Pastor’s Column: Bruce Talso, Police Chaplain
While I was serving as pastor in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis during the 1980’s, North Memorial Hospital invited local pastors to join a new program called “The Emergency Chaplain Corp.” This was to be made up with local pastors who would spend a night at the hospital, filling in for hospital chaplains who would be able to go home at night. Pastors could sign up for a night, thus assuring the hospital that there would always be a chaplain on the hospital premises around the clock. Early evening activities would include ‘making the rounds’ to the various departments, answering requests for a chaplain visit. The hospital supplied a room for us for sleeping when not ministering to the needs of patients. Late evening / early morning calls would interrupt that sleep. The hospital would feed us breakfast in the morning at which time we would be released to return to our local churches after the regular hospital chaplain arrived. This was my introduction to chaplain work.
Occasionally, a police call requesting a chaplain would come to the hospital; as hospital dispatchers were being used at that time to field police calls. Some years later, when the hospital program ended, local police departments began using their own dispatchers when requesting a chaplain. The Brooklyn Park Police Department began contacting local pastors to see if they would serve as police chaplains. Living in Brooklyn Park, and having had some experience with limited police calls, I decided to join the local program, and I have now served in this capacity for 25 years.
Requests for chaplains can come at various times of day; with a number of them coming between midnight and 6 am. Most of these early morning calls are “death notification” calls. It requires the chaplain to go to the home of a deceased person at the request of a local police officer. When the chaplain arrives, it releases the officer to accomplish his work; allowing the chaplain to give his/her attention to the needs of grieving family members. This can include friendly conversation, scripture reading, prayer, and yes… hugs, lots of them! In many cases, we find that families are facing death for the first time; they do not know what to do in processing the experience, contacting funeral homes, why a medical examiner is called, etc. And with an expanding ethnic population in Brooklyn Park, a language barrier is a new challenge.
I have had opportunities to have extended visits with family members after the initial call; in some cases having been asked to conduct a funeral service for the deceased person. During these opportunities, I have endeavored to share the hope of the gospel message with others. So often, the non-believer is lacking any reason for hope. It is at this time that many are open to the gospel message of love and hope. It has always been a pleasure to share the encouraging word of God with others.
Working with police officers has also been enjoyable. As I serve alongside them, I try taking every opportunity to encourage them and thank them for their service to our communities. They have personal and family needs as well as spiritual needs. On many occasions I offer to pray for them; none have ever declined. With violence and crime at an all-time high, and defiance against authority growing, police officers need our support and prayers. I count it a privilege to work alongside these very special people. As chaplains we are also available to assist police officers with personal and family needs.
From serving as a police chaplain I have gained a new appreciation for police officers who are dedicated to protecting our communities. While their professionalism is evident, they are just people just like me. I need to support them in any way I can. Most importantly, I have an opportunity to minister the love of God to them. I encourage all believers to support their local police force. I often remind our officers that they are “Ministers of God.” (Romans 13:4) That usually gets a laugh out of them!
Pastor Bruce Talso serves as Pastor of the Wyanett Evangelical Free Church in Princeton. Pastor Bruce is involved in several other ministries in the Twin Cities, including as the Police Chaplain for the Brooklyn Park / Champlin Police Departments. He serves along with four other pastors in the community who are available on a monthly ‘call-out’ rotation. Bruce has been serving in this capacity for the past 25 years.