Joint Base Balad has 30,000 people, and many different religious practices. To accommodate all this, there are dozens of chaplains. The chaplains also serve to offer guidance and counseling to military personnel.
There are dozens of different worship services that happen every week here, in addition to which there are over 50 weekly small-group meetings. Here is a listing of just the scheduled religious services on base:
People are amazed at the ecumenical diversity of the religious offerings on this base. The Pagan/Wiccan fellowship is particularly of note. I have visited this group, mostly out of curiosity, and find them to be a very friendly group of people.
This schedule is geared primarily towards military personnel. Some contractors also attend. There are thousands of other TCN’s (third country nationals) who are from India, Nepal, and other places including Fiji and a host of other countries. Most of these are Hindu, but some are Muslim. I have never seen religious services geared towards these folks, and of course our chaplains are not here to serve these folks. Most people here work 7 days per week, so I guess for most of the TCN’s here on base, they just don’t have any religious time.
The service that I go to most is the Liturgical, which is very Episcopal, but quite similar to Lutheran. It’s at the Gilbert Chapel (everyone calls it the “H-6 Chapel” because it is right in the middle of my H-6 housing area). Here is what this chapel looks like from the outside:
Here is what it looks like inside with a group of worshipers being led by the chaplain:
(It is perfectly acceptable to go to church in Physical Training clothes, basically workout shorts and T-shirt, due to the heat of the afternoon when this service is held)
It’s a good service, and I like it. We have to make do without any music, which is a bit disappointing, but it does make the service go faster. We’re on our 3rd chaplain since I’ve come here, because the Air Force rotates chaplains on 4-month tours. Lucky Air Force dogs to have such a short tour!!!
The big chapel on post is Provider Chapel:
Note the bomb shield over the building, and the fact that it is completely surrounded by concrete T-walls. They even have an annex (on the right side of the picture) for smaller group gatherings.
My unit’s chaplain is Captain Peter Strong, and he is a diligent worker who serves the spiritual needs of everyone in my unit. For US Military, at least, there is a wide array of choices for religious services and there is always a chaplain ready to talk.
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