A chaplain for the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) hopes his sailors won’t ever have to test just how waterproof our New Testaments really are!
Chaplain Pete Olds, RNZN, commented, “The practice of offering our new recruits a Bible is one that goes back many years. Now, in the RNZN’s 75th year, we can gift them the good news in a way that really resonates with their new life as sailors; waterproof and wrapped in something of our history as a service. I’ve got to be honest though, we’re praying the waterproof bit will turn out to be unnecessary.”
Bible Society recently supplied 1,350 New Testaments with Proverbs and Psalms to the Royal New Zealand Navy as part of their 75th anniversary. The specially designed Bibles with plastic coated pages include a Navy prayer and front cover design of HMS New Zealand, a battle cruiser gifted to us from Britain in 1911.
These Bible play a role in the new recruits’ training process and often throughout their whole life in the Navy, explained Peter. “The 300 trainees a year go through an ‘attesting process’ where they take an oath on a Bible to join the RNZN or they can choose to make a verbal affirmation. However, the majority choose to ‘attest’ on a Bible, which is now the special design Navy Bible, and then they get to keep it. All trainees are offered a Bible and usually they take one and often they carry it with them from then on.”
“For our sailors, particularly our new recruits, they are embarking on a new life that is quite uncertain and there are a lot of questions that come up, especially in those initial stages of training. They are intensely personal questions such as, What am I doing here in this organisation, Where is this going? Some of these emotional and relational things, such as being separated from family, are big issues. So for them to be able to pick up and read The Word themselves is very important. And it enables us to have a dialogue with them and we can point them to things they may find encouraging, critiquing or shaping in terms of the message,” said Peter.
“Our hope in having these Bibles as a tool and having our presence here as chaplains, is we get to start the dialogue about the bigger meanings found in the world and the story that lies beyond the immediate, everyday stuff. “
“Personally, I find we are living in a world with a ceiling on it and any notion of the transcendence of a larger cause is often removed. We’re so focused on what’s going on here and now, and in terms of faith, a lot of people have just discounted there is anything bigger – a bigger picture. So one of the things we seek to do is engage people’s understanding of that bigger picture because I think it is fundamental to who and what we are. The world is a pretty bleak place at times and if you’re got no concept of ‘other’, of God or spirituality, there are a lot of things you haven’t got any option for other than to just endure because there is not a hope lying behind them.”