Your congregation has what veterans and their families need

Congregations and veterans — and their families — are a perfect for each other. It’s simply a matter of getting them together.

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Our “Connecting With Vets: A Gathering of Congregations Serving Veterans and Military Families” event on March 22 will help get that started. Keynote speaker Paul Minor, a chaplain in the Massachusetts National Guard has some ideas to get you moving. Register today to make sure you and your congregation get all the information and tips you need.

Minor will share many more of his ideas at the event, but here’s a few to get you thinking:

  • “Adopt” a local armory. Serve food, talk with the veterans, build one-on-one relationships.
  • Look into the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. The project collects stories and the actual collection of those stories is “an incredibly sacred thing,” Minor says. That someone is listening to the veteran’s memories, the family’s story, creates a strong bond on both sides.
  • Are there special talents in your congregation that could help veterans and their families? Art therapists? Acupuncturists? Equine therapists? Writing coaches? Child-care providers? Your talents run deep. Share them.
  • Add the words “Veterans Welcome” to your church’s sign. It’s really that simple.

Minor is leery of the concept of “healing” returning veterans, because he doesn’t feel healing is delegated only to the veterans. “We’ve all encountered stuff,” he says. And those encounters are what make congregational members such a good match with veterans and their families. The healing goes both ways, you see. “The faith community can offer community of self,” Minor says. He says faith communities are where we’ve all turned to look for healing; it’s only makes sense for others to do the same.

That isn’t to say it’s going to be all sunshine and rainbows. There are possible conflicts with anti-war advocates — can we extend God’s love to warriors? Or maybe there’s a prodigal son reaction — the older brother is jealous or mad. Yet, as Minor points out, encounters like these are plentiful in the Bible. “It can’t be a condition of love,” he says. “We have to offer an unconditional presence.” And a congregation that works through those conflicts is going to be a stronger congregation.

Minor is confident your congregation will benefit from working with veterans and their families. He encourages making use of the variety of resources available in Massachusetts, many of which are cataloged at MassVetAdvisors.org.

And even if your congregation is already working with veterans and their families, you will benefit from the March 22 event. We’ll have representatives from several churches with successful ministries who will talk about their work with military families and veterans. You can also learn how to become a Veteran Friendly Congregation through our Partner, Care for the Troops, Inc.

So whether you’re just realizing there’s more you can do to help our returning warriors and their families, or you’ve been helping all along, join us March 22 at Open Spirit, 39 Edwards St., Framingham, Mass. The gathering, from 2 to 6 p.m., costs $25 and includes a light supper. Attendance is limited, so register today.