Chapel Connections multiplies worship opportunities
By Jennifer Carroll, 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 26, 2007
VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael Gilbert, active-duty chaplain since 1992, came from Nellis AFB to Vance AFB four months ago. He explains that his duties as Wing Chaplain include spiritual care such as pastoral counseling and visitations. At the same time he conducts religious observances, advises leadership and provides for religious needs. In so doing, the Vance AFB Chapel enables Vance personnel to better exercise their Freedom of Religion in accordance with the First Amendment.
"We're here to make sure everybody can worship in the style that they want," Chaplain Gilbert said.
The Vance AFB Wing Chaplain and his staff take their duty to proactively meet people's religious needs very seriously. The unique program, Chapel Connections, that the Vance AFB Chapel introduced recently, is the only one of its kind within Air Education and Training Command. The program provides religious services, networks with local churches and establishes chapel connections to many different faith groups in the Enid area.
"I felt that the chapel, out of all the other organizations on base, is uniquely situated to connect with downtown. There are 120 churches just in Enid. There is no other organization on base that has that ready-made outlet for being connected," Chaplain Gilbert said.
Since the Vance AFB chaplains are not able to offer services for each individual faith group, they do their best to create healthy community relationships and meet the needs of military service members and their family on- and off-base. For those interested in a large program for their children, base chaplains can also point them to wonderful children's programs downtown through Chapel Connections.
During the last month, Chaplain Gilbert and his staff worked hard on this new program. They found ten Vance AFB partner churches among the Enid community and hope to draw more attention to their vision statement: Creating Healthy Community...Connected for Care. The Chapel Connections binder they created helps to acquire more specific information on these local faith groups and directions on how to get to each of them.
"Our goal is for people to stop by the Chapel and review the Chapel Connections binder to find out where they can get the information for downtown," Chaplain Gilbert said.
Chaplain Gilbert meets with members of the Enid Ministerial Alliance to teach them how to reach out to military people. Thus, cooperation flourishes between the Vance AFB Chapel and religious communities in Enid, which the Chapel Connections - Holy Week Schedule displays.
"The Vance AFB Chapel is an experiment in faith communities working together. It is a win-win situation", he said. "All conditions for the program and reaching out to a huge portion of the Enid area are perfect: The Vance Chapel staff works together very well and is open to this program. The base leadership encourages the program and that's a big thing. Vance AFB is in close proximity to Enid and has a good relationship to its community."