By Christy Porter, Managing Editor
Licking Assembly of God Senior Pastor Paul Richardson is an integral part of the Licking Police Department as volunteer chaplain. Richardson took the more formal volunteer position after the departure of Darius Wentz, already having an established relationship with the LPD. Pastors in the Licking community consistently work with the police department providing faith-based Christian assistance when necessary, such as with the Ministerial Alliance.
Richardson has completed additional training and certification to join the police department in this capacity. As a small town boy, he grew up being comfortable with guns, hunting and participating in competitive pistol shooting. Being a part of the LPD training makes him more comfortable with the different scenarios that may take place when joining law enforcement on duty. However he emphasizes that every citizen who practices their second amendment rights should get training; it is a big responsibility.
“Chaplains do not make arrests, give tickets or execute other police duties. But like any concerned citizen, a chaplain will not hesitate to jump into a situation if an officer or someone is in danger,” clarified Richardson.
“Primarily, chaplains provide a sense of calm in the midst of challenging situations. That’s why hospitals, hospices, the military, and even the prisons utilize chaplains. In law enforcement, chaplains provide a sense of calm through presence, conversation, counseling, and other pastoral and spiritual practices,” said Richardson. “Chaplains can be called upon to assist in death notifications, calm families during a tragedy or provide support during domestic situations.”
Another aspect of the chaplaincy is being available to the officers when they need to talk. “I ride with them on some of their shifts, providing conversation during uneventful shifts and a second set of eyes or hands during more eventful shifts.”
This experience makes Richardson more aware of the levels and complexity of law enforcement’s job. He is always available, and often present for the raw moments, acting as counselor, therapist and mediator, and monitoring the situations as they unfold, working as a part of the team. Seeing places in the community that were, literally, previously unknown to him, even after 12 years in the community, has been somewhat of a surprise.
“Mostly, chaplaincy is a ministry of presence: Just being there can be helpful to families, communities, or officers during the midst of tragedy,” summarizes Chaplain Richardson.