History

Yesterday was the last day of Fort Bayard Days. Fort Bayard was an outpost in southwestern New Mexico established during the Indian Wars in 1866 and manned mainly by buffalo soldiers. It then became a sanatorium for Tuberculosis patients. Now many of the buildings are in disrepair, but a valiant group of history buffs are working to make it a destination worth visiting once again through the yearly Fort Bayard Days festival. For the second time now, we have held our late service there on Sunday. The Arizona Territorial Military Band was there, a volunteer group of musicians who play in typical military style. They gave a mini-concert beginning at 10 and then played for the service as well. We sang Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus and other songs with rather military imagery. I preached about army chaplain Frederick “Ted” Howden from New Mexico who died in the Bataan Death March in the Philippines because he gave away his rations to keep his men alive. For me, though his context was military, his work was Gospel, and he followed the way of his master who gave his life for his friends…

The day was a delicate balance of history, military tradition and Gospel. Some would say the first two have nothing to do with the last, but I differ. History is our story—the essence of the Christian Gospel is a story. The tradition of military chaplaincy goes back to the days of the Revolutionary War. Until the 1960’s more than half the military chaplains in the U.S. Department of Defense were Episcopalian. Whether we like it or not, that is our story, that is what brings us to the present and gives it context. If we do not know our history we are bound to repeat it—and there is plenty in our history that should not be repeated. Hence the Gospel should be brought into conversation with history and military tradition. How can people of faith be the conscience of the nation if we do not address its history? The differences between what we might say, one person of faith vs. another, is in a sense only cosmetic. The fact that people of faith bring the moral question to the story of our people is enough to make us engage it. If we do not engage it then we, as people of faith, have abdicated our responsibility and left the nation with no moral anchor.

Gospel MUST speak to history!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “History

  1. When I was a child, one of my father’s carpool colleagues for work was a Bataan death march survivor from New Mexico. I wonder if Fr. Ted fed him….

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