One of the most rewarding parts of life is being a fire chaplain. I love the work and my department. I am a work in progress. Always learning and always training. Most of the chaplaincy worship events are funerals-less than cheery but important. A chaplain in Maryland called for a dedication service for their remodeled station. There were some services around but I took this as a challenge to stretch my brain. It is much like any church dedication service and I think it will play but there on thing worries me.
Here is the question. A fire station is filled with churched, unchurched, Christians, other religions and non-religious alike. So is the community we serve. How much of Christ can I take out of a service like this and keep my integrity? How much can I put in and simply cut myself off from the department and the community without adding any God to the situation? I am blessed to work for a volunteer department that doesn't make me choose! We pray before meetings and are not offended if I ask us to drop and pray at other times. I dare say that many if not most departments are not that open minded.
I am unashamed and unafraid to present Christ. I am not going to dance around the fact that I am a Christian disciple and a Christian pastor but even Paul was "Greek to the Greeks etc.". Where is the line for faith in public and secular gatherings in an increasingly secular world?
My guys pray before going into a burning structures without me telling them too. There are no atheists when the ceiling is dripping fire onto you. I will not compromise myself or Jesus but fear that using too much faith language could compromise my department. Today, I will err on GOD's side! How wonderful it is to give our public buildings and departments to God before anything is on fire.
Here is a sample of a service that a department might use.
A Service of Dedication
A dedication service must be tailored to the needs of the particular department by including local traditions and "inside jokes". This outline is a starting place for a service. Music, speakers, photographs, slideshows and other things can be added. Parts that don't suit the needs of the day can be changed or removed too. This is unashamedly a Christian service and can also be toned down if needed. This is often appropriate but this service starts with a Christ center which doesn't change even if some of the words do.
Make sure there are seats for the guests, The sound system works-it one is needed, and that everyone has arrived before starting. Printed bulletins may be passed out as a keepsake or a receiving line might be appropriate to greet guests as they come in.
Gathering (a time to gather everyone, give any directions, and make thanks to the team putting this event together)
Greeting (The chaplain or other assigned leader addresses the group)
Jesus said, "Listen! I am standing at the door knocking, if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in". Firefighters, friends and family, we are here today to ask God to be present in the new ____________ Fire Station. This is not just a place to store our gear, this Station House holds our department as a family. This is a symbol of God's love and care for us and our response to His calling to protect the people of our community.
Let us stop for a moment and pray. May God be praised in this new building as we offer our skills, our equipment and yes, our lives to the community of _____________________.
Opening Prayer (may be made by the chaplain or another person. A spontaneous prayer might also be more appropriate and less "Canned" for some crowds)
Almighty and loving God
You are our Calling to the fire service. Bless this station and all who serve here with protection, strength, and skill as we go in your name to fight for those who are in danger. Make this a place of strong family ties for all who serve here. Bind us together with cords of duty, friendship and dedication. Use us, we pray, to be strength for the weak, freedom for those trapped, and hope for all in danger. We ask that this new station be a sign to everyone that you are at work through us to our community. (-Name of your community). You are our shield and strength. We pray this in the strong and loving name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
-OR-if your crowd is used to a liturgical prayer you can print this in a bulletin
The Lord be with you
AND ALSO WITH YOU
let us pray
You are our strength and protection. Bless this station and all who serve here with protection, strength, and skill as we go in your name to fight for those who are in danger. Make this a place of strong family ties for all who serve here. Bind us together with cords of duty, friendship and dedication. Use us we pray to be strong for the weak, freedom for those trapped, and hope for all in danger. We ask that this new station be a sign to everyone that you are at work through us to our community. (-Name of your community). You are our shield and strength. We pray this in the strong and loving name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Remembering our History
This would be a time to present pictures, a powerpoint slide show or have a long time member share a few stories of the department's history. Pictures of the old station, pictures of the process of building or remodeling the new station, and artifacts (old equipment, mentioning members who have passed or critical events in the life of the department could be shown or presented). Great care must be taken to be respectful of this time without letting things ramble on.
Presenting our New Station
(An officer, project manager or other person who has been a leader in the process can talk everyone through a guided tour of the new facility. Features, equipment and new operation plans can be talked about. Large donors can be thanked and those who have given of their time and talents honored. This would be a time to give any awards or honor the memory of someone who the building is named for etc. )
(optional, but a fire official, political dignitary, or other interesting presenter would be appropriate. Music or a department "best of" fire scene/interviews/etc. video could also be put here)
Consecration of our Facility
(Everyone should stand as they are able, join hands if appropriate, form a circle if the crowd is small, or make any other show of unity as a team. Fighters might lock arms or simply stand together. A chaplain, priest or other pastor would wait until everyone settles and then invite them to pray.)
Let us pray together and ask God's Blessings on our department, our firefighters and this wonderful new station
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (or in the name of the holy and triune God)
May your protection and provision rest upon this the _____________ Fire Station and all who enter it.
We consecrate it to your service and all in _____________ who are in need.
Bless this house that it will be that place of preparation which gives a sense of confidence and security to all of our neighbors.
May all who look upon this facility experience your grace as it is shown by our calling to the fire service.
In the loving and living name of Jesus Christ. Amen
(something less formal might be appropriate, but a dismissal is important. This ends the service without any awkwardness and sends everyone from this time with a purpose)
Go with God from this place for God goes with you. Amen
You have just witnessed God at work in our community through the building of this station. Go in the excitement and the sense of accomplishment that we have experienced here. In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Thanks to all of you for coming. It takes us all to have a quality Department. You are a part of making this happen. Leave here knowing you are a part of a great community.
have someone pray a simple prayer of dismissal
By Chaplain Alan Van Hooser