Friday, December 19, 2008

'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:40

I wish that we could hear more good stories about police officers and CSO's - they are out there but they just don't make the headlines for all the good stuff they do.. This week the Divisional Commander asked me to go and see a retired doctor who had been subjected over a lengthy period to some racial harassment and abuse. I discovered that he was Asian in his origin and that he had become a Christian Believer some years ago. His long life had been spent in this country and more recently in Bangladesh, India and China using all his skills to bring healing. None of this made any difference to the local youths who thought it a delight to throw dog faeces from a nearby bin at his windows and the walls of his home where he lives alone. He told me how the local CSO had come to investigate his complaint. He did not just stop at taking the complaint though. He obtained all the necessary cleaning materials and thouroughly cleaned the windows and the walls. This made me reflect... would I have done that? A simple act of human kindness, above and beyond the mere call of duty to help restore and affirm this good man's faith in others and his trust in the police service. Well done that CSO!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young... (1 Timothy 4:12a

Several weeks ago I went to the Training Wing for my regular input spot to the Student Constables Course. This is an hour when I am able to set out the stall of a Police Chaplain and his/her work and field all the questions that follow. Its normally a fairly lively exchange. On Tuesday evening this week I went to the great hall of one of our local schools which was convened as a Magistrates Court for the Attestation Ceremony for the same group. Nowadays the police service does not do 'pomp and circumstance' like it use to do and there is no Passing Out Parade at the end of Probationary Training - so this is the only ceremony that moms and dads, spouses, partners and children get to see. I think that what struck me on this occasion was the youth of the student officers - and before you even think it - I know I am geting old etc...
But they really were young. There were no ex-military, no fit 45yr olds setting out on a new career path, just young men and women attempting to 'stand at ease' until their names were called, then walking swiftly (no marching here) to the platform to receive a series of handshakes from the great and the good, a warrant card and a certificate of appoinment.
Talking to them again at the not half bad buffet afterwards, they were all gossiping enthusiastically about the coming week when they would be doing their 'placements' at Schools, Social Services, Children's agencies and so on and this followed by spending the week before Christmas at a residential school at a Tyneside University as part of their degree studies. I do believe that this very different style of training will be a real benefit to them and to the public.
It will be June next year or thereabouts before they hit the streets for real. My prayer for them is that they will not lose their enthusiasm and drive and that - in this changing world - they will be valued by the communities they serve for their dedication and commitment and that no one will look down on them because they are young.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. (Acts 28:2)

A recent late night visit to a double fatal RTC on one of Telford's trunk roads revealed once again the generosity and kindness of the humam (Dunkerque?) spirit. It reminded me of Paul's shipwreck on Malta and the welcome he received from the people who lived near the shore.
In no small way traumatised by the horrific scenes outside their front door, a lovely couple supplied hot drinks and soups from evening into the small hours to the police officers, recovery and highway personnel who laboured for nearly 12 hours to recover the vehicles and reopen the road. It was probably their way of coping and putting out of their minds what they had witnessed - but what a valuable service of unusual kindness on a cold November night in Shropshire!
This morning, a broken fence, a churned up grass verge and probably some small bunches of flowers will be all that mark the tragic spot. But I'm glad that I was able to be there - to mark and to thank the householders for their kindness - but also glad that as a Christian minister I was able to speak into their distress, as they cared for others unknown to them, and in a few moments assure them of support being available in the days ahead.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain... Rev 21:4

It's time to write about a rare aspect of Police Chaplaincy. About the middle of September, on a glorious if windy Sunday afternoon, I went to St Chad's Church in Shrewsbury Town Centre. There under the leadership of the Force Chaplain, Rev'd David Mawson, and in the presence of the Chief Constable and many VIP guests and together with the Shrewsbury Police Choir and the West Mercia Police Band we celebrated the life of Pc Ricky Gray.

Ricky was shot dead on Sunday 6th May 2007, as he arrived at the scene of an armed incident on a quiet Sunday morning in the town. His funeral was held at the Abbey with all the pomp and circumstance that was so necessary. But this was very different - this was a celebration of the life of a soldier, police officer and servant to the community and perhaps more importantly a husband and father.

Ricky's wife Jenny and family were there of course - and later in the Dingle, a nearby public garden - with the Chief Constable, she unveiled a permanent memorial to her husband. We had walked down from the church (all traffic stopped) led by pipers from Ricky's old regiment - the Black Watch - and passed through an impressive honour guard of Shropshire Division Police Officers. The memorial tablet inscription was in two parts the first saying 'An exemplary officer, a devoted husband and a gentleman'. the second read, 'Hearts that loved him never forget - he gave his life that others might live.'

A few tears were shed and the emotion of the moment, seeing so many coming to honour this local hero brought a lump into the throat - then a few moments later it was all over. Time to move on in thankfulness. RIP.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

I am conscious that quite a few weeks have past since I last updated this blog - but its nothing to do with lack of interest - its just been a busy few weeks. I have continued to visit police stations on the Division and tend to consume more tea/coffee with each visit. But I am now on first name terms with virually all the regular staff at the three small stations. I still have some problems with Div HQ where I am constantly discovering new nooks and crannies where people are beavering away and because its Div HQ seem to have less time to pass the time of day. I did take a service of child presentation a couple of Sundays ago for a member of police staff and her husband which was well attended.
One thing which is very interesting is that all kind of mayhem is happening in the surrounding divisions with some awful Road Traffic Collisions claiming many lives over the last couple of months, but people seem to be driving more safely around this Division? For the moment at any rate there doesn't seem a lot for a Chaplain to do... except dink tea and coffee and listen.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Put on the whole armour of God... (Ephesians 6:11)

Last week I spent a morning at one of the Regional Public Order Training Centres. I hasten to add that I attended only as an observer. There were the usual quizzical looks from officers from my own force and also from the various other forces that were present. Some of the officers present were there for the very first time - and there were others who were old hands at this kind of training. There were some 'aha's' from police officers who remembered me from years back and some lamp-swinging chats as we recalled mutual acquaintances and colleagues.

During the course of the morning - from my vantage point above their heads I saw row after row of police officers fire-bombed and walk almost nonchalantly through the flames with ever increasing confidence in their high-tech fireproof clothing. I reflected that nearly 20 years had elapsed since the last time I had presented myself for such training at this same venue and which then had only just opened. I also remembered the confidence that such training had given me in the protection provided and how much ammunition it gave me to preach at churches all over the West Midlands on the 'Armour of God' often dressing up in the kit to visualise the matter more effectively.

But one thing had changed - when I was trained with long and short shields the instructors and colleagues on the 'other side' for the day hurled blocks of wood at us. Nowadays 'Health & Safety' has intervened and apparently officers might gets splinters if they use wooden blocks - so they use expended PVC baton rounds (see picture) which weigh about 150 grammes and measure about 3" long and about 1" in diameter. Thrown with unerring accuracy they can cause bumps and bruises. They can also put an officer out of the training for the rest of the day. I saw one Inspector take two baton rounds on the chin bouncing off his shield and under his visor. It should not have happened and it was his fault through a moment's inattention. He took it all in good part but it made it painful for him to eat at lunch time.

As I later reflected on this visit I thought that no matter how well we believe we are protected as Christians - and no matter how much we trust in God's armour then all that is needed for it to go wrong is that inattention, that carelessness to which we all from time to time succumb. I also remembered some thoughts from years ago - God has provided such an armoury for us and yet many of us don't even visit His armoury to collect our personal issue equipment. Or maybe we think that we don't need it all and leave the Belt of Truth or the helmet of salvation or those Gospel sandals gathering dust on the shelves. No wonder so many Christian people get bumped and bruised and even fall under the baton rounds that the world throws at them - but God is not to blame...

Monday, March 3, 2008

But if you're breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren't there just to be admired in their uniforms.(Romans 13:4 Message)

This is my grandson - determined to continue the family tradition...

Sunday 2nd March already and several weeks have passed since my last update. Yesterday evening was my 'Commissioning Service' at Madeley Baptist Church. I had to choose a date but wish I could have avoided Mothering Sunday. Still - the Divisional Commander turned up and said a few words and the preacher was the Ecumenical Dean. It was all over too quickly. We sang some hymns, read some Scripture, said some prayers and I made some promises. My eldest daughter and her partner turned out in their best uniforms and a PC and a CSO from the local station also came.

And it all made me reflect... not so much about being a chaplain to the Police but about the parallels between the role of the police in the community and the role of the church. If you take the 'Message' version of Romans 13 quoted above, it is clear that rule breaking is always unnacceptable and God has in place his agencies to deal with that and apply sanctions - involving the payment of a penalty by the rule breaker - from gaol to community sevice to a fine and so on. Through the action of the police - sanctions which are available through law are applied - and at the end of it all the price for offending has been paid and so society is arguably satisfied. For the legally innocent there is no threat and no sanctions.

But the church too is involved in dealing with rule breakers and also in declaring that wrong doing is unnacceptable and saying so to all of society (there is none righteous - no not one), and no one is legally innocent. The church has no powers of arrest and no sanctions to apply - just imagine if it did... I suppose the difference is that the forgiveness offered through Jesus is once for all and unconditional - because he has done the time, paid the penalty and freed all of guilty humankind from the consequences of breaking the rules. All that is needed on the part of the wrong doer is to acknowledge the fault, repent the fault and put trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Simple and effective? Certainly saves on the mountains of paperwork - perhaps I ought to have a word with Ronnie Flanagan.