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Local pastor headed to Iraq

April 15, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM


Following his sermon Sunday, the Rev. Clark Carr hugged a parishioner as she walked out of Grace United Methodist Church.

"Goodbye," he said.

Quickly, she turned to him and said, "We aren't saying goodbye now."

It was not something the more than 200 people at the church Sunday were ready to say to their minister, who will soon be part of a Maryland Army National Guard deployment to Iraq. Carr, a member of the Guard for 21 years, will serve as chaplain of the 58th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Church members held a luncheon for Carr after Sunday's service.

He will be away for one year before returning to Grace United Methodist, where he has been for almost three years. Carr said he will hold nondenominational services and support soldiers' religious and moral needs.


"The soldier has a lot of heart," he said. "I'm there to support matters of the heart and soul."

Carr will undergo about 40 days of training in New Jersey before going to Iraq in June, said Capt. Randy Short, public affairs officer for the 58th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Pikesville, Md. He said the brigade is part of a group of 1,300 being deployed from Maryland.

Short said the brigade is not part of the troop surge, but will be replacing units who have served one year in Iraq.

Carr said he has been deployed twice before, spending a year away from his family each time. He has a wife and five children, and said that while leaving his family and his extended family at the church is not easy, he knows he can help others going through the same thing in Iraq.

"Families are being separated," Carr said. "They're meant to be together, rather than apart."

He said he will help soldiers who experience anxiety and stress from being away from their families.

Part of what eases his anxiety about leaving his family is knowing they will be taken care of while he is away, and that there is a "strong team" in place at Grace United Methodist.

Carr said when he first told church officials that he was going to Iraq, he believed he would not be able to return to the church if a new minister was brought in.

Polly Martin, who has been a member of the church for 67 years, said the congregation was lucky that an interim minister agreed to replace Carr while he serves in Iraq. The Rev. David Brosnan said his first sermon will be April 29. He is retired from the Virginia United Methodist Conference and lives in Williamsport, where he attends Rehoboth United Methodist Church.

Martin, who lives in Hagerstown, said the congregation will be glad to have Carr back, and said he has gotten the congregation more involved and "keeps us all together."

Dick Helfrich of Hagerstown, who has been a member of Grace United Methodist for more than 50 years, described his minister as a role model.

"If there's a heaven and (Carr) doesn't get there, there's something wrong," Helfrich said.

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