Why I am a Chaplain
For the better part of ten years, I have served as a chaplain to first responders in Jefferson County. I talk about this very informally and very frequently, but I’ve never really explained what I do in that role. I thought I’d take my column this week to explain what I do as a chaplain.
A chaplain is very different from a pastor, but there are some similarities. Chaplains, like pastors, often find themselves in the role of counselor. We offer prayers, both informally and formally. Occasionally, we officiate weddings, and sadly, we perform funerals.
But there is much more to this work. When there is a critical call, chaplains may be called to the scene simply to be present. We are there in case some-one needs to talk to us, and very often, simply being on scene gives the first responders the confidence they need to continue to perform their duties well. Chaplaincy can simply be a ministry of comfort.
Sometimes, a chaplain will have to provide pastoral care to the victims of the trauma. In those cases, the work of the chaplain is to eventually hand off the pastoral care to the victims’ pastor. For people with no church connection, that pastoral care can be ongoing.
After a critical incident, chaplains will often follow up by providing stress management tools to the first responders. This is done through individual and group follow up. Sometimes, the chaplain will recommend that a first responder seek additional counseling.
I came into this ministry after a phone call in 2010 from one of the local fire departments. They needed a new chaplain. Not knowing what I was getting into, I said yes. A decade later, I count it a major blessing to have served so many men and women who give themselves for others. This ministry has opened my eyes to some of the horrors that fill our world. I have gained an amazing amount of respect of what it takes to be on the front lines helping people in life and death moments.
I have seen tragedy and death; I have witnessed miracles and life. It has been a privilege to be part of all of it.