JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
Many churches went virtual when the pandemic struck, and the 446th Airlift Wing’s chapel team was no exception.
“While I believe there is something special about meeting in-person for encouragement and worship together,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Matthew Wilson, wing chaplain of the 446th AW. “We want every Airman to have the option to participate in religious services and providing services that are in-person, live virtually, or recorded will give Airmen the flexibility they need to accomplish the mission while still caring for their souls.”
Chaplains hit the virtual button on non-denominational worship services during the unit training assembly June 7, 2020. Although they held mass in the base chapel and complied with local, state and Centers of Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 guidelines, religious affairs support Airmen live streamed the service to give everyone the opportunity to attend. They continued their services during the July UTA.
“Honestly, I felt blessed to be at Mass today,” said Lt. Col. Robert Maanao, the 446th Airlift Wing executive officer who attended mass virtually July 12, 2020. “I am strengthened (in resiliency) by forcing myself to take time, even 15-20 minutes, to just breathe. Necessary more than ever.”
Catholic Mass and non-denominational worship services are held live Sundays at 8 a.m. through Microsoft Teams’ commercial virtual remote. The chaplain office records each service to give Reserve Citizen Airmen the opportunity to worship on their own time.
“Transitioning to virtual services has been a necessity forced by unplanned events that have worked for good in forcing us to learn new ways to care for Airmen that can continue for the long term,” said Wilson. “By providing a virtual option it becomes a force multiplier for our office since now we can lead a time of worship at any location on base.”
Along with worship services, the Chaplain Corps offers virtual counseling through a secured platform to maintain privileged communication. Privileged communication means conversations shared about personal issues are kept private by law and practice.
“Privileged communication is something that we as the Chaplain Corps guard very carefully and there has been some concern over the less than private nature of the most common platforms for virtual meetings,” Wilson said.
“If an airman cannot come on base and desires to meet with a chaplain, we do have another secure platform that was shared with us by the 627th Air Base Group Chaplain Corps office that provides confidentiality as well as the opportunity for counseling remotely.”
In addition to their virtual programs, the wing’s Chaplain Corps is open. A chaplain is in the office daily for Airmen who want to talk to someone.
“We have been able to bring one of our chaplains on orders through the remainder of the fiscal year so that you can come to our office either in-person or through your computer screen,” Wilson said. “We will do our best to help provide hope for the future and guidance so that even in a world of constant change, Airmen can know and do the next right thing.”