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Are You Comfortable In An Interfaith Environment?
Several chaplaincy programs that serve Law Enforcement are considered to be interfaith organizations because the chaplains will have to know how to speak to people of all faiths during the course of their service. For such agencies, a prospective chaplain has to search his or her heart to discover whether or not they are a good match for such an environment. You might ask yourself, am I comfortable talking to and comforting someone who does not share my faith and convictions? If you are comfortable doing so, you can go deeper and ask yourself, will I be able to respect whatever policies are in place with the agency I am serving regarding proselytizing and/or conversion? If you are Jewish, you might try to imagine listening to and serving a Christian who is in crisis. If you are a Christian, try to imagine listening to and serving a first responder who is a Muslim and has recently returned from an incident traumatized. In each of these cases and every other situation in which an interfaith chaplain is involved, a desire to recruit the victim or traumatized officer into your faith is a sure sign that this calling is not for you. An interfaith chaplain has to be completely safe for anyone of any faith tradition.
Do You Have The Personality?
It is difficult to say what the exact personality profile is for a successful interfaith chaplain, however, there are some qualities you will have to be confident are a strong part of your own makeup. Included in the skills that are highly valued in interfaith chaplaincy are: compassion
for others, the ability to listen in a supportive and effective way, a deep respect for all law enforcement as well as first responder personnel, a desire to serve the community in which you live, and a calm presence of mind in the middle of tense situations. But don't be concerned if you're not certain or if you think you may be weak in one of these areas. The purpose of the training is to help you step into the role of an interfaith law enforcement chaplain. Through role-playing, lectures and interaction with seasoned chaplains you will be able to determine whether or not being an interfaith chaplain is something that calls to you.
Because of the active nature of law enforcement, a chaplain must have the physical stamina to be on foot for many hours if needed. Most likely the agency you choose to train with will have a minimum requirement of being on call a certain amount of days per month for a specified period of time. The agency also may have a minimum service agreement in consideration for the training given. Some agencies have ongoing education requirement to help the chaplains stay up to date with changes and developments in the agency and the law enforcement personnel served. It is highly likely that you will be required to be an active member in a faith-based community or at least be able to clearly articulate your spiritual beliefs, and probably you will need to have a letter of recommendation from a leader in your spiritual community.
What An Interfaith Chaplain Does
At the beginning of the article I mentioned that each agency has its own rules and standards. Each will also have its own mission and duties. The agency I trained with came into being because of the great deal of pain and stresses that officers and first responders see every day. The idea was to provide well trained volunteer interfaith chaplains who could be there for the officers and first responders to provide emotional support when requested. Chaplains show up only when requested by law enforcement to help with follow-up care for people traumatized by crimes when a first responder needs someone to talk to. These services are provided 24 hours a day in our county by a growing team of skilled, screened and respectful chaplains who have adopted the phrase "Being There" as their motto.
The Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Service in Sonoma County is incorporated in California as a non-constituent, non-profit organization. We are also a non-profit 501c3 organization with the IRS, Federal ID number 68-0424491.
Our mission is to respond to requests from law enforcement and provide immediate emotional support and follow up care to them and to the members of our community who have suffered tragedy and loss. We are an interfaith community of compassionate volunteers without religious, political, or legal agendas.
Edward Viljoen graduated in the first academy of LECS and currently serves on the Board of Directors
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