The inception of the Lincoln Chaplaincy Corps started with a proposal in May of 1978 from the People's City Mission and by April of 1981 was a coperative mission involving the Police and Fire Departments. The People's City Mission had initially focused its activities on a jail ministry. While undertaking this work, the idea of developing an effort to assist police and fire personnel began to unfold. This new ministry would assist police officers and firefighters during their routine response calls when requested to do so.
The concept of an emergency services ministry was presented to the Lincoln Fellowship of Churches, which enthusiastically endorsed the idea. The Police and Fire Chaplaincy Corps began to become a reality. Within a few months the Fellowship of Churches selected those persons that would be invited to participate on the founding advisory board. Invited were representatives from a broad spectrum of denominations and faiths. The advisory board developed mission and goal statements and researched the laws regarding the clergy's rights of confidentially.
The advisory board adopted the following policies:
- The Chaplaincy Corps should be as ecumenical as possible.
- Chaplains would make referrals to a victim's own pastor or spiritual advisor as well as to the appropriate Human Services agencies.
- Chaplains would not serve in a law enforcement capacity.
- They should operate under a Code of Ethics.
- The Chaplaincy Corps would be independently governed so as to have credibility apart from the agencies they serve.
The Lincoln Police and Fire Chaplaincy Corps is guided by a board of directors with an elected chairperson and vice chair, representative liaisons from the Police and Fire Departments and a permanent emergency operations center (911) board representative, to advise, along with lay representatives. The Administrative leaders, known as the Senior Chaplain and Assistant Senior Chaplain, direct the day to day operations of the Chaplaincy Corps and are the direct contact person for both the Police and Fire agencies. The Senior Chaplain conducts the regular monthly in-service training updates. These training sessions teach the chaplains how to deal with the various situations to which they may be requested to respond. Training sessions have included dealing with; death and suicide, emotionally distraught persons, domestic violence, fire scene protocol and dangerous and hostile situations. This training has brought fresh depth and diversity to its mission.
New Chaplaincy Corps clergy are mandated to participate in a training program which consists of; role playing, radio training, and other work areas pertinent to police recruit training. For many Chaplains, ride-alongs and site visitations with officers and fire-fighters provide the Chaplains insight into what police and fire officers experience on a regular basis. During this time many Chaplains develop personal relationships with members of both agencies.
A typical tour of duty begins at 9 a.m. and ends 24 hours later. The Chaplains, while on duty, use a portable radio, cell phone, and vehicle provided by the City of Lincoln. At the end of each respective tour the on-duty Chaplain picks up a replacement and is driven home or to work by the oncoming chaplain. During this time the chaplains discuss any pertinent issues necessary for the operation of the next shift. The on-duty chaplain then conducts normal daily activities which will also include attending a police shift meeting and visiting a fire station while keeping in contact with the emergency operations (911) center, which will dispatch the Duty Chaplain when needed.
The Chaplaincy Corps also provides guidance, counseling, and comfort in time of crisis to the Police and Fire personnel. Chaplains serve as a resource to the community when requested by an officer or a citizen in time of personal or family crisis. They may also be dispatched during disasters as requested by emergency personnel.
The Chaplaincy Corps clergy universally testifies as to their growing respect for police and fire personnel and the high quality of professionalism under constant and often severe stress. The success of the Chaplaincy Corps has been the result of the affirmation by personnel who choose to offer the Chaplaincy Corps services to the citizens they serve.
Chaplains are volunteers. Their respective places of worship participate by allowing their clergy to undertake this service to the community in addition to their regular church duties. Support from one's congregation is essential for the task, and most receive overwhelming support from those they represent. Since this service is a 24 hour, on-call basis, a busy day can be an exhausting and sleepless experience. Yet, those who have served in the Chaplaincy Corps have found it to be a very rewarding ministry.
If you desire more information on the Lincoln Police and Fire Chaplaincy Corps contact: Lincoln Fire & Rescue, 1801 Q Street Lincoln, NE 68508 or phone (402) 441-7039.