Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Unique Ministry

For 38 years of my adult life I was involved in some way or another with the Air Force Chaplain Corps.  I have known/met all of the seventeen Chief of Air Force Chaplains with the exception of the present one.  The Air Force is not as old as I am.  It was established in September 1947.  I was four years old!

Thirteen years later, I enlisted in the Air Force and became a part of the Air Force Chaplain Service. Major General Terrance P. Finnegan  was the Chief of Air Force Chaplains then, and after his two years of service was followed by Robert P. Taylor (a survivor of the Bataan Death March of World War II).  But it is the first Chief of Air Force Chaplains who enters my mind this morning (and I have not the slightest idea why).

Charles I. Carpenter was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1906 and became an ordained Methodist pastor serving parishes in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland.  In 1936 he entered the Army as a chaplain.  In 1942, he was assigned to the Pentagon to establish chaplaincy work in the United States Army Air Forces, and later reassigned as the senior Air Chaplain in Europe during the closing years of WWII.  After the war, he returned to Washington as Air Chaplain and served in this capacity until he became the Chief of Chaplains of the newly formed United States Air Force.  It was Carpenter who shaped and molded the Air Force Chaplain Corps as I knew it.  He served as the Air Force Chief of Chaplains for ten years.  In 1958 (“at no other time in American military history, as far as this writer knows, has a two-star general relinquished his stars for the rank of colonel”) he became Protestant Cadet Chaplain at the newly established US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and continued in that position until his retirement from active duty in November 1960.  Carpenter, as he moved from the Chief’s Office to the Academy, wrote to a friend, “I pass from this phase of life without any lingering regret.  God is good to give me a career that started because of my desire to serve young men, and now, in the close, I have the privilege again of such service.”

Eight years later, as a candidate for ordination in the Methodist Church, I was interviewed and examined by the Board of Ministry of the Peninsula Conference.  Charles I. Carpenter was a member of that Board.  I can still remember his humble spirit, his wit and charm, as he gave me a “thumbs up.” Charles I. Carpenter was one of the “greats” in the history of the Air Force Chaplaincy and I had the privilege to serve in that  Chaplain Corps he helped to mold and to shape, a ministry that touched my own life and the lives of so many, many men and women of the Air Force over the past 70 years.

The journey is full of connections--like stepping from lily
pad to lily pad...

No comments:

Post a Comment