HMAS Tobruk holds two church parades on same day – a Navy first

Published on SGT Dave Morley (author), SGT Emma Franklin (photographer)

Army Chaplain Gary Pope and Navy Chaplain Thi Lam after conducting their respective church parades on November 24, 2013, aboard HMAS Tobruk as she sails toward Philippines as part of Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST. (photo: Sergeant Emma Franklin)
Army Chaplain Gary Pope and Navy Chaplain Thi Lam after conducting their respective church parades on November 24, 2013, aboard HMAS Tobruk as she sails toward Philippines as part of Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST.

Chaplains made history on Sunday, November 24, when two church parades were held for the first time in HMAS Tobruk.
 
"According to Navy's Senior Chaplain, this has not occured since the days of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne, which carried two chaplains," Navy Chaplain Thi Lam said.
 
“I felt really wonderful and joyful to be able to hold two separate Sunday Church Services at sea on a Navy ship,” he said.
 
“It has been such a privilege for chaplains of different denominations to be able to officiate at services in accordance with their own faith traditions for their own people.”
 
Army Chaplain Gary Pope said the theme of his service was having the 'Nerve to Serve'  in the footsteps of Jesus.
 
“The fact we were on board a ship enroute to serve as part of Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST made the Bible's message all the more pertinent and significant,” he said.
 
Chaplain Pope said one of the pleasures of being a Padre in the Army was the diversity of contexts he was able to minister within.
 
“There is always something special about leading a service in God's creation under an open sky and in the middle of the ocean. It is as open as it gets,” he said.
 
“Being on board HMAS Tobruk provides an opportunity to learn more about the traditions of the Navy and it surprised me there is an actual pennant flown during church services,” Chaplain Pope said.
 
Chaplain Lam conducted a Roman Catholic service on the ship’s Gunnery Direction Platform deck at 9am, followed by an 'Other Denominations' service held half-an-hour later by Chaplain Pope of the Townsville-based 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment (3CER).
 
Both services were well attended by a mixture of ship’s company and embarked forces.