Still at Work — with Dave Collins

Many people from all three Grace Church locations are working as front-line employees—whether in grocery stores, hospitals, labs, restaurants, or public safety roles around this area. On the other hand, many of us have been wondering what it’s like and how we can help. Over the past several weeks, we’ve been hearing from essential workers in multiple areas as they helped us answer those questions.

This week, we wrap up this series by hearing from Dave Collins, the location pastor at Grace Ann Arbor West who also serves as a chaplain for the Pittsfield Charter Township Department of Public Safety.

DAVE: I’m Dave Collins. I’m the pastor for Grace Ann Arbor West. We’re the third and newest location of Grace Churches, and as a pastor there, my primary role is to equip the people at the church for ministry and to provide point leadership for our location of Grace. 

Beyond the walls of Grace West, I also serve as the chaplain for Pittsfield Township Department of Public Safety. And my role there is to provide spiritual support for the men and women who serve as firefighters and police officers and command staff in our township. It’s being available to offer care or support on a relational level and give guidance when requested and help in any situations that are needed. So that means that I visit the police and fire stations to check in with folks fairly regularly. I ride along with police and fire on calls for service and spend time connecting personally with folks as I have opportunity or they express interest.

CHRISTINE: How have you seen the Pittsfield township Department of Public Safety be impacted by this pandemic?

D: I guess I think it’s helpful to remember that all of our officers and firefighters have all the same concerns and challenges that the rest of us have. But then the virus adds an extra threat to them personally, and to their families and really to the department and the township. So if you think for a minute about what would happen if an entire shift of police officers comes down with COVID, you not only have their personal health, the health of all of their families to think through and care about, you then have the question of whether other officers in the department were exposed. And then when folks are sick, then you’ve got to have other officers come in and fill in on their own shifts. And so if people get sick, the hours of people working get stretched and people get fatigued, but then the township still has to protect and serve our residents. And so there are some pretty big potential issues that most of us don’t have to think through.

C: How have you seen the officers and firefighters maintain their faith through all of that?

D: Well, I think generally speaking, everyone’s a lot more aware of deeper values in life of how to best care for each other and what matters most. I’ve seen a real strong sense of loving neighbors and caring for people who are vulnerable. A lot of folks I’ve talked to are, you know, like shopping for folks who they know need groceries or reach out to vulnerable people just to make sure that they’re doing okay.

C: How can we be supporting you guys and other first responders and police officers right now?

D: If you know someone who’s struggling emotionally with things related to this virus or otherwise, reach out to them and help them get some perspective so that their challenges don’t escalate into a situation that requires police or fire or like ambulance to show up. A couple of things that come to mind. A lot of the departments in our area, whether it’s our Township, or Ann Arbor police or Washington County Sheriff’s Department, have their own Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. So if people find those and subscribe to them, they can both find out kind of a more of a first responder perspective and also have opportunity through comments to communicate encouragement and support. That actually really helps first responders know that you care and also helps your friends on social media know that as well. 

My experience right now is that there is a sense of greater openness to spiritual direction and input from folks and I think a little bit greater appreciation for the engagement of people in care with the department. So that’s important to keep in mind. And I’ve also seen—well, it’s a small thing—but when you when we have to ask health screening questions and take everyone’s temperature when they’re coming into work there is a little greater sense of both vulnerability but then also care—people really watching out for each other. And that’s a good thing. It’s a tangible way that that care can be expressed and experienced by folks, so that’s been a good thing. 

When you see police or fire or ambulance or hear them, I honestly just take a minute to pray specifically for those folks and whatever challenge they may be about to encounter.