Feature   Defense News

Chapels at Camp Arifjan Reopen for In-Person Gatherings

July 10, 2020 | BY ARMY SGT. KHYLEE WOODFORD

After months of being closed due to COVID-19, chapel doors have reopened for in-person services at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

Services were halted earlier this year in response to COVID-19.

A man seated in a pew holds a book open during a chapel service.
Chapel Services
An attendee of chapel services practices social distancing while holding open religious material during the reopening of in-person gatherings at the post chapel on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, June 20, 2020. Social distance guidelines were enforced for all attendees of religious support activities due to COVID-19.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Khylee Woodford
VIRIN: 200620-A-FS682-420

With social distancing implemented, attendance capacity is limited to 25 personnel, along with limited seating. Despite these restrictions, Army Chaplain (Maj.) Jung Lee, assigned to the 595th Transportation Brigade, noticed the pandemic did not deter attendance.

"We are starting to see new faces; there is steady growth," Lee said. "This was a pleasant surprise." Lee led the contemporary services June 20.

Along with seeing new faces in the crowd, a new sense of fellowship fostered amid the precautionary changes in typical services, the chaplain said.

"We talk with a mask on, but there is conversation now, and eye contact," Lee said. "There is a sense I can just feel. People enjoy the atmosphere of community."

Army Chaplain (Capt.) James Johnson, deployed with the 3rd Medical Command and a member of the praise team, also participated in the reopening day of contemporary service.

Soldiers and civilians attend worship service.
Worship Service
An attendee wearing a face mask observes a religious service held at the Post Chapel on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, during its reopening, June 20, 2020. Face masks are required for service members and Defense Department civilians to attend services to help mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Khylee Woodford
VIRIN: 200620-A-FS682-855
Soldiers attend worship service.
Worship Service
Soldiers exercise preventive measures by wearing face masks during worship services at the post chapel on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, June 20, 2020. Religious services have resumed after the temporary closure of in-person gatherings due to COVID-19.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Khylee Woodford
VIRIN: 200620-A-FS682-541M

"You can be in great shape and have a great education and still lose your connection to meaning while on mission," Johnson said. "Connecting with the community is a wonderful way to stay connected with meaning. [In-person] chapel services help to provide that."

During the temporary closure, chaplains within the Area Support Group Kuwait provided service members and Defense Department civilians access to online fellowship.

"Some services were already being recorded; however, virtual services will continue even after the pandemic," Army Sgt. Jamel King, a chaplain assistant and the ASG-KU Operations noncommissioned officer in charge of chaplain services, said. "It is our job to offer our service members and civilians these services. The pandemic did not disrupt our battle rhythm."