CHAPLAINCY: A MINISTRY OF PRESENCE
By LORETTA FULTON
At noon Wednesday, May 23, Abilene Police Chaplain Beth Reeves spoke at the monthly meeting of the Abilene Association of Congregations about her work and how she is on call whenever the phone rings, no matter what day or what time.
“My phone sleeps by my bed,” she said.
The meeting ended a little after 1 p.m. At 8:55 p.m., a man walked into the emergency room at Hendrick Medical Center, approached the triage area, told the nurse his blood type and that he was an organ donor. Then, he pulled out a handgun and shot himself in the head. He was pronounced dead at 9:17 p.m.
Cliff Stewart, president of the association and pastor of First Central Presbyterian Church, emailed association members Saturday about the strange and tragic turn of events.
“I guess you know it was Beth who was the key person, consoling those who were there.” Stewart said. “We give thanks for Beth and now all of us have a greater appreciation of what she does.”
Reeves was named full-time chaplain March 18, after serving five years in a part-time role while also serving as congregational care minister at Highland Church of Christ. Her job includes providing pastoral care to officers, dispatchers, people who oversee property and evidence, anyone at the police department in need of her services.
In her talk to the association, she described the Abilene Police Department–192 sworn officers, including 16 females, 66 civilians, three part-time civilian employees, six sets of married couples, two sets of twins, four sets of siblings, and four sets of parent/child employees.
“This is like a family thing sometimes,” Reeves said.
She described the life of police officers away from the job. They sell real estate, they coach youth sports, they help with Vacation Bible School.
“They’re normal people doing normal kinds of things,” she said. “The reality is they’re pretty much like us.”
Reeves described her role as being a middle person when it comes to aiding victims, especially in sexual assault cases. If a victim requests services, Reeves gets the forms and reports necessary to get the services they need. She helps connect the victim with the right caregiver so that there is time lag.
On any given day, Reeves might accompany an officer to make a death notification, make hospital visits, attend a funeral, or assist a victim. In addition to the police department, Reeves is available to city workers, retirees, and their families. Reeves practices a “ministry of presence.” Sometimes that’s all that is required–no words, just showing up.
She also values quiet time. With the help of other officers, staff, and a son, she created a quiet room in the basement of the police department. The colors are muted, a Scentsy jar and subdued lighting create the proper ambiance. A rocking chair, blank sheets of paper for jotting down notes, soothing photos, and a plaque with Psalm 46: “Be Still and Know That I Am God,” provide the perfect setting to induce quiet.
The room is for anyone at the police department who needs it–including Reeves. She says self-care is essential to her or else the job might become overwhelming. Part of her prescription for self-care is exercise. Another is meditation.
“I think silence is golden,” she said.