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Chaplain's Column: A Non-Anxious Presence

I don’t remember the first time I heard the term “non-anxious” presence.  I’m aware that it was first used by family systems theorist Edwin Friedman and it has entered the vocabulary of those of us who offer spiritual and emotional support.  As I think about what it means to be a non-anxious presence, it occurs to me that this is one of the most significant functions a law enforcement chaplain can provide.

I’m stating the obvious when I say that law enforcement is a high stress environment.  The painful, horrible and distressing experiences that the women and men who serve our agencies encounter every day is beyond that which most others will encounter in a lifetime.  And with these experiences often comes an elevated level of anxiety.

We who are law enforcement chaplains do not relish or look forward to these situations any more than the officer.  However, most of us have had some training in ways that we can be helpful in reducing the anxiety and stress that come with the territory.  Here are just a few situations in which I believe a chaplain could be helpful:

  • Death Notification
  • Domestic Violence
  • Critical Incident
  • Conflict resolution

I also believe that a very important way in which chaplains can be a non-anxious presence is in the front seat of a cruiser on a ride along.  A skill that most chaplains work very diligently to develop and improve is that of providing a listening ear.  In addition, chaplains take very seriously the matter of confidentiality.  Anxiety that builds over time has to find an outlet somewhere and by some means.  Frequently, if unresolved or unattended anxiety gets no attention, the means of coping are unhealthy and may be even self-destructive.

A chaplain is also available, at the invitation of the officer or law enforcement personnel, to bring spiritual resources to bear.  These also can help in dealing with the substantial stress and accompanying anxiety.

One of the most important ways that you law enforcement personnel can care for your families, fellow officers and department personnel and your friends is by caring for yourself.  We chaplains welcome the opportunity to stand with you by being a non-anxious presence.

 

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About The Author:

Chaplain Steve Norden has served the Dublin, Ohio Division of Police as a volunteer chaplain since 1990. He has been a member of the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC) since 1996 and has attained the Senior Chaplain level of training. Chaplain Norden presently serves the ICPC as chair of the Public Relations Committee and as parliamentarian. Chaplain Norden is the founding pastor of New Hope Church, a ministry of the Reformed Church in America, in Powell, Ohio.

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