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Pastor helps police with stressful jobs

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A UMNS photo by John Gordon

The Rev. Charles "Chuck" Ferrara serves as senior pastor at New Life Community Church United Methodist in New Fairfield, Conn.
May 17, 2006

By John Gordon*

BETHEL, Conn. (UMNS) — The Rev. Chuck Ferrara knows firsthand the stresses of police work.

During his 16 years with the New York Police Department — before he became a United Methodist pastor — Ferrara patrolled some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods and was involved in a shootout in Harlem that left one of his partners dead.

“I suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder before post-traumatic stress disorder was even diagnosed,” he says.

Today, Ferrara volunteers some of his time as a chaplain to the 50 employees at the Bethel Police Department. He is senior pastor at New Life Community Church United Methodist in nearby New Fairfield.

“Police officers have lots of strain in their lives,” Ferrara says. “I can think of no other profession where somebody may potentially have to take another person’s life, short of a combat soldier in war.”

Or, he says, officers may risk their own lives to save others.

“The nature of the police officers’ fear in life is that many times they meet people at their worst,” says Capt. Robert Cedergren, who is in charge of personnel for the Bethel police.

“Even people who don’t have a problem or an emergency, when they run across the police, in many instances, it’s not in the best of circumstances.”

Over the last three years, Ferrara has helped Bethel officers deal with financial and marital difficulties, deaths of relatives and other problems.

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A UMNS photo by John Gordon

Chuck Ferrara offers his insights in "Beyond the Badge: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Cops and Their Families."

“Pastor Ferrara’s abilities to understand that, and then also to build empathy with the officers, is phenomenal,” Cedergren says. “He understands what the officers are going through. He’s been there; he’s done that.”

Dispatcher Barbara Wilson says Pastor Chuck, as Ferrara is known to the officers, always has a smile on his face when he asks about her grandchildren.

“If you have a problem, you can go to him with anything,” Wilson says. “And just in general, he makes me feel happy and healthy and warm.”

The stress of police work has led to suicide for some, including two officers in the Bethel Police Department in recent years.

Police officers have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession, Ferrara says. Officers are sometimes reluctant to seek help because they fear losing their jobs, he says.

“There are ways to help officers transition from post-traumatic stress disorder, and stressful times in their lives, without having to lose their position, without having to lose their weapon and without having to lose their job,” Ferrara says.

“I think once an officer realizes that a department will take that kind of demeanor, I think it helps all around. And I think officers will more readily seek help.”

Ferrara has woven together some his experiences on the streets of New York with his faith journey as a pastor and written a book, Beyond the Badge: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Cops and Their Families.

He says it’s the first book to combine police techniques with spiritual guidance.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by John Gordon

In his role as chaplain for the Bethel (Conn.) Police Department, the Rev. Chuck Ferrara (left) visits with Detective Sgt. Jim Wright.

“It’s such a cutting-edge book about surviving through some of these things that are very particular to police officers that most people don’t write about. This book gets down to the brass nuts and bolts about how to survive your marriage and still be a police officer,” Ferrara says.

The book, published by Bethel House Ltd., retails for $12 and is in its second printing. Ferrara says he is donating proceeds from the sales to Living Streams Publication, part of the Good News ministry. Good News is an unofficial United Methodist organization based in Wilmore, Ky.

Ferrara says he has received responses from officers across the United States and Canada. The book is dedicated to the officers and firefighters who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Ferrara spent several months counseling with rescue workers at Ground Zero.

He considers police officers some of the “finest people in the world,” he says.

“Any one of the officers … if they were called to give up their life to save the life of a complete stranger, they would not hesitate,” he says. “The Bible says there’s no greater love than that.”

*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or newsdesk@umcom.org.



 

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Resources
New Life Community Church United Methodist