women in prison. many were there because of an offence
like refusing to marry someone or witnessing a crime they
should not have seen.
By the time Dawson left, almost every woman had re-
ceived toiletries, been assigned a female lawyer – and been
given hope. “making a tangible difference not only gives hope
to the victimized, but it raises the morale of the soldiers. It’s
contagious,” she says.