The effects of Hurricane Joaquin recently challenged the US East Coast (especially the Southern region) with historical levels of flooding which hasn’t occurred in a 1000 years. The President declared South Carolina to be in a state of emergency. As a resident of SC, I quickly became concerned for the safety of my family and friends (many of which are fellow ministers).
Crossing a street during flooding in Columbia SC
Emergency Responders in Columbia SC
These activities caused me to consider the ministry of Chaplains, as well as evangelists who often serve in similar contexts within their communities. I spoke with a variety of ministers to hear some of the obstacles they face, and to identify a few points for consideration.
“Minister Identification” quickly became a common theme.
Chaplain ID Credentials
NACM members primarily minister from a Protestant/Evangelical perspective. This stems from the shared value of the doctrine of the Believer’s Priesthood. As a result, most do not wear clerical collars –finding them impractical when ministering on the streets. (This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with wearing them). Nevertheless, for this reason it is not always easy for emergency responders to identify us as ministers.
I spoke with Elder Billie Bright (SC State Coord. Elder) who serves as a full time Chaplain in the Columbia Fire Department. Because he is actively working on the flood rescue teams during this time of emergency, I wanted to hear his thoughts about the necessity of identification for ministers. This is what he said:
Today’s society of first responders e.g. Police, fire or EMS are not accustomed to ministers (or members of clergy) being involved in emergency or out of the norm ministry situations. But with the emergence of Chaplains or normal clergy members being more involved in the situations it is pertinent that ministers are able to gently and quickly identify themselves and their purpose. All too often situations can quickly become intense and the ability to be able to identify yourself as clergy will help ease not only the temperament of first responders but also help future relations with emergency personnel in the community. As ministers we must remember that we are not a must to the situation at hand, but we are an asset. Being able to communicate this is paramount for success.