‘Helping people in a crisis:’ City chaplains help ease the pain during tragic events

Although he's been doing it for 25 years, it has taken Pat Hamman several steps in different directions before he became one of Redmond's city chaplains. The 62-year-old grew up in southern California and spent some time in Hawaii. He went to college with the intention of becoming a school teacher, but after graduating 40 years ago and working in the profession for a few years, Hamman decided his calling was elsewhere. "I just felt God's invitation to share my faith with handicapped boys and girls," the Redmond resident said.

City of Redmond Chaplain Pat Hamman speaks at the Redmond Senior Center's First Friday Coffee Chat on Dec. 3. Hamman has been chaplain for the city for 25 years. He works with the fire and police departments and is on call 24/7 to respond to emergency situations.

City of Redmond Chaplain Pat Hamman speaks at the Redmond Senior Center's First Friday Coffee Chat on Dec. 3. Hamman has been chaplain for the city for 25 years. He works with the fire and police departments and is on call 24/7 to respond to emergency situations.

Although he’s been doing it for 25 years, it has taken Pat Hamman several steps in different directions before he became one of Redmond’s city chaplains.

The 62-year-old grew up in southern California and spent some time in Hawaii. He went to college with the intention of becoming a school teacher, but after graduating 40 years ago and working in the profession for a few years, Hamman decided his calling was elsewhere.

“I just felt God’s invitation to share my faith with handicapped boys and girls,” the Redmond resident said.

So, Hamman accepted this invitation, went back to school and began following his bliss. Eventually, however, he felt another pull. He moved to Redmond in 1962 and began working as a pastor at a non-denominational church in town. In 1985, Hamman also began volunteering part-time as chaplain for the City of Redmond. Then, 14 years ago, he left his church to be a chaplain full-time.

“I’m a man of faith and I love to serve people,” said Hamman. “Church pastoring is my background, but helping people in a crisis is my passion.”

“Helping people in a crisis” is an accurate way to describe the duties of a chaplain. Hamman and Phyllis Oswald Rogers, the city’s second chaplain, work with the city’s fire and police departments when responding to emergency situations. The chaplains, who work on a volunteer basis, are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and must be available to respond to anything from a fire to a medical situation.

Hamman said their role can be can be practical in handing out water bottles or blankets, emotional in providing a shoulder to cry on or spiritual upon request. With the latter, he said, they ask the individual or family what faith practice they belong to, offer to call their priest, rabbi, imam or another religion leader or offer to pray with them for their loved one.

Oswald Rogers came on as chaplain four years ago. In addition to her role with the city, she is also a licensed mental health counselor at inLife Clinic in Bellevue. Oswald Rogers has been in private practice for 12 years and specializes in traumatic loss, transitions and couples counseling.

The word “chaplain” is often associated with the negative: death. But Hamman said there are other situations when a chaplain is needed such as weddings, ceremonies and dedications.

POSITIVE APPROACH

Hamman spoke on Dec. 3 at the Redmond Senior Center’s monthly First Friday Coffee Chat — a public forum that began a little more than a year ago as a public service to provide the community with an opportunity to gain insight about different city entities — to dispel the negative connotations that come with his profession.

“I’m known for the crisis,” he said. “(But) I get to do good stuff, too.”

Hamman also discussed how he and Oswald Rogers “must maintain a state or readiness.” This extends beyond being on call at all times. Most of their time spent in capacity of city chaplain is spent training others or being trained in crisis intervention, on topics ranging from stress to suicide.

Nicole Rogers, who is the police program coordinator for the City of Redmond, said Hamman and Oswald Rogers are very dependable and are always there when needed.

“They’re both amazing individuals to work with and are consistently working to get better in supporting the community,” she said.

Rogers oversees about 40 active volunteers and said the chaplains consistently put in the most hours, coming in at 50 to 100 hours per month. She added that because the chaplain role is unlike other volunteer roles, Hamman and Oswald Rogers break down their hours by task, stating whether they were on scene, on a police ride-along, training, offering continuous support or doing anything else their chaplain duties require.

With an average of three to 10 calls per month, Hamman said only a few of their monthly hours are spent on the scene of an emergency situation.

SERVICE TO ALL

In addition to offering their services to the public in times of both crisis and calm, Hamman and Oswald Rogers are also there for the police and fire departments. Much like their services to the public, the chaplains offer the support these teams need after answering an intense call. They help facilitate discussions that allow police officers and firefighters diffuse and unload afterwards. If a team has dealt with a particularly difficult situation, the chaplains may set up more times later on for additional discussions.

“(Police Officers and firefighters) are not wired to deal with the emotional, relational or spiritual,” Hamman said.

He said whenever he or Oswald Rogers arrive at the scene of a critical incident, the emergency response crew often sighs in relief — not only because the chaplains are around for the civilians, but also for the crew.

Hamman added that when the job becomes overwhelming for them, he and Oswald Rogers will talk to other chaplains in the region to diffuse their emotional distress, much like what they do for the firefighters and police officers they help.

Rogers said the chaplains assist the departments more times than she can count. Hamman and Oswald Rogers are there for both departments to lend an ear, whether the firefighter or police officer is dealing with a professional, personal, family, financial or other issue. The chaplains also spearheaded a peer support program for both departments so firefighters and police officers can learn how to support their colleagues as well, Rogers said.

“They really took the initiative to put together this training,” she said.

Rogers said the chaplain program has been so valuable to the city that Hamman and Oswald Rogers would be greatly missed if absent.

“It would be detrimental. I think it would be a big loss,” she said. “Pat and Phyllis are two individuals we can always turn to. The service both of them have given, I can’t even put into words.”

But Hamman said he and Oswald Rogers won’t be able to be chaplains forever. After 25 years on the job, he is transitioning from being a practitioner to a trainer/mentor. Hamman and Oswald Rogers are currently looking for clergy who are willing to be trained as chaplains for the city’s fire and police departments.

“We need to begin recruiting and training the next generation,” he said.


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