Episcopal Veterans' Fellowship
In 2009 the General Convention passed a resolution to “Encourage the establishment of an Episcopal Veterans Fellowship for each diocese.” As an Army Chaplain of the war in Iraq, the Rev. David Peters knows first hand the special needs veterans have for reconciliation and community; The Episcopal Veterans’ Fellowship in the Diocese of Texas grew from his experience, insight, and determination. In 2014 Bishop Doyle encouraged Peters to move forward with creating a gathering of EVF at St. David’s church in Austin and, with a grant from the Episcopal Evangelism Society, the fellowship was born.
The Episcopal Veterans’ Fellowship (EVF) is the church’s response to the issues that face veterans both within and outside of the church. After leaving the close community of the military, many veterans feel the loss of that companionship, yet do not feel at home in the traditional worship of a church. EVF creates a community for the veterans in a safe and supportive environment. War creates a moral injury in the participants – the religious implications of PTSD - and the community of EVF is structured to help heal this injury by the sharing of stories and participating in rituals of reconciliation and pilgrimage.
By 2015 EVF was holding meetings in Georgetown and Austin and was in conversation with churches around the diocese about how to set up an effective ministry to veterans. They received a Strategic Mission Grant which supported their growth and made possible their first Conference on Moral Injury.
EVF is best described as a network of fellowships that work independently but cooperatively for a common goal. Each group has its own leadership and most are led by lay persons.
The activities of EVF meetings center around the sharing of their stories, a vital part of the healing process. Members may bring objects that help them to tell their stories, or they may create visual or written art to express their experiences. The stories are incorporated into the closing worship of the group. Worship is always a part of the EVF meeting as Sacramental Presence is a central part of the healing process. Each meeting ends with Compline, a ritual that is particularly healing in its emphasis on closure, reconciliation, and safety. Whatever has come up for the members during the meeting is offered to God in this ritual.
A primary part of the mission of EVF is to equip Christians for missional ministry to veterans through prayer, hospitality, and reconciliation. They offer educational workshops, consulting, and coaching so a Church can reach out with God’s love to the veterans who live in the community.
In keeping with this mission, The Episcopal Veterans’ Fellowship participates in activities to share ideas and raise awareness of opportunities for others to become part of the movement to serve veterans. They have made use of the Tiny Chapel that was funded by a Strategic Mission Grant to the South Congress (SoCo) community in Austin to attend gatherings and for use by the veterans. With this mobile chapel, they have been able to publicize their meetings and activities and to worship away from traditional churches.
The SMG Committee was pleased to be able to make a grant in support of The Episcopal Veterans’ Fellowship. The founders have brought their understanding of the needs and experiences of veterans to the church. In their style of meeting they make effective use of lay leadership and offer training for those who are called to lead. Finally, each EVF group functions as a worshiping community, spreading the Gospel and taking the Church into the world.
For more information about The Episcopal Veterans’ Fellowship, check out their website.