Aaron described it as “loitering with intent”. I found that interesting. Pastor Aaron Groat recently became a Fellowship chaplain in 2017. Aaron serves as lead Pastor at Calvary Baptist in Burlington, ON, but became a volunteer Fellowship chaplain as a means to be on mission in his community. Our full-time and part-time (volunteer) Fellowship chaplains are entering the “closed communities” in our towns, villages, and cities in order to demonstrate the love of Christ.
We commonly call it the “ministry of presence”, but I was intrigued by Aaron’s catch phrase when describing his ministry as a police chaplain. He called it the ministry of “loitering with intent”.
I recently heard from Aaron about what happened on one of his early “ride-alongs” with an officer. Chaplain Aaron strapped on a protective vest, sat in the police cruiser and assured the officer he would not be in the way. The officer assured Chaplain Aaron that he might be needed. During the ride along, chaplain Aaron assisted the officer in an arrest.
I’ll let chaplain Aaron tell the rest of the story:
The Journey from "Them" to "We"
“My journey as a chaplain for the Halton Regional Police began in the spring of 2017. It started as an invitation to meet with a Sergeant and have a conversation. Little did I know that they had been watching me for some time and had decided to ask me if I would be interested in coming on-board as their new service chaplain for 2 and 3 District in the Region. Basically, that covers Burlington, Oakville and Headquarters and all the units that run out of those locations. I was replacing a well-known and respected chaplain named Hans Hamer, who had passed away due to cancer four years earlier. They were big shoes to fill but God seemed to be opening doors for me to reach out and care for the men and women in law enforcement in Halton Region.
“I was issued some protective equipment and told I could get started. But where? The job of a police service chaplain has been described as to ‘loiter with intent’. You are not a police officer, nor will you ever be, and that makes the task of chaplain very difficult in a law enforcement environment. You are there to be supportive, encouraging and, if need be, talk about issues that they are dealing with. This requires a lot of trust.
“You need to understand that with police I was a ‘them’ and not a ‘we’. For officers, everyone is a ‘them’ and only rarely, do you become a ‘we’. Moving to a ‘we’ means inclusion and that is a tough place to get to. Building trust is part of the equation and that takes time. I also needed to demonstrate that I was for the police and not simply a silent bystander.
“How was I going to build trust with the officers? Little did I know that God was moving to help me build that trust beyond anything I could ever imagine.
“One night this past summer, while on patrol with a platoon in Oakville, we got a call for an alleged impaired driver who needed to be stopped. As we approached the car, the driver pulled away and slowly came to a stop in the corner of the intersection. The driver was commanded to exit the vehicle and told he was under arrest for suspected impaired driving. The driver became combative and refused to comply with the officer's orders. The officer requested assistance from me and the suspect was apprehended. The officer was relieved and very grateful for the assistance given.
“What happened next was something that only God could have orchestrated.
“That night I had earned a little bit of ‘street cred’. What that meant was that God opened doors for me to move a little bit closer to the ‘we’ side of law enforcement life. That evening I was able to talk and meet the officers in a fresh and meaningful way. The rest of the night was spent entering into their lives and encouraging them. It was unbelievable how God opened those doors and I will forever be grateful for the way that He can use me to build relationships and show the love of Jesus. The next day I woke up to emails from the Chief and my Inspector who were checking in on me and thanking me for my involvement. I'm still building trust over time, but in that one event, God moved the ministry along further than I could have ever imagined.
“I am looking forward to continuing this ministry of ‘loitering with intent’ and see what God does as I journey from ‘them’ to maybe one day, ‘we’.
I love this picture of one of our pastors hanging onto an impaired driver and assisting a police officer in making an arrest. Let’s be praying for our Fellowship chaplains as they continue their ministry of presence, or “loitering with intent”, among police, first responders, hospitals, nursing homes, soldiers, airport passengers, truck stops, sports teams and more.
Consider joining Fellowship Chaplaincy as a full-time or volunteer chaplain. Go to www.fellowship.ca/AboutFellowshipChaplains for more information on how to join. This would be an ideal way for many pastors or church leaders to volunteer in their community; ministering in places otherwise closed to clergy and the community.