Police Chaplain Donald Shoemaker’s farewell message

Text of remarks made to May 13 City Council meeting

Three significant happenings led to an October evening in 2001 when I stood in this chamber and Police Chief Mike Seller introduced me as the police department’s new chaplain, and pinned Badge #293 on me:

First, I came across a verse in the Bible that would change the course of the ministry. Jeremiah 29:7 (my paraphrase) – “Seek the Shalom (the peace, the well-being) of the city where I placed you, and  Pray to the Lord in its behalf.”

Donald Shoemaker

The second significant happing was a job evaluation by my church’s elder board.

The board came up with a recommendation that would change my life and refocus my ministry.

“Don, you should find some avenue of service in the Seal Beach Community.”

It was great advice. Pastors already have a lot on our plates. But it was good to be told to look above the fence and see how you might serve the community round you.

But what kind of community service would I do?

That’s where the third significant happening comes in:

A “Chance encounter” while I walked on Main Street one day. Assistant City Manager Dan Dorsey introduced me to the Police Department Captain John Schaefer. We both brought up police chaplaincy almost simultaneously.

I researched chaplaincy and wrote a program. The the day came when Chief Sellers announced that the department now had a chaplain program. The badge pinning happened, and we were on our way.

Police chaplains serve in several ways. But I think the most significant is responding to Call-outs. The chaplain’s phone rings any hour of the day or night and away you go.

I have been at hospitals with parents whose little boy or girl just died. I have been at fiery accident scenes to comfort those who got out of the car in time, but their loved ones did not. I have been to suicide scenes and to homes where a spouse awoke in the morning to find his or her partner deceased.

I have prayed with officers at their request, that they might have an extra measure of strength and grace to do whatever the job demanded.

I did not know for sure what I would say or do when I got to a scene. On the way to a location, I would pray “The Prayer of St. Francis.”

‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

Then came the mass murders of 12 October 2011—the greatest challenge of my entire career as a pastor and as a chaplain. The stress on officers and dispatchers and medical providers was beyond words. Through last October I’ve joined family members at the memorial on October 12 each year.

Our law enforcement officers are called on to do their best as they face a challenging and often evil and dangerous world. Our culture has been losing its spirit of civility and community values and its respect for authority. Your police officers are there to restrain and resist and possibly reverse this trend.

Now my wife and I have just moved to Temecula.

Leaving my church and leaving this agency are the hardest two parts of moving from this area where we have lived for almost 54 years. I love my church, the Seal Beach community and the men and women of the police department. It has been an incredible privilege to serve these 23 years as your police chaplain.

Thank you for that privilege. God bless you all.