Glad to hand in your cell phone

Glad to hand in your cell phone

For twelve years they were active as military pastors in hammelburg, wildflecken and volkach. Why did you decide to take this job??
Thomas linder: i was attracted by the work with experienced people who do not belong to the classic clientele of churchgoers. Besides, the tasks here are very exciting and varied.

Which for example?
For example, the life-skills lessons that I teach. That is obligatory for all soldiers. Ethical topics are dealt with, such as dealing with death and dying. In addition, there is a local church service once a month. In addition, there are services for swearing-in ceremonies or anniversaries. Another part are the rust times. These are events lasting several days for soldiers and sometimes also their families. They have a specific ethical theme, similar to life lessons. There are also seminars and excursions. Last but not least, i am responsible as a pastor for the various needs of the soldiers.

With what problems do the soldiers turn to you??
When you have life problems in general, such as stress with your girlfriend or your superior. They also approached me in the case of transfers or subsequent conscientious objection to military service. Likewise, after foreign assignments and stressful impressions they can’t come to terms with.

What is special about the work as a military pastor??
The soldiers often change their location. So i constantly have to deal with new faces, and i always have to open up the group for myself and respond to them – also because many are non-denominational and have had nothing to do with the church up to now. I have to counter prejudices and show them that I am a normal person, even as a pastor.

The soldiers become more religious through their work?
At least they are becoming more open to our message because I am trying to break down the prejudices about the christian faith. Religion is strongly communicated through the person, so i want to show myself to my comrades as an honest, authentic pastor who can be touched.

How faith helps soldiers?
In dangerous situations, it helps them to know that they are not alone and that someone is there to support them. A passage from psalm 23 is particularly apt here: ‘though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i will fear no evil; for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they give me strength’.’

Is there a moment you remember particularly well??
Years ago, there was a pushing accident here in which a fellow soldier was killed. The other soldier involved placed a cross at the site of the accident and had it consecrated by the local catholic and protestant priests. The special thing is that both soldiers were non-denominational. That showed me that church and faith are important when something happens. I also have fond memories of the infantry days: it was always a big event with a lot of celebrities, also from abroad.

What goes through your mind when you think about your retirement??
Here the saying of laughing and crying fits very well: of course it’s hard for me to leave, because I have made some very good friends beyond the call of duty. On the other hand, the burden is also very rough. It is a considerable responsibility to look after soldiers. I am also glad to be able to hand in my cell phone. I had to be available around the clock. I’m also looking forward to my new position as a pastor in the school service at the vocational school center in bamberg, because I really enjoyed teaching.

Interview: fabian schafer