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Georgia State Defense Force calls for volunteer chaplains

The Georgia State Defense Force (GASDF), a volunteer arm of the Department of Defense that works closely with the National Guard, is seeking ordained chaplains to care for the spiritual needs of our troops and officiate over military funerals.

If you wish to learn firsthand about military culture while offering chaplaincy services for a limited amount of time each month, please consider this opportunity. This is a uniformed position. Participants complete basic and officer training (training schedule flexes around regular employment) and spend one day per month training with their local battalion.

About 30-40 percent of the GASDF are military veterans and the others are volunteers who want to serve Georgia in emergency situations including Search and Rescue and disaster response in a broad range of crises. 

For more information, visit the GASDF website at

Questions? Contact Major Edward O'Dwyer, GASDF, at edward.o' 

This program supports the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta's focus on developing  sustainable and mutually enriching relationships among our Episcopalian and military veteran communities. 

Robins AFB holds summit with local clergy

The Macon Telegraph
February 26, 2015

WARNER ROBINS — In the past couple of years Robins Air Force Base leaders have sought more ways to partner with the community to provide services for military members. Now that is being extended to spiritual matters.

At the Museum of Aviation, the base held its first spiritual summit Thursday with about 65 pastors and other local church leaders to discuss how they might better serve both military members and civilians who work at the base.

Speakers at the event included Col. Jimmy Browning, the command chaplain of the Air Force Materiel Command.

“Being physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually strong is an important element of who we are as a profession of arms,” he said. “When you understand that, you understand what this profession is, and you understand that there are stresses and strains.”

Browning called the Robins summit a pilot initiative that he hopes to spread to communities throughout the Air Force Materiel Command. He said he suggested having the summit after hearing about the close relationship between the base and community.

About 73 percent of active-duty military members describe themselves as Christian, he said, while most of the rest cite varying other faiths, with 2 percent atheist and 1 percent agnostic.

“We do a pretty good job of taking care of that diversity of faith,” he said. “We are chaplains to all.”

He noted that for legal reasons, chaplains are limited in what they can do for civilian employees, particularly when it comes to taking the initiative to reach out to them.

Since 2009, he said, the Air Force Materiel Command has lost 87 civilians and 17 military members to suicide. During that time, for those working under the command, Robins lost 17 civilians to suicide and no active duty military personnel. In the past fiscal year, which ended Oct. 1, Robins had five civilians commit suicide, when including all commands, with no military suicides.

In a panel discussion, the base’s military and civilian leaders told some stories with good and bad outcomes. A military member told of two airmen who had personal setbacks and slipped into alcoholism, but they were turned around by help from chaplains and are now doing well.

Ed Montano, quality program director and air logistics chief in the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, told a story that didn’t end well. A few years ago a civilian maintainer was having personal struggles and committed suicide on base. Only later was it learned from family members that the employee had been making suicide threats.

The Rev. Scott Petersen of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Warner Robins not only attended the summit but helped organize it. As a direct result of communicating with other churches about the summit, he said, an effort has been launched for churches to explore how they might work together better to provide help to those in need.

Petersen said six active military members and another dozen or more civilians attend his church. “We are certainly affected by what happens on base, so this is fantastic,” he said of the summit.

Photo: Col. Jimmy Browning, command chaplain of Air Force Materiel Command, addresses the audience at Robins Air Force Base’s clergy summit. Photograph by Woody Marshall

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725 or write This article was featured in The Macon Telegraph here.

Serviceman connected to home parish via smart phone

By Brandon Duke

Mystery gives us a hint of the familiar — just a taste of the known — but leaves us enough room for the imagination to wait and wonder about the unknowns in our lives. An Episcopal Christmas Eve service is an almost nostalgic mystery where we gather to tell the age-old story of divine light, love and life bursting through into this world in the form of a child, a baby, a holy innocent.

At the recent Christmas Eve Mass at St. Julian’s Episcopal Church in Douglasville, where I serve as priest in charge, nostalgia was definitely in the air but was met with a true Gospel response — that of a father’s love for his son.

A parishioner, Ralph Urbas, approached me prior to the service and had a special request.  “Can I FaceTime my son, Ian, during the service?” Ralph inquired.  “He grew up in the parish, is stationed overseas in Bahrain and really wants to hear the St. Julian’s choir sing some Christmas carols.”

My response, of course, was yes, but it was only afterwards that I got to know a little more about Ian and reflect on the experience.

Ian Urbas (right) is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and assigned to a coastal patrol boat and stationed for nearly two years in Bahrain, just off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, near Qatar. Previously, he was assigned to the destroyer USS Stout in Norfolk, Virginia, and graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York.

Ian has been home on leave only once since he has been based in Bahrain and hasn't been home for Christmas in several years. He was an acolyte at St. Julian’s (along with his two sisters, Alison and Stephanie) and has fond memories and experiences of the music, the mystery, and the story.

At one point during the Christmas mass I was able to look to the back of the nave and noticed an iPhone atop one of our many thermostats. I knew Ian was with us.

He was with us as someone who needed to hear the story again, but also as someone who was living the story as a Christian who is based in a Muslim country more than 7,000 miles away.

Ian was showing all of us that we can be imaginatively faithful, that we can still be inspired by listening and worshiping God, and that we are all part of the Gospel story if we choose to be.

* Ralph Urbas and his wife, Patricia, head up a St. Julian’s ministry that each week supplies 16 backpacks filled with nonperishable foods for local middle-school students from families without enough to eat.  Their son, Ian, will be reassigned in the spring to serve the U.S. Navy near Jacksonville, Florida.

Parish remembers veterans throughout the year

By Don Plummer

On Sunday, Nov. 10, worship services at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Atlanta included a Litany for the Armed Forces to remember military veterans. 

During the litany the names of 22 members of the armed forces, living and dead, known to Epiphany members were read and included in the service bulletin. Among the names were those of Assistant Bishop Keith Whitmore for his service as an Army chaplain during Desert Storm and Diocesan Bishop Rob Wright, a Navy search and rescue diver from 1982-87.

Following the reading of these names worshipers responded with the names of other military veterans. Veteran's Heart Georgia founder Kaye Coker, whose organization is affiliated with Epiphany, said the  service is one way her group seeks to raise awareness of the presence of veterans and their families in the parish and the ongoing sacrifices they make.

William J. Nixon Jr., a veteran of the Vietnam Conflict, joined Coker and other Veteran's Heart members at the service. Nixon, commander of a Marine artillery battery in Vietnam in 1966-67, spent the next two years serving as a combat casualty notification officer. Nixon’s experiences are reflected in Brazen Throats, a book of his poetry published in 2013.

Veteran's Heart Georgia holds monthly meetings at Epiphany and seeks to help returning veterans and their families deal with the ongoing trauma of experiencing war. Some of the trauma, Coker said, is passed down through generations of veteran’s families.

Active duty service members and veterans, their families and healing professionals are brought together by Veteran’s Heart. The group also provides training for counselors and therapists in understanding the unique needs of former warriors wounded souls, Coker said.More information about Veteran's Heart Georgia is available at or by calling 770-338-74763.