10 October 2019
“Dear God! what am I doing? What am I letting myself in for?” Questions I often ask myself as I prepare for annual camp. I always get the jitters when packing and think I don’t want to go, but once the car is loaded with all the Chaplains Office equipment, my own personal luggage, and the journey has commenced, my frame of mind changes and I so look forward to getting to Camp.
2019 is my 19th Annual Camp with Merseyside Army Cadet Force, and the first time we have been to Merrion Camp in Castlemartin, South Wales. Over the years I have come into contact with some incredible young people whose stories have made me laugh and also cry. I have also met amazing volunteers who give so much of their time, lives and money to inspire and help our young people advance and become the leaders of tomorrow. I get a buzz when I see the cadets of yesterday becoming the adult volunteers of today, giving back to the Cadets and the community what they have received themselves and in return encouraging the cadets of today to be the adult instructors of tomorrow. The wheel spins round and round! Each and everyone of them has touched my life in some shape or form and I am truly blessed by them.
Very few cadets and adults can say they have not met with the Padre on Camp. EVERY meal time we walk amongst them in the queue. At breakfast, finding out what they are looking forward to that day and what training they are doing to do. Lunchtime discovering how they are getting on and at Dinner being told how they got on and what’s going to be happening at NAAFI later in the evening. Some of those conversations that have taken place around the cookhouse have led to deeper chats about life, their worries about pending exam results, the exciting holidays they are going on after camp and of course, faith, the teachings of the church and why did I become a priest. I never cease to be amazed at how open some of our cadets will be in my conversations with them. I am honoured when they take me into their confidence of what worries them and their concerns and ask for your advice and help.
In one such conversation that took place the cadets discovered my dislike of camping and sleeping out. It led to 6, Senior Cadets putting “Operation Holy Water” into operation when “the Bible” (my target name) arrived at the camp site. Bergen taken off me and accompanied to the sleeping area, my basher was put up and bodyguards surrounding me, I was in the hands of these young people. “Don’t worry Padre, we will look after you tonight! You won’t get kidnapped tonight; they won’t get passed us! Sleep well Padre, Good Night” were the last words I remember before falling asleep, safe in the care of my cadet bodyguards! A memory I will treasure for long time.
So Annual Camp 2019 is over and we are back at home. Being an Army Cadet Force Chaplain, has been, and continues to be an exciting part of my ministry. Many opportunities have arisen that have helped me grow as a priest as well as a person and I hope has allowed me to help others grown and develop. I hope I have been as support and played a part in lives of the young people of Merseyside and brought them closer to the Lord in some way. I that I will be able to continue to be blessed by them and help them to continue to grow and develop their skills, talents, and relationships with each other and with God.
So Annual Camp 2019 is over and all that is left are the memories. I hope the Padres have had a positive influence on the cadets and adult instructors, and helped them to have the cadet experience we would wish them to have. The preparations for Annual Camp 2020 will begin soon and so will the questions “Dear God! what am I doing?” and “What am I letting myself in for?”