The honorific Reverend really does apply to Chaplain Chris Antal. He is revered by those of us who knew him in his short time at Kandahar Airfield. The link that Bob LaVallee had passed on excerpting Chris’ 2012 Veterans Day sermon no longer works. Ministerial student Karen G. Johnston has published the ‘Confession’ on her blog. It, along with some background information she provided, does an excellent job of explaining why Chris Antal will be fondly remembered by those touched by his ministry at Kandahar Airfield.
I was in the congregation that heard A Confession for America at the Veterans Day Service last year. The group was a fairly even split between civilians and uniformed service members. All were moved and none were offended. Any objections came later when the text was picked apart after appearing on Chris’ blog.
I am happy to report that a lot of what Chris began here has taken on a life of its own. The Sunday Unitarian Universalist services continue with Bob LaVallee serving as lay religious leader and other members of the fellowship taking their turn with the sermons and other duties each week. David Graham also went through the religious lay leader training and has taken over the Saturday Zen meditation practice established by Chaplain Antal. David is even performing the Japanese Tea Ceremony at the end of the meditation.
Some elements of Reverend Antal’s ministry cannot be carried forth by others. Chris was particularly skilled in support and counseling. The loss of those talents from the conflict zone is significant. The healing of moral injuries was an abiding concern for Chris. His spiritual counseling has been praised by those whose lives it helped turn around. One very moving example is found in this interview with a soldier who had struggled with the emotional trauma of incidents that occurred during his service in Iraq. A song he wrote which deals with one of those incidents was part of the healing process and begins the recording of the interview.
Chris Antal has continued his ministry of healing of moral injuries after his departure from Kandahar Airfield. He is Pastoral Care Coordinator with Soldier’s Heart whose goal it is to prepare families and communities for supporting and healing veterans to bring about a healthier and more successful reintegration of our nation’s veterans.