If you’re reading this blog, I assume you know me, and if that’s true, then I don’t have to tell you I write true crime – books, articles, and blogs – with a bit of history thrown in for good measure. But what you probably don’t know is that I’m an ordained Christian minister with over 30 years’ experience. If you’re thinking that sounds a bit strange, well, you’re not alone. After all, many believe, the world of crime, murder, and mayhem, are worlds apart from the world of ministry. But are they really all that different?
Years ago, when I was still a young minister, I came to the conclusion that cops (and their world of crime and endless trouble) and ministers aren’t all that different; at least not in certain aspects of the jobs we perform. Police are first responders, and are witnesses to all manner of terrible human acts; and if they’re lucky, they can save some lives along the way. Ministers, on the other hand, are often second responders, performing very particular jobs helping folks recover from these horrific events, and as such, often see (like cops) many situations hidden from the public-at-large. And yet, there are times when the worlds of the minister and the policeman will intersect at the same exact moment, and when that happens, the missions we are on will be somewhat different.
I was coming home late one afternoon on an otherwise beautiful summer day, enjoying the sunshine streaming through my windshield in one of those all-is-right-with-the-world days. Within a short time, however, my tranquility was broken as I came upon a horrific traffic accident where two cars had had a head on collision. Debris was strewn everywhere, and worst of all, from the vantage point of my car, it didn’t appear there was any movement from the occupants of the smashed vehicles. I quickly got out of my car, and with a sense of dread, headed for the macabre scene.
Apparently, I was the first to arrive, and as there were no approaching sirens, I didn’t know when the police would arrive, or even if one of the distant homes had called them (this was before the age of cell phones). My hope was that someone was still alive, and if so, perhaps I could help keep them alive until help arrived, as well as comfort and pray for them if it appeared death was imminent. Within seconds of being there, however, as I gingerly stepped over twisted metal and what appeared to be body parts, it was clear that all involved were deceased. There would be no help as all were now beyond help.
Oddly, as I stood there looking down, I didn’t notice the police car that had slowly rolled up to within feet of the debris field. He immediately asked me if I was an off duty police officer, and I told him no, that I’d stopped to render aid. Sporting a grim countenance at what he was seeing, the middle-aged officer told me I needed to move along, and with that I left.
Walking up on that accident was unsettling for me, as I expected to be met with the worst (their deaths) and I was. But as a minister, it’s my job to respond to those in need of help –both physically and spiritually – and it’s all a part of the real world – my world. The ministry is far more than stained glass windows and happy Sunday morning services.
Long before I penned my first words of true crime or history, I already had a great deal of experience seeing both the best and worst that life has to offer: from the joyous occasions of the births of children, to ministering to the dying and preparing them for the journey to the next world. I have dealt with killers, grieving parents, patched up marriages, visited the sick, ministered to the oppressed, all the while helping people to become stronger, happier, and wiser individuals. It’s all a part of what we ministers do.
Believe me, writing true crime and history is a breeze compared to the ministry.