Demand for chaplains is increasing

2014-04-20T00:00:00Z 2014-04-20T22:34:16Z Demand for chaplains is increasingSusan Erler susan.erler@nwi.com, (219) 662-5336 nwitimes.com
April 20, 2014 12:00 am  • 

In 29 years as a Gary police officer, Cpl. Gabrielle King has seen duty in nearly every division in the department, from patrol to sex crimes.

Earlier this month, King, who also is the Gary Police Department spokeswoman, added a new duty — police chaplain.

Her latest role with the department is an extension of something the veteran officer already was doing as an ordained minister since 2012, and before that in answer to what she said has been a lifelong calling.

"I'm a minister," King said. "Part of that ministry is helping others. Now my job is to minster to the needs of the officers. Sometimes they just need somebody to listen."

Police officers often are unjustly thought of as insensitive, uncaring or detached, said King, whose duties as chaplain can also mean ministering to crime victims and their families.

"I bring to the table sensitivity and compassion," she said.

Whether ministering to a fellow officer or a crime victim, "people just want to know how much you care," King said.

For Chaplain William McClure, the workplace is a factory floor and not a police station, but the needs of the workers are equally compelling.

Issues involving family, marriage and parenting, along with stress on the job, are among top concerns for workers he deals with, said McClure, a chaplain with corporate chaplain provider Workplace Chaplains.

"We're feet on the floor, ears to the ground" said McClure, whose current duties take him as often as three times a week to the Hammond location of PacMoore, a contract manufacturing company.

"We make the rounds of the shop floor," McClure said. "We are an employee care program."

The ministry can take the form of listening to workplace issues, such as getting along with colleagues or with management.

"We help them work back through relationships, talk with managers. We work hand in hand with them," McClure said. "If employees are able to resolve some of those life issues, they can be more productive in the workplace."

King and McClure, along with chaplains serving in numerous other settings across Northwest Indiana, find themselves in demand more and more, said Valerie Storms, a chaplain at H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla, and president of the 4,200-member Association of Professional Chaplains, a professional society for chaplains nationwide.

"The need is greater," in an increasingly complex world, Storms said. Nonstop news of war and unrest, along with shifting lifestyles contribute to the need for a chaplain.

Families are less centered in a hometown over generations. "We don't have those family supports we used to have. Grandma doesn't live around the corner any more," Storms said.

Life changes are among top concerns for residents of Pines Village Retirement Community, Valparaiso, said Dean Christianson, chaplain at Pines Village for about seven years.

"You're dealing with a lot of changes in their lives. Having to move from their home to a new home, that's always a difficult one," Christianson said. "Some have given up driving. That's a big change."

Many have lost spouses. "When you've been married for 60 or 70 years, that's a major change," he said.

"We're there for any kind of counseling," Christianson. The prayer and fellowship provided through his chaplaincy help residents through crisis, as does their own inner strength.

"We're fortunate these people come out of the great generation. They've been survivors of world wars. They're great survivors," he said.

Mark Wilkins, senior pastor with First United Methodist Church, Crown Point, is chaplain to the Crown Point Police Department.

In the role of chaplain, "we're not there to push a theological agenda or to evangelize," Wilkins said. "We put all that aside.

"You're there for that person in that moment. Some folks may want to pray, others may not," Wilkins said.

As a police chaplain, "in a crisis situation more often than not you try to be there for that person and give them your full attention, so the officers can do their job," Wilkins said.

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