Living out the Faith – A parish with a difference
The Church sees many different Chaplains serving both here and abroad in a variety of roles and specialisms. One such role is undertaken by Padre Perry, a Chaplain to the Royal Air Force at RAF Northolt, in the Willesden Area of the Diocese of London. Here Flying Officer J Shaw, from the Armed Forces Media Team in Oman, tells us how Fr Perry has been serving military personnel in the Middle East.
A Chaplain from Ruislip, London has been deployed to Oman with the Royal Air Force to support Exercise Saif Sareea 3.
Reverend (Squadron Leader) Mark Perry has flown out to Oman as an RAF Chaplain to provide spiritual and pastoral care to some of the 5,500 UK personnel in the region.
RAF Chaplains are sent all over the world, wherever Service personnel are, but in Oman, Padre Perry cares for 900 soldiers, sailors and airman in and around the capital, Muscat.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re not spiritual, or of any faith,” he said. “We’re there 24/7, 365 days a year, living out our faith through the RAF Chaplains’ Branch Motto Ministrare Non Ministrari.”
One of the most important parts of his job came when a soldier had to return to the UK for compassionate reasons. “When the call comes in everything else stops… it’s the top priority.”
In the early hours of the morning the Padre was roused from his pit and rushed to Mussanah Air Base where he met the soldier as he came off the Puma helicopter that had brought him in from the desert. Padre Perry then spent the next five hours with him as he waited for his flight home.
He said: “It is really important that Chaplains to be there in the toughest time of peoples life. Often people just need an ear to unload to, and knowing that the Padre’s there can be a real comfort.”
RAF Chaplains also have more traditional episcopal duties. Padre Perry’s sermons in Oman have centred around the RAF Chaplaincy’s partnership with Coventry Cathedral’s Community of the Cross of Nails and their themes of unity and reconciliation.
The Dean of Coventry Cathedral, The Very Reverend John Witcombe, said:
“It is inspiring that Revd Mark used the Coventry Cathedral’s Litany of Reconciliation whilst in Oman. Coventry Cathedral’s history of destruction issuing in reconciliation and rebuilding communities are unique and relevant to today’s broken world. Honesty and Healing are built in the very fabric of the Cathedral.”
Mark added: “Being out in Oman, on Ex Saif Sareea 3 has been an enormous sense of adventure and a fantastic opportunity to work with people from all walks of life across the three services and the Omanis. To be able to engage and minister with people from all backgrounds has been a huge privilege and has been an excellent educational experience. It really is a parish with a difference!”
The Revd Mark Perry will be featured in the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer on the 29 December 2018. To find out more and to remember him and other chaplains in the prayer list, please see here.
(Photographer: Corporal Stephen Harvey / MoD)