Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy celebrates 25 years of ministry

  • Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Volunteer chaplains from 1992. PHOTOS PROVIDED


The Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy was envisioned by the Rev. Edward Robinson “Rob” Dewey in November 1990. And now, 25 years later he says, “never in my wildest dreams would I have thought it would be as accepted as it is by the 38 agencies we serve or the community at large.”

A 25th Anniversary Celebration for the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy will be held at the Charleston Marriott on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. The event will feature a large silent auction, and the David Archer Band will entertain guests throughout the evening. Tickets are $100 for civilians and $50 for First Responders, with heavy hors d’oeuvres included. If you would like purchase tickets, to learn more about becoming a sponsor for the event, or if you have an item or service to donate to the silent auction, please call Tara Abbott at 843-724-1212.

According to Dewey, when the chaplaincy began in 1990 he was doing ride-alongs with deputies. Now, alongside emergency personnel, chaplains are first responders in their own right.

“As I look around the country and we continue to be one of the most active chaplaincy programs in the United States, I realize we couldn’t do this without the community and the agency directors’ support,” he said.

“It has been exciting for me to be a part of this metamorphose and growing experience and watching it all happen.”

Being there when asked is a way of life for the chaplains and volunteers. The philosophy is “a ministry of presence in a time of need.”

But to do that the chaplaincy needs the continued financial support of the community. Only eight percent of their funding comes from government sources. The rest comes from churches, civic groups and individuals.

“As a nonprofit ministry we’re in the process of raising money to hire a third chaplain so we can offer the community even more time and better services,” said Dewey. “We have 19 volunteer chaplains but often they are not available on weekend and other times. A third chaplain would allow us more flexibility.”

The history

Prior to his attending seminary and being ordained as an Episcopal priest, he was a certified police officer in the state of North Carolina. Later, while serving as Assistant Rector for St. John’s Church on John’s Island, S.C., Rev. Dewey served as a volunteer police chaplain for the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. This unique combination of experiences helped him realized that, due to the very nature of their jobs, law enforcement officers frequently require the support and counsel of qualified professionals in the management of stress related symptoms.

He also saw that there was a very real need to have a Chaplain on the scene of a police response who could act in a pro-active mode and offer support and comfort to both the officers and the public/victims, and that these needs were largely not being met in the community.

With the assistance of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy of Charleston County was formed in September of 1991. It originally was an adjunct ministry of the Episcopal Diocese, responsible for raising its own funds, with an advisory board consisting of community volunteers who administered the program. In 1993, the name was changed to the Coastal Police Chaplaincy in order to include the seventeen agencies it now serves.

In 1994 the Coastal Police Chaplaincy was incorporated as a nonprofit organization. That same year a survival follow-up program was established, all staffed by volunteers. These people are trained to administer follow-up support to victims.

In an attempt to ensure that the name was representative of all the agencies that they served, the board of directors voted in 1997 to change the name to Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy.

How it works

The Coastal Crisis Chaplains are on call twenty-four hours a day and can be reached by county and city emergency dispatchers as well as officers and citizens. Chaplains offer a unique type of assistance, especially in a sensitive situation.

The Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy is a member of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Chaplains Association and The International Conference of Police Chaplains. Rev. Dewey is one of 120 trained FBI Chaplains in the United States and a SLED Chaplain. He also served as President of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Chaplains Association from 1992 until 1996. All Chaplains are ordained ministers and must meet rigid qualifications for selection and training in the program.

Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy is frequently called upon to provide training to establish similar programs in other areas and to respond to natural disasters.

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