Vidalia First UMC pastor serves on two fronts

7/7/2014

For nearly three years, Rev. Robert Greene has served on two fronts.

A pastor in the South Georgia Conference for 12 years currently serving Vidalia First United Methodist Church, he entered the Air Force Reserves in August 2011 and is assigned as a chaplain to Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins.

From a young age, Rev. Greene was captivated by military chaplaincy.

Baptized as an infant and raised at Vineville United Methodist Church in Macon, where, at 14 he made the personal decision to trust Christ, Rev. Greene’s faith and interest were nurtured, in part, by men like Col. Allen Sanders, a retired Army chaplain who served on Vineville UMC’s staff, and retired South Georgia pastor and Army chaplain Rev. Sam Lamback.

Colleagues and friends Rev. Joe Buck, a former Navy Reserve chaplain, and Air Force Chaplain (Captain) Tommy Fussell, further inspired Rev. Greene and fueled his curiosity.

It was while reading Matthew 8, which chronicles Jesus’ interaction with the faithful centurion, that Rev. Greene’s calling into chaplaincy was confirmed.

“It was one of those things that would never go away, it just intrigued and interested me,” he said. “As it got more serious I said, ‘Lord, if you don’t want me to pursue this, please throw up some red lights. If not, I’ll keep proceeding until I get a red light or hit a dead end.’”

As he read Matthew’s gospel, the words “were leaping off the page.”

“I took that to mean that Jesus has an interest in military ministry, so I felt like that was confirmation,” he said.  

As a Category B Reservist, Rev. Greene serves 24 days each year, about one per month plus 12 days each summer. His responsibilities include counseling, preaching at the base chapel, advising commanders and military leaders, officiating military funerals, and providing worship and sacraments.

With airmen and women experiencing frequent deployments and constant readjustments to normal life, the bulk of Rev. Greene’s service is in unit visitation and one-on-one counseling.

“There is a lot of counseling,” he said. “I do a great deal of counseling with military members who may be going through something difficult and need some spiritual insight.”

His chaplain duties are similar to those in the local church, just in a very different setting.

“You’re dealing with people, you’re dealing with hurts,” he said. “The people I minister to ... there are a lot of the same issues. I’m trying to tend to peoples’ spiritual needs.”

Rev. Greene said that, through his service at Robins AFB and Vidalia UMC, he more clearly recognizes his own need for Christ and sees how God is at work everywhere, in all situations.

“People face the same issues … and struggles,” he said. “It impacts my faith because I recognize the need – their need and my own need – for the Lord.”

Regardless of where he’s serving, Rev. Greene relies on the Holy Spirit to empower him to do the work to which he’s been called.

“There are so many things that training and seminary can help you greatly with, but ultimately it’s the Holy Spirit that we have to depend on in order to do ministry.

“I never envisioned going into ministry, but it’s a wonderful, wonderful life,” he said. “I consider myself a representative of Christ no matter the venue. I’m there to serve Him in whatever way I possibly can. That’s what it’s all about.”