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Greatest Cathedrals
Chaplains serving in war zones seldom saw the inside of church buildings. A lot of ingenuity was required to get their special work done. One combat chaplain described his ...

Greatest Cathedrals

Chaplains serving in war zones seldom saw the inside of church buildings. A lot of ingenuity was required to get their special work done. One combat chaplain described his places of worship:



Outdoor Cathedral (National Archives)

During these months I held services in every conceivable location—on the open deck, in the men’s mess hall, aboard ship, on the cargo hatch of a sunken Liberty ship, aboard a floating pier, ashore, in the open, in the rain, and under tarpaulined shelter… These services were in many ways far more real than those held in the greatest cathedrals.

During my military career I marched in countless ceremonies. The ultimate in pageantry was an evening parade under spotlights on the White House lawn. I also vividly recall another parade of the same military format, but devoid of pageantry. On Okinawa, where my Marine ancestors fought during World War II, I marched in a combat review with other Marines about to deploy for combat. This parade featured helmets, packs, weapons, and camouflage. Even though the audience was small, it was one of my most moving experiences.

The common denominator of these stories is found in the attitude of the participants. When soldiers or saints face the urgency of their mission and realize their vulnerability, their ceremonies become intensely meaningful. At the same time, the outward form loses significance. When we know what we have to do, and we realize that the capacity to do it can only come from God, worship becomes urgent and real. This is the attitude we need every time we come before his altar. It makes no difference whether that altar is in a tent or a cathedral.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

—John 4:23


Other Items In The Battlefields and Blessings Series

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