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In preparation for building the community pastoral care program with the Oakland Police Department (OPD), the Pastors of Oakland (POC) are looking for potential pastors to serve the citizens during the worst of times.
According to Phyllis Scott, pastor of Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries and current president of Pastors of Oakland, OPD chief LeRonne Armstrong is looking for at least 30 men and women to accompany officials to help crime victims and their families in crisis.
The crises can range from murder to sexual assault, domestic violence, car accidents, and more.
Church pastors must be able to serve believers and non-believers alike, and “must work for healing regardless of faith,” Scott said.
The program seeks ministers with cultural literacy to meet the needs of Oakland citizens who are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Taoists – particularly in Asian, Latin American, and African American communities.
Not all parish priests are required to have a religious affiliation. Professionals such as teachers, caregivers, and healers who have worked in the community for several years can also serve.
Although Scott believes that some cultural values can be imparted in education, teaching a language is not that easy and so bilingual chaplains will also be in demand.
“We’re looking for people who have a heart for Oakland,” she said.
Lt. Aaron Smith, who is helping Chief Armstrong expand the program, agrees. There are currently 15-25 chaplains on call, but “not all are ready to go where the emotions go,” he said.
Once the details are in place, the dates for the training will be set, said Scott, who was self-certified for the work in 2009. The training consists of six weekly sessions and is taught by specialists who are familiar with the emotional states of shock because of murder, domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking “without disrupting law enforcement,” said Scott.
Typical needs include help with planning a vigil, getting a victim’s body out of the morgue, finding a church or an inexpensive location for a funeral. Once these problems are resolved, the family can grieve freely and then begin to heal.
Scott cited a case where a boy was shot dead and the family and community were essentially afraid to openly grieve for fear of reprisals. This is where pastoral care came in and partnered with OPD to ensure the young man was safely buried, Scott said.
OPD and Pastors of Oakland want chaplains located in every part of the city, such as East Oakland, West Oakland, and North Oakland. After being contacted by OPD, a ‘Beat’ captain will call the chaplain or chaplains in the area who have agreed to be available day and night.
Off the streets of the city, Scott Community would like to see Kaplains at Highland Hospital, where many trauma victims are treated and where further violence can be perpetrated against victims, such as gang members trying to kill someone who survived an attack.
Scott said she was preparing for an escalation in violence not only because it is almost summer, the most dangerous time of year of the year, but because the number of murders this year was alarming despite the pandemic.
There were four murders in a week last month: two 17-year-old boys were shot, and the next day two teenage girls died when a party bus was shot by more than one assailant as it drove off the freeway and landed on the 73rd and MacArthur – just a few blocks from Scott’s house. You wish she could have been there.
To learn more about the parish priests, please call Pastors of Oakland at 510-688-7437.