Dear Progressive Christian Pastors and Churches:
Here are some super basic things we could do to make our churches more inviting for military families:
- Include military personnel/families in sermon illustrations.
- When military personnel are deployed or away at lengthy training sessions, get the congregational care group engaged, and ask the family how they would like to be supported. (Casseroles? Prayers? Babysitting? Dog walking?)
- Get trained on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicide, and re-entry. Get savvy to basic military terminology.
- Maintain pastoral care with deployed church members through cards, emails, and visits with the family. They aren’t just away on a long business trip.
- Invite your military families to share their stories, to be their whole selves.
- Think rituals. Think about the laying on of hands before deployments. Think about blessings as people return. Think about integrating faith into their lives, not separating faith from their vocations.
- Don’t talk about their military career as their “job” or their uniform as their “outfit.”
- Double check that as you live out your progressive theologies, you are not simultaneously shaming military service.
- Take time to sit in the reality that military personnel are some of the only people in our society who take an oath to give their lives for others. Instead of skipping straight to the “saving” piece of making peace not war—as if it is our job to save military people from their own oaths—sit in the uncomfortable, enormous reality that these people said yes to a John 15:13 kind of sacrifice.
Then, let’s pray and march and vote for peace. But first, let’s honor the gravity of human willingness to give it all.
A Progressive Christian/Army Partner
Megan Snell is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ serving in the Boston Metro area. She is a Pastoral Resident at Wellesley Village Church and co-pastor of an emerging ministry, Open Table Dinner Church. Megan enjoys drumming, craft cider, music festivals, and hanging out with her dogs.