“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
“Four U.S. Army Chaplains gave up their life jackets and prayed together when their transport ship, the U.S.A.T Dorchester was torpedoed eighty miles south of Greenland on February 3, 1943. The Chaplains came from different faiths and backgrounds.
John P. Washington was a Catholic Priest from Kearny, New Jersey, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode was a native of York, Pennsylvania. Clark V. Poling was a a minister in the Reformed Church in America at the First Reformed Church in Schenectady, New York. George L. Fox, a decorated World War One veteran, was a Methodist minister in Gilman, Vermont.” – The Four Chaplains Memorial
As the Merchant Marine ship sank into the icy black sea of the North Atlantic, the legacy of those Chaplains rose to shine a warm and golden light for each of us to follow:
• Self-sacrifice is not a ideal. It is priority of life.
• Cooperation without compromise supports a truly free and operationally effective doctrine of religious liberty.
• Ministry has meaning.
On this point: Chaplaincy in the U.S. Armed Forces was instituted by General George Washington and the Continental Congress (29 July 1775). Gen. Washington knew what the Four Chaplains demonstrated: Clergy-in-uniform are not merely “lucky rabbits feet” nor doughnut and coffee dispensers. Chaplains are usually the highest educated, trained in not only homiletics, pastoral counseling, and liturgy, but living repositories of Scripture and the sacred memory of our own Western Civilization in literature and history, taking a place next to a Soldier in a foxhole, next to a Sailor on the flight deck. Chaplains and their enlisted colleagues, Chaplain Assistants or Religious Affairs Specialists, are ministry and mission multipliers who guide the conscience, inspire the soul, and shape the heart and mind of the Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Mariner, and Guardsman.
The saying is so true, “Chaplains bring God to Solders and Soldiers to God” (Chaplains Military Review, 1991).
And so we remember. And thus we must live.
Let us pray.
Holy God, you inspired the Dorchester chaplains to be models of steadfast sacrificial love in a tragic and terrifying time: Help us to follow their example, that their courageous ministry may inspire chaplains and all who serve, to recognize your presence in the midst of peril; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Daily Lectionary for 03 February of each year)