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Prompted By The Spirit To Become A Police Chaplain

I have been an Elder at Abbey Chapel for many years, as well as being involved as Co-ordinator of Tavistock Street and School Pastors before stepping down from this roles some 4 years ago.

During this time I came into contact with several Police Officers and had built up relationships with many as we met on the streets during the weekend Street Pastors duties. They would sometimes join us for tea and coffee as we went into church for a break.

At this time, Paul Netherton, Deputy Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall Constabulary, was promoting the the role of churches being involved in community, as well as Police Chaplaincy within the Force itself. It was at an annual meeting of Street Pastors for Devon & Cornwall being held at Police headquarters at Exeter, that the newly appointed Police Chaplain, Sarah Jeffrey, explained her role and vision for a Chaplain to be in every Police station within the force. It was one of those occasions when you knew the Spirit of God prompting you to find out more, and subsequently leading to me taking on this new role for Tavistock and Okehampton and eventually the Victim Care Unit. At present we have 2 Lead Chaplains and 26 volunteer Chaplains covering Devon & Cornwall.

The role is one of being there for Officers of every rank, making tea and bringing in cake, but also having those difficult conversations as well as the reassuring ones and Officers accepting you for who you are. This has led to so many experiences where there is an acceptance of the spiritual aspect of life. Many Officers have seen and dealt with things which can traumatise the normal person and deal with them on sometimes a weekly or even daily occurrence. For them to open up to a Chaplain is for me both a privilege and a humbling experience. To be able to offer prayer if needed is seldom rejected, and a strong bond is created between us over time. The criterion for Chaplaincy is for anyone of any faith or none to be apply for the role, and I thank God that within D & C, the majority of Chaplains are of the Christian faith.

We were privileged to be invited to the G7 summit in Cornwall this year, and 14 of us attended and were able to work alongside the welfare teams in attendance. Again, many contacts and friendships were created, with Officers attending from other forces expressing the wish that they had more Chaplaincy involvement.  Scotland, for example, has one Chaplain to cover the whole area!

The last 2 years has seen the role expanded for us to be part of the process in attending any Officer dealing with child death which is particularly harrowing, but again, what a privilege! From a low of 5 deaths per year when we took on the role to over 50 in a single year gives an indication of this sad situation and the difficult roles Police Officers are dealing with. The mental pressure of Policing is an ever growing one and to be part of the welfare process is immense. As a past Chaplain shared, ‘Going with a Police Officer at 95mph down the dual carriageway to attend a suicide attempt, I offered to pray as we proceeded but I kept my eyes open!”

I believe this is such an important role as we stand alongside those who seek to uphold the law in times such as these, and to fulfil the call of Jesus to be in the world but not of it, as well as witnessing to the reality of the Christian faith.

I have been an Elder at Abbey Chapel for many years, as well as being involved as Co-ordinator of Tavistock Street and School Pastors before stepping down from this roles some 4 years ago.

During this time I came into contact with several Police Officers and had built up relationships with many as we met on the streets during the weekend Street Pastors duties. They would sometimes join us for tea and coffee as we went in to church for a break.

At this time, Paul Netherton, Deputy Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall Constabulary, was promoting the the role of churches being involved in community, as well as Police Chaplaincy within the Force itself. It was at an annual meeting of Street Pastors for Devon & Cornwall being held at Police headquarters at Exeter, that the newly appointed Police Chaplain, Sarah Jeffrey, explained her role and vision for a Chaplain to be in every Police station within the force. It was one of those occasions when you knew the Spirit of God prompting you to find out more, and subsequently leading to me taking on this new role for Tavistock and Okehampton and eventually the Victim Care Unit. At present we have 2 Lead Chaplains and 26 volunteer Chaplains covering Devon & Cornwall.

The role is one of being there for Officers of every rank, making tea and bringing in cake, but also having those difficult conversations as well as the reassuring ones and Officers accepting you for who you are. This has led to so many experiences where there is an acceptance of the spiritual aspect of life. Many Officers have seen and dealt with things which can traumatise the normal person and deal with them on sometimes a weekly or even daily occurrence. For them to open up to a Chaplain is for me both a privilege and a humbling experience. To be able to offer prayer if needed is seldom rejected, and a strong bond is created between us over time. The criterion for Chaplaincy is for anyone of any faith or none to be apply for the role, and I thank God that within D & C, the majority of Chaplains are of the Christian faith.

We were privileged to be invited to the G7 summit in Cornwall this year, and 14 of us attended and were able to work alongside the welfare teams in attendance. Again, many contacts and friendships were created, with Officers attending from other forces expressing the wish that they had more Chaplaincy involvement.  Scotland, for example, has one Chaplain to cover the whole area!

The last 2 years has seen the role expanded for us to be part of the process in attending any Officer dealing with child death which is particularly harrowing, but again, what a privilege! From a low of 5 deaths per year when we took on the role to over 50 in a single year gives an indication of this sad situation and the difficult roles Police Officers are dealing with. The mental pressure of Policing is an ever growing one and to be part of the welfare process is immense. As a past Chaplain shared, ‘Going with a Police Officer at 95mph down the dual carriageway to attend an suicide attempt, I offered to pray as we proceeded but I kept my eyes open!”

I believe this is such an important role as we stand alongside those who seek to uphold the law in times such as these, and to fulfil the call of Jesus to be in the world but not of it, as well as witnessing to the reality of the Christian faith.

Roger Bird

Member of Abbey Church,   Gloucester

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