As a new chaplain Captain on active duty my first year was uphill learning until I met a man who passed a torch to me with the key advice I needed to order my learning.
It was 1987 and three Lutheran church bodies were merging into one group called the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. One of those church bodies, the American Lutheran Church, decided to gather all of their military chaplains together for one last hurrah before this new church birthed.
When I arrived for this event, I ran into another junior chaplain like myself. “Hey, what gives? I thought you and I were rooming together. The organizers of this event have put all of us new chaplains in with a bunch of senior chaplains,” my friend complained. “Yes”, I said, “I don’t understand either. I was looking forward to seeing you more.”
My friend continued. “They have me in with some old guy. Who are you with?” I replied in total ignorance, “I’m rooming with an old guy named Connie Walker.” For many this reply will elicit laughter. Chaplain (Colonel) Connie Walker was a living legend, but a junior chaplain like me had no idea.
That night I met Connie and we shared and prayed together. It was a ministry changer. That moment of mentorship set me on a correct course on being a dedicated chaplain. I never called Connie old again. I promised him that if I became a senior chaplain I would mentor others as well.
One way I keep that promise is by mentoring a chaplain currently serving on active duty through the USACCRA-sponsored mentorship program. It’s a great way to be matched with a younger colleague to help pass on the torch of ministry in the Army. It is one of the reasons why I enjoy being a part of USACCRA, it’s not just for “old chaplains”, but a connection of past and present for a better future. It’s another way to serve God and country.
CH(COL-R) Scottie Lloyd