It has been seven years since regular Sunday services have taken place within the chapel at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.
Navy Chaplain Cmdr. Harvey Macklin is dedicating much of his time before rolling off of active-duty to building the groundwork for bringing these services back, beginning with a service set for 10:30 a.m., Nov. 22.
He is inviting those who are able to come to the service to attend on Sunday.
“Seven years ago, when the war fallout brought on a lot of causalities, there was the creation of chaplain positions to take care of Marines and Sailors,” Macklin, who has been providing part-time chaplain services at MCLB Albany, said. “To do that, we had to remove chaplains from MCLB Albany. Since then, we have been looking for a way to get a chaplain back.”
Macklin said efforts to bring a full-time chaplain have ramped up as the number of war causalities has gone down. Leadership at MCLB Albany and Marine Corps Logistics Command, including Base Commanding Officer Col. Michael Fitzgerald and MARCORLOGCOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Joseph Shrader, have made a commitment to both civilians and active-duty service members.
This commitment enables the chaplain to provide and facilitate religious services, and offer spiritual care, moral and ethical advisory in addition to advocacy, to all these individuals as well as their families.
“The chaplain comes not just for military folks,” Macklin said. “Both gentlemen have said that every person in the fence is who they want me to care for.”
Macklin said the goal is to have at least one chaplain and one religious program specialist, who will handle many of the administrative tasks.
“The RP runs the chapel. The chaplain does the preaching and manages the staff,” Macklin said.
Among those who might benefit are the personnel on base who are inside the wire on Sundays and may not otherwise attend a service. It provides an opportunity for worship and emotional processing, both of which have been lacking for the last several years at MCLB Albany in the absence of a chaplain.
“They will have the ability to refresh themselves, have solace and have a restart for the week,” Macklin said. “They can have a place to center themselves, so they don’t have a build-up.”
“Stress is compounding. It is like sand; it does not evaporate like water,” the chaplain added.
The service on Nov. 22 is expected to serve as a “kick-off” to a regular rhythm of Sunday services. At least two services are expected next month, on Dec. 13 and Dec. 20. Macklin said there should be four services a month by February.
While the search is ongoing for chapel staff, volunteers are also being sought. A praise and worship team is in place, and Macklin said more people are needed for that team along with volunteers willing to serve in other capacities.
Mike Druckenmiller, who recently retired from Marine Depot Maintenance Command, got involved in the praise and worship team after seeing a bulletin seeking volunteers.
“I have had a hunger for ministry my entire life,” he said.
It has been some time since Druckenmiller has been involved with ministry. It appeared to him, after the praise team’s first time together, that the group would work well together.
“I think we have a shot,” he said. “We would like more participation. We have a core group that provides some substance. If we can play well together, when someone else comes into the group, we can feed off of each other.”
“Whether or not we hold it together, it will be in the Lord’s hands,” Druckenmiller added.
Druckenmiller, who is helping to provide vocals for the group, is encouraged by the potential for ministry through the chapel becoming more active.
“We will have people come into a chapel service that have never been before,” he said. “We will find out where the people we are ministering to are at and go from there.”
“The opportunity for ministry is where my heart is,” Druckenmiller stated.
Those attending the first Sunday service can expect a format including announcements, praise and worship, a message from Macklin and prayer followed by a 30-minute window for fellowship after dismissal. Masks and social-distancing will be expected due to COVID-19.
In the future, between the worship and the message, Macklin said he would like to do a five-minute object lesson for the children in the service. Sunday school teachers are needed to help facilitate this, which the chapel does not currently have.
Macklin explained that a chaplain has to lead their services according to their religious organization, so the format may change when a permanent chaplain is brought in. Depending on how the congregation grows, the chapel may utilize multiple greeters and break individuals out into age groups.
“There will be some fluctuations,” Macklin said.
The eye is on the long-term vision of providing the chapel’s congregation something which could have a positive influence on their lives. The desire is to promote spiritual growth.
“I believe every chaplain has a passion for the people they care for,” Macklin said. “The stress, the insights of life, we want that to become more positive. The more stress you have in life, the harder it is.”
“Faith tells us to empty out the sand and leave room to receive others to receive grace. When we do this, we are not as overwhelmed,” he added
The bondage caused by the stressors of life have an impact on one’s worldview and their work.
“When they are opened up from bondage, they can see their worldview and work and it becomes more relevant and capable,” Macklin said. “All chaplains believe in the supernatural. We believe God is greater than us.”
“We believe people can be healed and be cared for,” he continued.
Macklin said it is unclear when the permanent chaplain will be coming in, but that it is likely their arrival is at least a few months away.
“They are working hard on getting a new person in and getting them to Albany as soon as possible,” he said.
It is anticipated that revival at the chapel will start small and continue to grow.
“Eventually, it will be like going to any civilian church in America,” Macklin said. “We may potentially have two Sunday services and multiple faith-based services to facilitate multiple faiths in the future.”
“If the chapel gets to 100 people or more, we may have children’s groups and women’s groups. There are a bunch of things in the future that will really open up. I have seen chapels become seven-day-a-week places.”
In his time as a chaplain, Macklin has witnessed chapels become an instrument of well-being for the command and the community. Bringing the chapel at MCLB Albany to that level will require work.
“We are starting from the ground up,” he remarked.