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'A Ministry of Presence' During Times of Crisis

The Fairfax County Community Chaplains offer support during times of crisis.

When floods impacted the Lower Huntington community, a select group of people joined police and fire personnel in offering assistance to residents — local religious leaders. 

Fairfax County Community Chaplains routinely are on the scene with police and fire personnel to provide spiritual care and support to those affected by all sorts of tragedies.

The Fairfax County Community Chaplains are ordained and certified clergy of all faiths who practice in Fairfax County. According to its website, candidates are required to attend four trainings and participate in a Community Chaplain Steering Committee interview to complete their Community Chaplain Certification process. Candidates must also complete a series of training programs and certification courses including pastoral crisis intervention and Critical Incident Stress Management Training. Currently, there are 27 members of the Fairfax County Community Chaplains.

Pastor Jeri Fields is a member of the FCCC Steering Committee. Fields said the Community Chaplains are on call six times a year, and no chaplain is to self-deploy. They must be called to action when on call, and are solely there to listen and help people find the resources they need.

“We’re there to provide a listening ear,” Fields explained. “We work hard to get all faith traditions represented.”

Pastor Bill Teng of Heritage Presbyterian Church became involved with the Community Chaplains because he was interested in working with the Fairfax County Police Department, but was concerned about the time commitment. When the Community Chaplains Corp was founded, Teng got involved.

“It’s a ministry of presence, just being there so people know we care and do everything we can to serve them and encourage them,” Teng explained.

Teng, who aided in the Huntington flood victim relief in 2011, said the most rewarding part is seeing other pastors who feel strongly about serving the community.

“Personally I believe a lot of pastors feel they need to somehow serve the community as well, and not just the congregations they pastor, and they didn’t know how to do that. This is certainly one of the ways to get the pastors involved,” Teng said.

Fields said that those who were deployed during the Huntington floods were able to go out in the community and learn about greater needs.

“They helped people get medical assistance and identified people who needed food,” she said.

For more information about the Fairfax County Community Chaplains, visit their website.

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