by Jonathan Winski, Chaplain and a founding member 2011
A chaplain is a member of the clergy that typically serves in a specialized setting; the most popular being military, hospitals, emergency services. Although chaplains were most often in military or hospital settings, the role has spread to encompass all forms of emergency services (EMS, police, fire), hospitals, as well as companies, clubs and other organized groups.
I began my service to the LORD as a chaplain in emergency service in 2005 after seeing the need in the police department I worked part time. I began taking classes for chaplaincy and ESC or Emotional and Spiritual Care and soon was ordained by Chaplain Fellowship Ministries, a nondenominational organization of chaplains focused on emergency services, prison and rehabilitation ministry. After 8 years working part time in law enforcement I moved to part time EMS as a driver and chaplain. My background as a natural listener was enhanced by earning certification as a hostage negotiator before I came to EMS. I still work at suicide intervention and can be called upon for barricaded subjects but no longer work in hostage senarios. My ministry studies have led me to chaplaincy which I will define next, as well as a field called apologetics which comes from the greek apologea, meaning to give explanation for or how to give answers regarding or find answer for the Christian faith and God’s word.
In EMS I found a new passion for service immediately heightened. Though my focus is on emergency and crisis services I'm also the Pastor outside of emergency service settings for Gathering In Faith Ministries. As a chaplain I offer confidential Emotional and Spiritual Care (spiritual if requested - chaplains do not force religion on anyone. We are first and foremost a supportive and confidential resource. Sometimes people just need someone to listen without judgement, talk things out without pressure or even seek help with questions and problems faced as First Responders or in everyday life. As a pastor however, I focus first on leading others to Christ, Biblical study and spiritual counseling. Either title / role is used to indicate a member of the clergy that serves a group with a common purpose.
As a chaplain or pastor, I serve as a nondenominational minister, meaning I do not require or expect anyone to adhere to or believe in any particular faith. Though my training and beliefs are Christian, I serve all equally, even if one doesn’t have a faith system. As a Chaplain, my function is more like a triage nurse that helps others find the best path to seek help, treatment or resources for their particular need. I assist in debriefings after calls or as needed to give our service personnel a confidential resource to talk about what is on their mind or causing them any struggle. Chaplains also deliver injury or death notifications and assist families in the immediate steps following an injury or death.
As a member of clergy, Chaplains are also called upon for various ceremonies such as weddings, baptisms, funerals, commendations, appointments to office and dedications.
"Thank you" - it’s a simple but powerful statement. You may or may not ever hear it. But then again, that’s not why you do it, is it? You will put on the uniform every day and serve because its your calling that something inside you must answer. Your dedication drives you. It’s your passion... your duty... the purpose or reason you are here. But the fact remains, under your gloves and PPE, body armor, your fire-resistant gear, you are after all…..human.
Like many others, I like to call my badge a “shield”. It symbolizes your role as a guardian of some form and it “protects” us from all that hurts everyone else, so we can protect them. Fact is, no matter what type of “shield” you pin on, some things still get through. No matter the training we go through or how well we are able to “filter the negatives and stress.” We must eventually accept it and address it.
The filtering we are trained for and some naturally have is temporary and it is intended to be so, in order so you can face unusual stress and strain for a short period to do the job at hand. You experience things the average person doesn’t and probably never will…. and you are required to do it with a level head, every day, no matter what else is going on in your life. And too many emergency professionals take home stress and emotional strain that threatens to damage them and / or their families. Chaplains are here for your families too!
My badge, my shield, is for you.
I have served the public and I am grateful for that experience. But I feel called to answer the protection and support of the men and women who serve as emergency service personnel, First Responders of every thread: EMS, Fire, Police, Dispatch, administration. Your badge, your shield, is for the moment; to protect those in your care. My badge, my shield, is for your long term; to protect those who protect others.
USE me or your own department chaplain:
The bottom line I want to get across is that you are not alone. I’m here.
No department chaplain has to report to your superior officers anything short of reasonable risk of imminent danger to yourself or someone else. Talking with your chaplain certainly does not mean you are weak or cannot handle something - it is a sign of wisdom to seek help when needed. Isn’t that exactly why you offer yourself as you do; to help others in their times of need? And it’s strictly confidential. But you cannot take care of others until you’ve taken proper care for yourself.
Please call me or email me with any problem, any day, anytime and I will listen, offer support, forward you confidential information to help, and be there for you and your family. You are not alone and you don’t have to be.
It is not my position to judge, only to assist.
Chaplain Jonathan Winski
Nondenominational Christian Ministry
"Your focus determines your reality."
Chaplain Jonathan Winski
P.O. Box 432, Cambridge, WI 53523