Thursday, 05 December 2019

First Woman Chief for Defence Force Chaplains

Uniting Church chaplains in the Australian Defence Force have welcomed the first ordained woman into their key leadership role.

Former Queensland Moderator Rev. Kaye Ronalds will serve as the Uniting Church Representative to the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services, or RACS for short. 

RACS members advise the Chief of the Defence Force and the Service Chiefs on religious matters.

The Committee is made up of chaplains from Catholic and Protestant denominations, and includes Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu representatives.

Rev. Ronalds was inducted into the role at a service in the ANZAC Memorial Chapel of St Paul at the Royal Military College, Duntroon in Canberra on 4 December 2019.

Current Chairperson of the UCA Defence Force Chaplaincy Rev. Charles Vesely welcomed guests at the Service, and gave the Prayer of Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness.

UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer gave the charge.

“Kaye, my sister in Christ, you are called to be a servant and a shepherd in this appointment to the Australian Defence Force,” said Dr Palmer.

"It is your work to lead and pastorally care for Uniting Church chaplains appointed to the ADF and their families.

“You will encourage Uniting Church Chaplains to grow and develop in the ministry of Defence Chaplaincy into which God has called and the ADF has appointment the chaplains.

“You will encourage suitable persons to consider the call of God to ADF Chaplaincy and lead those who may hear this call.

“You will give Godly, fearless, and frank counsel to the leaders of our nation’s Defence Force.

“You will take Christ the Good Shepherd as your example, caring for God’s people and serving with them in their witness to the world.

“In view of this solemn trust, we ask you to reaffirm the declaration of faith and obedience that you made at your ordination and to show that you desire, by God’s grace, to continue your ministry in this appointment.

UCA chaplains representing the three services presented Rev. Ronalds with the signs of ministry - a Bible and the Emblems of the three arms of the Australian Defence Force, before retiring UCA RACS Member Rev. Dr Murray Earl placed the UCA RACS Member Preaching Scarf around the newly inducted member’s neck.

In brief remarks Rev. Ronalds said she brought to the role “a deep love of the church and an understanding of its structures and institutions and how they can either enable or limit the capacity of humans to serve and thrive”.

“I have long experience in offering spiritual and pastoral care to people from all walks of life, and I understand the need to appoint well-trained, gifted and compassionate people to provide care and support that people might practice their religion.

“And especially for us the Christian religion in the ordinary routines of each day, and also in the times of deep crisis and even danger.”

Rev. Ronalds has served as an Army Reserve Chaplain for 27 years and was the first woman appointed as a chaplain in the Australian Army.

She will continue to serve in the Church as the minister to the Granite Uniting Church Belt that is centred on Stanthorpe.

The event was also the last official function for Murray Earl, after many years of service as a Chaplain in the RAAF, which included a term as Director General Chaplain-Air Force.

Rev. Ronalds paid a warm tribute to Rev. Dr Earl in her remarks.

“I want to say thank you to Murray who has mentored me into this role,” she said.

“Murray as many of you know, has been a humble and sometimes courageous member of the RACS but also the Chair for this last season - two years, I think."

"So he retires now and we are grateful for the work that he has done and the legacy that he has left the RACS as he has overseen the expansion of the RACS to include representatives of multi-faith groups.”

UCA DFC Chairperson Rev. Charles Vesely also praised Rev. Dr Earl as an outstanding servant of the church and chaplaincy to the Defence Force.

There are currently more than 45 UCA ministers serving as Australian Defence Force Chaplains.