WESTFIELD, Ind. — On a cool fall day like Wednesday morning, Pastor Chris Duckworth leads a bible study inside his church New Joy Lutheran in Westfield.
"Jesus says in another version of this parable..." Duckworth said while flipping through the pages of his bible. "Whoever has ears to listen, should pay attention."
There are many qualities that create a good pastor, but an often overlooked but equally important skill is listening.
"We often think of pastors as preachers, as talkers," said Duckworth. "But if we don't listen to God's word, if we don't listen to God's people, we don't know what to say.”
Becoming a pastor isn’t a career people just fall into. It’s something you choose to do, or in most cases, feel chosen to do.
"When I went to college though is when I first heard that sense of call that made me want to do this professionally," Duckworth said thinking back to that time in his life. "Maybe I want to devote my life to the life of the church and be a pastor.”
Duckworth listened to the call and joined the seminary. For most of his adult life, he has worked in the church. He started a family, and began settling into life as a pastor and a father, when he listened and heard yet another call.
"I was ordained already as a pastor for about 6 years when I raised my right hand, on April 25, 2014, to join the Army.”
Combining his faith and his dream of military service, Duckworth enlisted as a chaplain with the Army National Guard. While he won’t be firing any weapons, he still had to train.
"I imagine that chaplain initial training is a little easier than the boot camp that the enlisted guys go through, I have a lot of respect for what those guys go through," Duckworth prefaced before talking about his own training. "But certainly, we were up at 05, 04 in the morning doing push ups, doing sit ups, doing PT in the rain, doing road marches... we’re doing everything that other soldiers do, except we’re non combatants. Not only are we non combatants, we don’t even train on weapons.”
Now four years after joining the National Guard, Duckworth is preparing for his first deployment to the Middle East next year. He'll be bringing his spiritual guidance and listening ear to soldiers overseas.
"I’m really excited, this is what I got trained to do, to go take care of soldiers, be with soldiers, to support our country's mission overseas, and to take care of soldiers while they do their good work,” Duckworth said. "I can talk with them, hear how they’re doing, how life is going with their boyfriend or their girlfriend, how things are at home, what are their joys what are their sorrows, and I can bear some of those with them.”
While spending a year away from his church, his wife and his three children will be tough, Duckworth feels their support. All while listening to the call to serve both his God and his country.
"Everyone is on board with this mission," Duckworth said of his family and church. "They know that I've been called to do this, they share a sense of commitment with me to this work, but it’s going to be hard for sure.”