BISHOP CHRISTOPHER FOSTER: Chaplains’ service is an example to us all

Air Commodore Alan Opie from the Royal Air Force,  Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson, Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth Rev Christopher Foster, Rev Ian Stevenson and Second Sea Lord Vive Admiral Jonathan Woodcock signing the Armed Forces Covenant                  'Picture Habibur Rahman
Air Commodore Alan Opie from the Royal Air Force, Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson, Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth Rev Christopher Foster, Rev Ian Stevenson and Second Sea Lord Vive Admiral Jonathan Woodcock signing the Armed Forces Covenant 'Picture Habibur Rahman
St Johns CEC Primary School Summer Fair in 2017  Picture Credit: Keith Woodland

MATT HANCOCK: You get a warm fuzzy feeling when everyone pulls together

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Vicars are often quite well-known local figures – they are deeply involved in their local communities and you may even spot them walking around in their dog collars.

There are also clergy who you won’t see out and about in normal day-to- day life, as they work more behind the scenes, serving specific groups of people.

They are the chaplains who look after people in hospitals, universities, prisons and hospices.

They will listen to, support and pray for patients, students or inmates – and also the staff who work in those institutions.

There is a long-running tradition of chaplains offering spiritual care and support to the armed forces.

I met several of them together on Tuesday evening at Portsmouth Cathedral, when I signed the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the Diocese of Portsmouth.

I don’t know how much you know about the Armed Forces Covenant, but recently lots of businesses and organisations of various kinds have been signing it as a commitment to offer support in a whole range of ways to those who serve and to their families.

It’s all about treating military personnel fairly on issues such as education, housing and healthcare.

It’s a recognition of the tremendous sacrifice that members of the Armed Forces make on behalf of the whole country. In return, it commits us to make sure that whatever care and practical support they need is provided.

It recognises the need to do our bit to support those who are currently serving, veterans (young and old), and their families and loved ones. So I signed the covenant as a way of saying that the church will also play its part, recognising the important links that have already been forged over many years.

At times those links are particularly clear, such as on Remembrance Sunday. But the connection continues every day, and chaplains are a particularly important part of this.

While you may not see them around so much, they work hard and often share many of the dangers of the service personnel themselves. That kind of out-of-sight work, just like the service of armed forces themselves, is a great example to us all.