Across the world, we find Chaplains in unique and various vocational placements, whether in schools, corporations, sporting clubs, hospitals and during triage or emergency services; their impact is often served within tremendous times of import, death, tragedy, grief, and loss. Chaplains have given counsel and encouragement to presidents and prime Ministers, prisoners and police, military, air and navy forces, Queens and their guards, athletics, universities, commercial airlines, fleet and even strappers and their horses in war. Though new agendas are mounted to water down the office and heritage within Christendom, their need and effectiveness have not abated.
Chaplaincy Australia continues to develop in this vision throughout Australia, providing critical services to those in need, whether rescue, fire, or civil services. Recently, their Victorian team have prepared a regional support and development day to boost and encourage their own workers, initiated by the Victorian director, Glenis Dedrick, who invited the Rev Dr Drew Mellor, Senior Police Chaplain, to inspire and motivate.
The morning devotion was led by Ps Mark Penny, regional Chaplain with CA and also network pastor for Vantage Point Church in Donvale. He described how Jesus chose as an illustration, the most small and insignificant or delicate of birds, as an amazing contrast of worth. He shared that if these, the smallest birds, are seen and noted by God, then we ought also, all the more, value the worth of others in all our relationships, families and friendships.
Luke 12:6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God”. (NASB95)
After a time of introduction and prayer, Glenis welcomed Drew to the floor to share his valuable insights as a Chaplain for many years, working in the context of the Victoria Police force, which can be a challenging place to be known or gain mutual public empathy at present, as a Chaplain, or minister to a range of diverse responses within the force itself.
So, Drew began very simply, sharing the journey that God took him on and how he entered the force after some years of experience as an emergency care nurse and later in pastoral ministry.
Drew described a Chaplain’s role in Police terms, likened to the word ‘loitering’, but in a positive sense, where a Chaplain is ‘loitering with intent’, used where there is a specific and planned design for building repport and growing relationships of trust. There is much time and thoughtful investment in fostering trust, quietly serving and becoming part of a community network of support.
Drew described situations which commonly impact on serving as a Chaplain amid significant events which require caring in this space. Police can often find extreme dissonance when values and duties are complex or create dangerous scenarios, confronting violence, internal and external abuse, or trying to do one’s job and retain safe conditions for all citizens and staff. The danger of such situations can be incredibly damaging to one’s sense of personhood and values. Drew says that when values are breached, it impacts between heart and mind, creating emotional pressure or overwhelms. One’s internal understanding of our core values and how God values us is challenged.
In another social post online, he stated this more succinctly, stating, “When we experience internal misalignment between what we consider to be our ‘personal core values’ and what is expected or required of us, internal dissonance can render us morally, socially and spiritually paralysed”.
Drew made a special note around the importance of removing title and position to assist a Chaplain from relying on social status to hinder the development of trust or report with colleagues and fight for the respect that journey or listening and walking with others begets. He says that trust is not instant, and a Chaplain’s work often sits outside title and command.
Drew also emphasised the need for integrity and confidentiality, which are crucial to service in a privileged environment, and where the smallest detail in one’s oversharing can impact communities or breach one’s role. He said that Chaplains need to be genuine in listening to the tone, listen to the fade-in conversations, or the edge of emotions and find a way to provide accessibility in opportunities. A lasting question of open service can be very helpful by simply asking the question, ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’
A part of active listening is one’s posture and manner; this can open doors, though unseen in normal cases; many may miss the disclosures and walk on with life undetected and unrestored. Drew shares that his journey with God has influenced his heart for people, often walking into unknown situations of great import and danger, saying to God in prayer prior to walking into new situations,
“God, I am yours, and they are yours; you do what you want to do! So, in truth, he says, I do not need to know the backstory; God is there and knows”.
Drew continued sharing the importance of observation, making clear your values and gaining good supervision where appropriate for debriefing or ongoing care of self. Drew says deciding the key personal values that you ‘don’t want to have breached’ and ‘determining what is non-negotiable’ is essential. In his life, he values being a peacemaker and living with integrity, which is high on his list and provides him with true north and brings realignment.
Drew finished by sharing an illustration of a sportsperson who may have dislocated a shoulder in an incident; the process of healing is through bone scraping pain until the shoulder is pulled back into its socket, and both doctor and patient feel the relief.
So also, with a Chaplain as they bring restoring conversations or presence and listening, triage or other basic help, these all bring opportunity for restoration and pain in the journey. In other words, Chaplains or any caring ministries need to stay with others on the journey; though God is the great rescuer, there is no healing without pain.
Sanctify means to ‘Set Apart’. In 1 Peter 3:15, the writer says to the early Church believers, “… but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
Drew noted that this is especially true of those who ask but also of those who don’t ask. He shares, wondering why Peter included this note as necessary to his hearers unless he felt that leaders needed to be ready to let go of their own agendas and serve those they were ministering. Sometimes people will be unresponsive and never ask or enquire about our agenda, but we are not given authority to thrust this agenda onto others outside the given boundaries of the role and trusted community. If one desires not to respond, we are called to pray for them and let God work in their hearts to bring those needs to us if this is helpful.
For Drew, Chaplaincy and emergency services have shown him how much he values life, personal care and the need to respect the journey of others. He walks humbly with those he serves and listens with empathy. (Note: At this seminar, Drew did not share any sensitive stories within these lessons above and gave no stories or data from Police work or trusted relationships).
Though there are many differences in many people’s beliefs today, he finished by saying that when people do have some belief in a higher being, this also often brings a sense that they also know that they too are not ‘god’ in and of themselves. It reveals that they see a higher charge over their lives. Even in this, we as Chaplains need to respect that supervision process in our lives.
– Written by Doug McDonald for New Life Aus, 14 May 2022
– Image by Kirkmedia