Law Enforcement Chaplains
Law enforcement chaplains serve in local, county, state and federal agencies and provide a variety of services within the law enforcement community. They should not be confused with prison chaplains, whose primary ministry is to those who are incarcerated either awaiting trial or after conviction.
The role of the law enforcement chaplain deals primarily with law enforcement personnel and agencies. The chaplain responds to these unique needs and challenges with religious guidance, reassuring and trustworthy presence, resources and counseling services.
The law enforcement chaplain offers support to law enforcement officers, administrators, support staff, victims and their families, and occasionally even the families of accused or convicted offenders.
Law enforcement chaplaincy is a ministry of presence, LEO chaplains must have the proper training if they are working with law enforcement officers, the thin blue line is very real.
There is a growing interest in the vocation of Community Chaplaincy. Maintaining a ministry of presence, Community Chaplains establish their presence in their local communities and begin to “neighbor” these communities, building relationships and gathering resources to help their neighbors, emergency services, and spiritual leaders respond to local needs and concerns.
The emphasis on urban mission has gained a higher standing in seminary curricula. More and more seminaries have recently begun developing the urban track as an option in the Master of Divinity degree. As students have been exposed to the priority of urban mission in the life of the Church and society more have been considering Community Chaplaincy.
WHAT IS COMMUNITY CHAPLAINCY?
Community Chaplains reside in the community and are models for the community of what neighboring looks like. The Christian mandate, as well as the spiritual directives of other faith traditions, places love for our neighbors in the same category as our love for God.
Jesus, in his story about the Good Samaritan, tells us that when people are in trouble a neighbor will see it and will respond with compassion and support.(Luke 10:30-37) The New Testament also declares that it is impossible to truly love God whom we have not seen while refusing to love our neighbor whom we have seen.(1 John 5) Because of the enormous importance of neighboring in the Christian calling, Community Chaplains have been given high priority to the Community Chaplaincy role in re-developing urban neighborhoods.
HISTORY OF COMMUNITY CHAPLAINCY
Historically the chaplain is a minister in a specialized setting as a pastor, priest, rabbi or a lay representative of a particular religion, attached to a secular institution or setting. Traditionally, chaplains have served in the military, hospitals, prisons, police and fire departments and universities. In more recent days, chaplains have served in airports, hotels, sports, large corporations and small businesses as well as entertainment venues and with traveling musical groups.
The Economist (Aug. 25, 2007 p64) reports that there are more than 4,000 chaplains serving in various business and professional organizations in America. Marketplace Ministries of Dallas, Texas has been developing corporate chaplaincy opportunities for over 25 years. Their founder and CEO, Gil Stricklin publishes a quarterly newsletter telling stories of their several hundred market place chaplains.
Chaplaincy ministry usually involves a degree or certification in theology. As this field has expanded beyond the traditional institutional placements, the training requirements have been adjusted to conform to preparation for the particular arena of service. Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary has recently developed a course of study for chaplains in sports. Sports chaplains usually are persons who have been players or coaches and who have a deep desire to mentor athletes in spirituality.
Often corporate chaplains are retired pastors who desire to continue service. Many chaplains have received their training in the military Chaplain’s schools and upon completing their military service continued serving in another context.
Community chaplains have a strategic opportunity to challenge our established churches regarding the importance of being good neighbors to the local neighborhood where their church facilities are located. Most churches today are “commuter” churches. This is true of both suburban and urban churches. Their members drive long distances to attend a particular church.
This “commuter church” phenomenon enables a congregation to feel they are successful because their sanctuary is filled every Sunday, while they have little or no personal ministry within their own “Jerusalem.” Thankfully, some churches are recognizing that they are called to love their neighbors as a church body in a particular community.
To help address this need these churches are employing chaplains who reside in the local neighborhood and assist the church and their neighbors to partner in bringing God’s Shalom to their local families, businesses and organizations serving the community. We believe that some time in the future many more churches will follow this encouraging practice.
What we have said in this matter is not all that needs to be said; Dr. Lupton’s latest book, “Toxic Charity” challenges us to beware of the seductive tendency of dependency, which asks others to do for us or for ministry projects things that we can and should do for ourselves. In this role the chaplain must be a visionary regarding the assets already present in the focus community.
We should also consider the gifts and expertise we possess which can be income generating possibilities; to teach, to consult, to write or to labor in needed enterprises that can provide income as well as economic assets for the local neighborhood. The entrepreneurial spirit is a gift of God to see things that need to be done and ask why not? We really do have the power needed to change things for the better.
Our Lord declared that he had been given all power in Heaven and in Earth, then he called us to go in this power and do what needed to be done to establish His Kingdom. This is the Kingdom work which we call community chaplaincy. We must not approach this work as beggars, powerless before the difficult challenges that impact our neighborhoods. No, we have the transforming power of a life changing relationship with God and life changing relationships with others and this will mean change for the better where ever we are.
The Community Chaplain combines the skills of a community organizer with the spiritual and relational gifts of a parish priest or pastor. As community organizer or developer, the chaplain’s top priority is to know the community, become known within the community and model a “neighboring” lifestyle.
As parish priest or pastor the chaplain should develop the art of integrating the witness of our hope in Jesus within the challenging hopelessness which many persons and communities are feeling. The community chaplain’s mission is relationships and community building, not evangelism. However, if we listen and affirm people and trust the Holy Spirit to empower every contact and conversation, the evangelistic impact will become evident. The chaplain recognizes the centrality of prayer and is always ready to pray with and for people as the situation and the Spirit suggests.
Corporate Chaplains are comforters, pastors, teachers, and counselors. They are creative and understanding as they demonstrate God’s grace and love in ministering to people at manufacturing sites, recreational sites, business offices, corporation headquarters, and in community settings.
Chaplains (experienced pastors) help employees discover spiritual resources and faith by providing worship services, religious education, pastoral care, and counseling. Some chaplains will serve at management levels helping form and implement moral and ethical policies. These chaplains serve in full-time and part-time paid positions. Many serve as volunteers to a using agency.
Many corporate chaplains are hired by private companies to minister to the employees and families of the company. The business or agency will have their own particular qualifications for hiring chaplains. All inquiries for employment should be made to that business or agency.