Looking forward by understanding backward: a historical context for Australian Army chaplaincy'™s future challenges

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Sren Kierkegaard once observed that '˜life is lived forward but understood backward'™. In this article I want to do something similar: to look backward into history as an aid to looking forward to future challenges. This article offers some reflections from the perspective of a professional historian, in light of the past, on some potential challenges facing Australian Army chaplaincy. While future Army doctrine and tactical/strategic contexts are important in this discussion, they are not the primary focus. Instead my focus is on historical trends that can inform those in the present who are planning for the future. Historians do not make good prophets, but by taking the long view they can help to rescue us from the '˜provincialism of the present'™.The first part of this article sketches an historical context for discussion of Army chaplaincy'™s efforts to '˜look forward'™. To that end, it is worth dwelling for a few moments on historical patterns of religious involvement which have been changing significantly from the 1960s to the present. As we shall see, increasing secularisation, the reconfiguration of religion, the growth of religious pluralism and changes in Australian culture and social structure form the backdrop for the future challenges Army chaplaincy faces. Having sketched the historical context, I will then consider some possible future challenges for Army chaplaincy under some broader themes: secularisation and pluralism; professionalism; caring for souls; recruitment; new roles; leadership and administration; and intellectual foundations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-109
Number of pages22
JournalAustralian Army Chaplaincy Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


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