I Became a Chaplain

By Gay Williams

My work with the Colorado Springs Fire Department began when I was in seminary working on an MA in counseling. For one semester of my internship, I took a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). CPE is a chaplaincy course that requires both classroom and on-site internship hours. For my first unit of CPE, I served as a chaplain for the fire department. This opportunity opened my eyes to the ministry of chaplaincy, and my life has never been the same.

I recently celebrated eleven years of service with the Colorado Springs Fire Department. Three years ago, I was elected president of the chaplain program. It is a privilege to lead and serve with others dedicated to serving those in our community. We bring peace and warmth to an often chaotic and cold emergency scene. Situations such as these are incredibly intense, that is why preaching fire safety is also high on that list, from getting the right fire extinguishers, which you can read about at this here, to making sure that the exits are properly signed. It is incredibly important.

The Colorado Springs Fire Department Chaplain Corp is made up of men and women from a variety of denominations. We serve the community by being available to those in crisis situations. Our services are available to anyone, regardless of belief system or worldview. The responsibilities of a chaplain in a crisis situation range from giving hugs or being a sympathetic ear to offering more traditional pastoral care.

Our duties as chaplains with the fire department are twofold. The first part of our service is directly to the fire department. We visit and ride along with on-duty fire crews. We spend time getting to know the employees of the fire department and minster to them when appropriate. Where necessary, we help the crew input any data onto the fire department records management system to ensure that we are focusing on health and safety, patient care, and fire inspection permits so that our fire station is performing to a high standard. We attend department functions such as promotion ceremonies, celebrations, and award presentations. Chaplains perform funerals, weddings, and baptisms for the firefighter families. We also visit the new recruits to the Fire Academy in order to introduce ourselves and the ministry we provide.

The other side of our service is to the community. We are on call twenty-four hours a day for a week at a time. When any station needs our services, they know they can call for the chaplain. We are most frequently called to respond when a person has died at home, whether from natural causes or suicide. We are called to minister to the deceased’s family, friends, and loved ones as they walk through this challenging time. I have provided grief counseling and led funerals. One of the most difficult funerals I helped lead was for a six-month-old baby. I consider it an honor and blessing to be able to provide the love of Christ on what may be the worst day of someone’s life.

I am endorsed by the North American Mission Board as a disaster-relief chaplain, a fire-department chaplain, and a mental-health counselor. These endorsements provide validation from our denomination as I seek to serve others in the ministry I’m called to provide.

Recently I was selected as volunteer of the year for Community Advancing Public Safety (CAPS). CAPS is the volunteer agency for the Colorado Springs Police Department, Fire Department, and Office of Emergency Management. The award was certainly a surprise. To be recognized for my ministry work is humbling and a great honor.

I serve the Lord by helping others. As a teen, my first ministry was serving as a counselor for GA and Acteen summer camps. Back then, I could never have imagined where my journey with the Lord would take me. I’m currently a doctoral candidate at Gateway Seminary.It is my desire to continue serving to the Lord using my counseling and chaplaincy skills.

I encourage others to follow the Lord step-by-step. We never know what the Lord has in mind for us and where each step might lead. Faithful service to the Lord is the greatest adventure anyone can experience, and I can’t wait to see where else my adventure will take me.