Team Rector of North Lambeth Parish, Revd Angus Aagaard recently completed his final weeks of training to become a Padre in the British Army. We spoke to him to find out more.
“I wanted to be a padre so I could help people. I‘d spoken to a few people in the parish who’d come back from Afghanistan and Iraq, and it was clear that they valued the opportunity to sit and talk to someone. Some of the things our soldiers experience are things that no-one should really have to, so they needed that pastoral care – and that’s what the church is all about.”
Having decided on this, Angus embarked on four weeks of training at Sandhurst Military Academy, completing it in two batches so he could balance his work in the Parish. He says “There are about 50 padres in the army, and the point of the training is to be a credible officer; soldiers won’t look up to if you don't understand their world. And being slightly outside the chain of command, the soldiers will open up to you because they know it’s not going straight up the chain. It’s clearly a valued role.”
A typical day would start at 7:30 with lectures on leadership and military tactics, followed by exercises including a 6-mile march with a 15lb pack, and carrying a stretcher through a fast flowing stream (under bridges and through tunnels with barely any air pockets). There were also night exercises, which involved digging holes to sleep in, and sentry duty.
“Part of it is to reach a point where you’ve given all you can give. It doesn’t matter if you’re not first, but have you given your best? As an elderly, slightly overweight person, there’s a sense of pride that that I’ve put myself in a fairly uncomfortable, challenging situation and I got through it. I might not have been the hare – I was probably the tortoise – but I kept going.”
Over the 4 weeks of training, Angus has learned many things that he believes can help his work in the Parish.
“The army is really strong on leadership and there’s clarity about what the task is and how you should fulfill it. And that is something the church can definitely learn from. And also, when you look at the Army’s values, they are all about selfless commitment, respect for others, integrity, loyalty, discipline, courage. All these are reflected in the gospels. So there really is a link there.
“And that's what the job the Parish is about. It’s trying to build a team in a community where people really do support each other. But I can't bark orders at people in the street or stand on street corners shouting about God. But what I can do is build that spirit of wanting to cooperate. For me, faith is about serving people. And that is the leadership the church can show as well.”