Fort Leonard Wood chaplains are finding new ways to minister to Soldiers and community members during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials at the Religious Support Office.
Through virtual mediums like weekly video live streams on social media, and through in-person services like ministering to Soldiers in quarantine, chaplains are going above and beyond to preserve what they call a “ministry of presence,” said Chaplain (Col.) Gregory Walker, the installation’s senior chaplain.
“We’re going to do what we got to do,” he said. “We’re looking at new, ingenious ways to make sure that we get out to more of the population here.”
Because of social-distancing protocols, services are not currently being held at any of the on-post chapels. However, RSO staff are still at work in the Main Post Chapel, coordinating broadcasts of one Catholic mass and four Protestant worship sessions, said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jeffrey Van Ness, the deputy garrison chaplain.
“The normal services that took place at the chapel for permanent party, they’re closed, but on a rotating basis, what we have is chaplains with a very minimal staff, six or less people, go into the chapels on Sundays and do a live stream,” he said.
Those virtual services are available on the RSO’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/fortleonardwoodRSO/.
Van Ness said less-populated faith group meetings, such as Buddhist services, have been temporarily canceled because of the virus, but the RSO will notify the community upon their reopening.
Walker and Van Ness said technology has helped bridge the gap, in many cases, so chaplains can continue their work. For classes like ChristFit and Protestant Women of the Chapel, the congregations have been using video-conferencing sites.
In addition to the temporary changes to the permanent party services that chaplains have had to adapt to, they are still ministering to their own units.
“The chaplains are focusing on providing worship services for their units, and if there’s not a Catholic chaplain in the unit, then they coordinate to have the Catholic service live stream presented,” Van Ness said.
And for any Department of Defense ID card holder on Fort Leonard Wood who may need assistance during this time, Van Ness said the chaplains are ready to help.
“We used our (non-appropriated fund) money and bought $7,000 worth of Commissary vouchers, because … things may get a little tough,” he said. “So, they can plug in through their chaplain or the chaplains’ office as a whole and just say, ‘We’re running a little tight this week on groceries.’”
Van Ness and Walker encouraged any Soldier or their families to contact their unit chaplain if they are going through a hard time. Alternatively, they can call the RSO at 573.596.2127.