After receiving letters and emails of support from the Sumner community following shootings of police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas, the Sumner Police Department got a chance to connect with the public.
Sumner Police Department Chaplain Bob Ihler teamed up with Pastor Rochelle Richards to organize a formal prayer time that occurred on July 20 at the First Christian Church on Wood Ave.
“We wanted to do something to support police in the community,” said Richards, who thought of the idea for the prayer time. “We got a lot of support. We have so many cookies.”
Richards planned the event by connecting with city officials and the police department, as well with the community through the First Christian Church’s Facebook page.
We thought it would be nice to create a space to say that you can come here and we’ll pray for you, and it doesn’t matter who you are.
Pastor Rochelle Richards
“We thought it would be nice to create a space to say that you can come here and we’ll pray for you, and it doesn’t matter who you are,” said Richards, who has been ordained as a pastor for 18 years.
The event took place between 2 and 5 p.m., with law enforcement, community members, and even the mayor stopping by to talk.
It was very important that everyone there felt acknowledged and valued, Ihler said.
Ihler is no stranger to helping others deal with traumatic experiences. Ordained as a chaplain for 50 years, he not only offers help to families involved in accidents, homicides, suicides, and the like, but he’s there for his fellow police officers, as well.
“It has to be a calling,” Ihler said. “You have to be drawn to it spiritually and morally, and you have to be willing to work hard to do it.”
It has to be a calling. You have to be drawn to it spiritually and morally, and you have to be willing to work hard to do it.
Sumner Police Department Chaplain Bob Ihler
Ihler said it was important to build relationships with members of the community up front, and that he often sees small acts of kindness, like people waving when they pass by.
Police Chief Brad Moericke also witnesses some of the generosity that comes their way.
People will buy Starbucks gift cards and leave them to be used on police officers who come in for a drink, Moericke said.
In addition to acts of kindness, others voice concern for law enforcement and ask if there are plans in place to protect police officers should anything happen.
But Moericke assures that there are, and that “no call is too small” when it comes to the Sumner community. He aims to create positive relationships by providing people with the resources they need — no matter the situation.
Community members are finding other ways to support law enforcement, too. The color blue is being used in particular. Many are replacing the regular bulbs on their front porch with blue ones, while others are marking the back windows of their vehicles with a strip of blue tape.
Both Ihler and Richards said it’s possible there will be more official prayer times in the future, but for now they are pleased with the positive atmosphere created during the event.
For Richards, Ihler and Moericke, the most important thing was creating a presence of positivity and support.
“We are part of the community,” Moericke said. “We are people, too.”