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Vandenberg chapel to host various holiday events

Local Boy and Girl Scouts sing Christmas carols during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, Dec. 3, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Throughout the holiday season, the 30th Space Wing chapel will host a variety of religious programs and services. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Local Boy and Girl Scouts sing Christmas carols during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, Dec. 3, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Throughout the holiday season, the 30th Space Wing chapel will host a variety of religious programs and services. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Throughout the holiday season, the 30th Space Wing chapel will host a variety of religious programs and services.

In addition to Christmas, the chapel accommodates various other religious holidays.

"We are extremely accommodating of all religious beliefs and those with different backgrounds," said Tech. Sgt. Sonia Balatgek, 30th SW chaplain assistant. "If we do not offer a service to a specific faith group we will do all we can to find someone who can accommodate that group in the local area."

The accommodation of those different beliefs began with the commencement of Hanukah and the lighting of the Menorah, signifying the start of the eight-day Jewish holiday.

"The chapel supports many Jewish holidays," said Maj. Israel Abensur, 14th Air Force operational planning, policy and strategy officer. "During Hanukah, the chapel provides a six-foot electric Menorah, extension cord, and a physical location within chapel grounds to display the Menorah during all eight days of Hanukah. Another Jewish holiday the chapel supports is called Sukkot, also known as the Harvest Festival, in which the chapel provides a temporary walled structure covered by palm leaves on the roof to allow for partial sun and moonlight. In addition, during Shabbat, also known as Rest Day, the chapel provides Siddurs, which are Jewish prayer books written in Hebrew and English, for Jewish personnel to perform religious services. Finally, the chapel supports the Judaism religion by providing a common establishment - the Chapel Annex - to be used for special gatherings. On Dec. 13, we celebrated the last night of Hanukah by remembering and telling the religious stories of the holiday and concluded with a typical Hanukah dinner."

Typically renowned as a time for giving and celebration, the holidays also present an opportunity to be cognizant of other cultures and their beliefs.

"As a chaplain assistant it is our responsibility to be knowledgeable to all religions and their basic beliefs," said Balatgek. "I believe it is just as important for others to have a basic understanding of all the religions we support so they can be sensitive to other needs."

The unwavering support of the chapel has generated copious amounts of gratitude from Team V personnel.

"I am very grateful to have a chapel and chapel personnel that are very flexible and supportive of other religions," said Abensur. "They will do everything they can to ensure all military members' religious needs are met."

Despite holiday festivities, feelings of depression can sometimes still impact Airmen, and Vandenberg chaplains look to mitigate this.

"It allows members of Team V to come together during the holiday season and celebrate as a community," said Balatgek. "During this time of year there are some people who feel alone and are looking for folks to talk to - we are a great resource for those individuals. By attending the Christmas services they can feel like they are a part of something and don't have to feel like they're alone, or if they just need someone to talk to, we are here for that as well."

The month's remaining events include:

Dec. 24 - Catholic Christmas Eve Service at 5 p.m.; Protestant Christmas Eve Service at 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 25 - Christmas Day Catholic Mass at 9 a.m.
Dec. 31 - New Year's Eve Mass at 5 p.m.

For more information about the programs and services, call the 30th Space Wing chapel at 805-606-5773.