Former apprentice achieves spiritual heights

Published on SBLT James Tew (author), Unknown (photographer)

Location(s): Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Pricipal Chaplain Collin Acton at procedure 'bravo' on the forecastle of HMAS Kanimbla when pulling alongside Pearl Harbor in August 2010.  (photo: Unknown)
Pricipal Chaplain Collin Acton at procedure 'bravo' on the forecastle of HMAS Kanimbla when pulling alongside Pearl Harbor in August 2010.

The newly appointed Director General Chaplaincy – Navy, Principal Chaplain Collin Acton has seen a lot of change over a career that started at HMAS Nirimba as an Apprentice Marine Technical Propulsion sailor in January 1979.
 
Chaplain Acton served for nine years as a marine technical sailor in the destroyer escort HMAS Yarra and frigate HMAS Adelaide as well as a posting to the fleet maintenance organisation.
 
He left the Navy in 1988 to take up studies at Moore Theological College in Sydney and began Anglican ministry in 1992. 

Following his studies held two assistant minister positions, one at Port Kembla near Wollongong and the other in Blacktown in the western suburbs of Sydney before re-entering the Navy as a Chaplain in 1997.
 
He said while Navy of today is certainly much more focused on operations and platform availability, people remained central to Navy's capability.
 
"We all need to look after ourselves and our shipmates to ensure that we stay in good shape to serve our nation," he said.
 
"Spiritual fitness is as important as physical fitness.
 
"While it might be easier to notice when we are out of shape physically; shortness of breath with a little exertion or ceremonial uniforms fitting a bit more snugly than usual, low levels of spiritual fitness are slightly harder to spot."
 
"Determining your level of spiritual fitness requires time for reflection, looking inwards," he said.
 
Chaplain Acton said that Herman Hesse, the winner of the 1946 Nobel Prize for literature, captured the sentiment when he spoke about the problem of low levels of spiritual fitness and a growing disconnectedness.
 
"He observed that 'God exists in our destiny just as much as he does in these mountains and in that lake. It is tough to understand this, because people are moving further and further away from nature, and also from themselves'," Chaplain Acton said.
 
"Growing further and further away from themselves might seem like a strange thing to say. However, for Christians, spirituality is about connectedness to self, one another, our world and our Creator."
 
"As you get caught up in all the craziness that seems to coincide with this season, picking up last minute gifts, running around to see family and friends and eating far too much, stop and take some time for yourself."
 
"If you are feeling disconnected and the spiritual fitness low-level warning light is flashing, why not reconnect with your inner life."
 
Navy chaplains serve at sea and ashore and provide support to members irresepective of faith. Their training is underpinned by a strong understanding of the rigours of military life combined with skills in wellbeing development.
 
Chaplain Acton has served at establishments, HMAS Kuttabul, Watson and Cairns; in ships HMAS Success, Stuart and Kanimbla (plus a variety of other ships in tasks groups and Minor War Vessels attached to Cairns).

He has also served at the Australian Defence Force Academy as the Navy Chaplain and with Navy Training as Senior Chaplain – Training.

He takes on the new role after spending a year at the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies, the senior educational institution of the Australian Defence College.