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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Wanted: More military chaplains

Leaders hope for growth in numbers of ELCA pastors on active military duty

Call it the sacrament of the freezer pops.

ELCA
chaplain Kay Reeb often surprised on-duty Marines with the icy-sweet treats during her seven-month deployment to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. More than a quick cool-off in the searing heat, it was a chance to perform a military chaplain’s most important duty—what Reeb calls “ministry of presence.”

ELCA pastor and military chaplain Kay
ELCA pastor and military chaplain Kay Reeb serves in the U.S. Marine Corps. She recently returned from a seven-month deployment to Iraq.
“Counseling opportunities popped up all over the place,” she said. “People would just start talking, and you’d sit down under a tree and visit.”

Reeb is one of a shrinking number of ELCA military chaplains who provide pastoral care to members of the armed forces, both at home and abroad. In 1970, 258 active-duty military chaplains served two of the ELCA’s three predecessor bodies, the American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church in America. Today the ELCA has 82 chaplains on active military duty.

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