Life at sea is always busy but also singularly focused. For one young naval officer trained to navigate, the long weeks and months surrounded by “the majesty of God’s creation” led to reflection and profound questions.
“I started to ask myself, ‘What’s it all about?’ Is this all there is in life?” says Cmdr. Rick Durrett, now Navy Command Chaplain in Ottawa.
A lifelong Anglican whose father, Peter, was an Anglican priest, Durrett decided he could navigate more effectively as a navy chaplain.
After completing a Master of Divinity degree at Vancouver School of Theology and a one-year internship as a deacon at Christ Church Cathedral aboard the HMCS Discovery-the naval research unit in Vancouver-Durrett was stationed to northern Ontario, “beyond the Cedar Curtain,” for a two-year practicum.
“God was preparing me with all these different experiences,” he says, adding that being a navy officer allowed him to have first-hand knowledge of the stresses personnel faced. “It was basically plug and play.”
Durrett finds the next of kin notifications particularly challenging. While he was stationed in Victoria, a 30-year-old soldier drowned during a diving exercise. When Durrent went to tell the young man’s mother, she answered the door holding her new grandchild in her arms.
“A lot of that woman’s hopes and dreams died that day,” says Durrett, who stayed with the family and made funeral arrangements, making sure the ship’s company was in attendance. “People need the presence of a chaplain to remember the presence of God. That’s what I was able to bring.”
Durrett meets people who have never been churched every day. “It has never occurred to them that the spiritual aspect of life is important,” he says. “We are modeling a lifestyle, showing them a different way to think about things. Like St. Francis [of Assisi] said: ‘Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.’ ” -KJ Ω