Serving the service
Presbyterian chaplain leading Marines, Navy sees role as ‘blessing’
March 11, 2010
Although he wears military insignia instead of a cleric’s robe, Rear Admiral Mark Tidd understands that a minister’s role does not depend on a uniform.
“The wardrobe does not matter,” he said. “We are all here to serve God.”
A 26-year-veteran of the U.S. Navy, Tidd serves as chaplain of the U.S. Marine Corps and deputy chief of Navy Chaplains. He was promoted to the positions in August 2009.
The son of a career Navy officer, Tidd has several military decorations. He has served in leadership positions on the chief of chaplain’s staff and served as a force and fleet chaplain. Tidd has also served on several Navy and Marine Corps tours.
Tidd received his M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is also a graduate of the National War College, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the Armed Forces Staff College.
With the troops
As part of his commitment to the Marine Corps chaplaincy, Tidd, 54, recently toured all major U.S. Marine Corps installations.
“It is important for me to spend time with our Marines and sailors on their home turf,” Tidd said. “It allows me the opportunity to offer them encouragement and prayer at close range.”
Tidd, who was raised Methodist before becoming a Presbyterian, will admit that his responsibilities have changed a great deal since his first tour as a young Navy chaplain. He misses being on the “front lines” with the Marines and sailors, but welcomes his new role and its requirements.
“I do miss being out there with the troops on a daily basis,” he said. “I still have opportunities to get out there and stand shoulder to shoulder with them, just not as often and in a different capacity. I still serve the Lord, just in a different way. I support the troops by supporting our chaplains and enabling their ministries.”
His decades of service as Navy chaplain have given Tidd a valuable understanding of the role of ministry in the military.
“As chaplains in the military, we bring our pastoral skills into an institution that is not a church setting,” he said. “For the most part, we live with our parishioners 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Chaplains also play a vital role in advising the leadership on the ethics, morale and spiritual well-being of the troops. We share the word of the Lord with both privates and seamen, generals and admirals.
“Maybe the largest difference,” he said, “is that we are required to be nondenominational, serving people from all backgrounds of faith. We have to cover a large amount of ground when it comes to different beliefs and traditions.”
Tidd also points out that serving as a mentor is a key aspect of a military chaplaincy.
“As chaplains, we serve a very young parish,” he said. “Many, if not most, of the men and women serving in our military are in their early 20s. This is a very impressionable time of their lives, and it is important that we are there to help them grow spiritually, to be able to help them answer the big questions, to advise them and to help God have an impact on their lives.”
Tidd said he can understand how some people have difficultly understanding how a spiritual life serving God can coexist in a military environment where troops are trained for warfare.
“The tragic reality is that we live in a broken world,” he said. “War, combat and death are a part of that. Part of our roles as chaplains is to help our troops maintain a strong faith in the face of many evils and to not give in to the brutalities of war. There is also the great importance of bringing God’s presence to the dying and wounded.”
Understanding that the military is more than a war machine is also very important, Tidd said.
“Our military provides so many services to people in the United States and around the world,” he said. “A good example would be in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year. At the beginning of the rescue operations, we had 30 chaplains on ship. They were there not only for our troops, but also to help support the Haitians as they dealt with loss of loved ones and the devastation of their homes. It is during tragic times that we most need to feel God’s presence.”
Tidd is quick to point out that he and his fellow chaplains are called on to offer spiritual guidance not only to the troops, but also to their families.
In that regard, Tidd says he has a wealth of information at home to draw from in the form of Jennifer, his wife of 30 years. The two met while serving as interns at a group home for troubled teenagers in Colorado Springs, Colo. They now have two grown children, Mike and Carol.
“She is the one that keeps me grounded,” Tidd said of his wife, who also hails from a military family. “She is a great sounding board, and her input is highly valued. She offers great insight into what the families of sailors and Marines go through. She has played a large role in whatever success I have achieved and is a partner in this ministry.”
Tidd says he has much to be grateful for during his career in the military. He points to his recent post as command chaplain of the U.S. European Command as one of his career highlights.
“It was an incredible opportunity,” he said. “I had the chance to serve with a joint command, working with senior military officials from all branches of the military. To be able to serve the Lord with chaplains from all branches of our military and from other countries, sharing our visions for what God has called us to do, was quite amazing.”
As for the best part of his job, Tidd is quick to credit his brothers in arms.
“Without question it is the people I serve with,” he said. “I have had the privilege of sharing my life and my career with a great many people who know what it means to serve someone other than themselves. They have had such a profound impact on my life. That God has afforded me the opportunity to share the word of His hope, comfort and strength with others has been my life’s blessing.”