13 Aug AG Pastor Named National Sheriffs' Association Chaplain of the Year
For more than a decade, Pastor Chuck Kish and his congregation at Bethel Assembly of God in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, have been known for their chaplaincy ministry programs. On Monday, June 24, Kish was presented with the prestigious National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) Chaplain of the Year Award for 2013 at the NSA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Cumberland County Sheriff Ron Anderson nominated Kish for the award, without Kish’s knowledge. In February, Anderson contacted Kish, informing him of his unanimous selection by the national committee for the honor.
Anderson, who has been in law enforcement for 35 years in Cumberland County and was elected sheriff in 2009, says he nominated Kish because he felt Kish’s efforts compared favorably to those who won the award in the past.
“Some of the projects Chuck has begun here and in other law enforcement offices deserved at least the honor of being submitted for consideration,” Anderson says. “His premeditated acts of kindness, where he involved law enforcement and others in giving [thousands of dollars worth] of gift certificates to unsuspecting people at a movie theater in response to the tragedy at the movie theater in Colorado, stands out to me.”
Kish, who was greatly surprised and humbled by the award, explains that for years, in addition to the ministerial staff serving as chaplains, the church has been credentialing laypeople to serve as volunteer chaplains at “points of pain” in people’s lives. Currently the church provides 18 volunteer chaplains who serve (or have served) as police chaplains in patrol cars, bar chaplains, prison chaplains, hospital chaplains, nursing home chaplains, EMT chaplains and most recently, courtroom chaplains — the first-ever official courtroom chaplain in the United States.
“I never do anything for something in return, it’s all absolutely for God,” Kish says. “I’m just a piece of pipe and Christ is the water. People don’t care how water gets to them, just that it does and that it tastes good.”
Although the award was presented to Kish, he is quick to point out that the honor is not his alone, but is in honor and recognition of the church’s chaplaincy program. The award recognizes the powerful, positive impact the program has had in its ministry with the police and to the community.
Anderson recalls the situation where he contacted Kish to begin the program (that Kish had suggested) with Cumberland County police because the timing was now right.
“We had three staff members who were involved with serious battles with cancer,” Anderson recalls. “Morale became an issue with other employees – all wondering what was going on. I contacted Pastor Kish, because I knew it was the right thing to do. He started the [chaplain] program in the office and we now have two other chaplains assigned to my office; one who spends a lot of time in the courtroom and another who is part of a ride-along program.”
Kish believes that one of the key factors in the selection of their program for the award was a recent booklet he and his wife Michelle created called, “Caring for You.”
“What does a police officer say to someone when he or she informs a person that a loved one has been killed?” Kish asks rhetorically. “We created a unique, customizable booklet that covers every situation, providing a warm letter of condolence that is designed to be hand signed by the police chief for the notification officer to place into the hands of survivors.” Kish says the booklet is already being used by many police departments, EMS units and coroners in Central Pennsylvania, with pastors also making requests for the booklet.
Although the recognition by the NSA could be seen as an indication that the chaplaincy program “has arrived,” for Kish and his chaplains, they see it differently. Instead of seeing the award as the destination point, they see it more like a launching pad into greater ministry.
“With this kind of recognition, the program has received an endorsement that I believe will open many more doors of opportunity to minister,” Kish says. “During the NSA convention, our program was clearly presented to NSA members. And with this kind of endorsement, I believe more agencies and communities are going to be much more interested and open to what a chaplaincy program can do for them.”
But even as Kish and his chaplains are seeing more opportunities for the chaplaincy program and resources, they continue to press forward. “We hope by this fall we’ll have a phone number manned by a trained volunteer, that any person in Central Pennsylvania, who experiences a death of a loved one, can call and reach someone who will listen to them, empathize with them and offer to pray with them.”
For more information on Bethel Assembly of God and its chaplaincy program, see its website or contact Kish at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As printed on ag.org. With permission from the author.