“Where’d you come from, pastor?” my friend John asked as I arrived at the Good News Place.
“North Hills.” I said, “Was asked to come do the invocation and benediction for the graduating class at the county Police Academy.”
“How’d you end up doing that?”
Good question. Sometimes it’s almost as if I don’t know. I mean, I do know – the Deputy Director of the academy is the former Chief of police in McKees Rocks, and a friend of mine, and he reached out a couple of days prior to see if I could do it. But sometimes these situations feel weird for a small town preacher in a small church in the Rocks.
I’m not complaining, and, in fact, as I invest in young pastors, I’m using such events to show how resources follow relationship, and new experiences inform the spirit and are often able to teach me something along the way. So I encourage them to tend to their relationships and aggressively form new ones with folks in their community.
You never know where they’ll lead.
This time, a years-old relationship with Bob Cifrulak led to me sitting next to Rich Fitzgerald, the county supervisor, who was the event’s guest speaker. Rich and I don’t see eye to eye a lot, but we have mutual friends and I have sympathy for him because he had a lot of tough choices to make during the past year with the pandemic, so we had a great conversation.
Bob Cifrulak is deputy director of the Allegheny County Police Training Academy and a Kennedy resident.
More impressive, though, was the graduating class of 22 public servants, entering into one of the most maligned vocations in the nation right now. Seeing those young faces ready to wear the badge and serve communities was impressive. They know what they’re getting into. How could they not?
Sometimes in my field a minister will get caught up in sin and give us all a bad name.
Sometimes, like in the case of Jim Bakker’s money and philandering shenanigans back in the 1980s, it’s very public.
But here’s the thing: none of those folks who get in trouble got into ministry to blow it. They wanted to serve the Lord and do life-changing work that is a blessing… but they got caught in bad moments and, perhaps, a whirlwind of temptation, and suddenly their names were splashed across headlines.
Looking out at these young officers, I don’t believe any of them answered this noble call to public service and peace-keeping to blow it. Their hearts are in it, and they want to do good work, so I prayed for wisdom, integrity, honor, and safety as they move into their respective departments.
They’ll need it.
Outside the Good News Place, I looked at John and thought over his question, then said, smiling, “It’s a God thing, John”
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.