Chester Police Chief James Nolan was the sole recipient of prayers for police officers offered by members of Chester’s Macedonia Seventh Day Adventist Church last Saturday. Church Pastor Ronald Williams, Jr. said Nolan’s presence was an important signal in the quest for better police-community relations everywhere
To bridge the trust and communications gaps between African-American communities and police departments, the Macedonia Seventh Day Adventist Church (MSDA) in Chester extended an invitation to several local police chiefs to a special church service and post-service luncheon.
According to event organizers and a press release, chiefs from the boroughs of Upland, Trainer, Eddystone, Parkside and Chester City confirmed their attendance but only Chester Police Chief James Nolan was the only top brass to attend.
“It doesn’t bother me (about the no-shows), my heart and our heart is for the city,” Pastor Ronald Williams, Jr. said. “If all the invitations went out, I’m more excited our own came.”
Although Nolan had prior work-related engagements potentially causing him to also be a no-show at the luncheon, the police chief decided to, instead, attend the morning service where he was treated like an honorary “visitor,” as Williams described it.
“I don’t like to say ‘guest’ because that implies being constantly transient,” Williams said.
During his sermon, Williams invited Nolan, who was seated in the second row at the front of the church, to the pulpit. As the pastor said a special prayer for Nolan and other officers, other church leaders embraced Nolan as the congregants stood, with their hands raised in Nolan’s direction.
“…So chief we want to pray a special blessing over you and all the officers of Chester as well as the other surrounding areas … your job is not an easy job,” Williams said in his prayer. “You never know what you’re going to walk into… pray that God will bless you and protect you and provide a sound mind and the ability to truly do your job in way that brings integrity to the badge as well as to the force…”
After the service, Williams said seeing Nolan, a white police chief, worshipping with the Black congregation “means a lot” and also “shows the mayor’s vision of building community relations with police.”
“It was beautiful,” Nolan said about the service, explaining that because of his job, most of his interactions with community are tense and usually negative.
“It’s good to have that dialogue outside of the courtroom or street corners,” Nolan said.
Blane Stoddard, a community organizer and MSDA member, supported Nolan’s statement from a civilian perspective, “The only time I encounter police is when I call 911 and when I get stopped, these interactions are not positive or neutral.”
Stoddard added, “We need to find ways we can interact with police in a neutral environment and that’s a major problem on both sides.”