Isaiah 61: 1 - 3
In the 1970’s, a TV-reporter by the name of Ken Gaydos saw the tremendous need for a support structure for the staff of Emergency Services in the USA.
As he had been reporting on accident scenes, he noticed that no support was available to those who are the helpers in those crisis times.
He approached the Fire Chief of Seattle, who approved the Chaplain Service to his department, which also resulted in the formation of “International Chaplains’ Ministry”, of which Ken Gaydos remained the Custodian up until January 2019, when he sadly passed away. Rest In Peace Ken Gaydos.
The South African Emergency Services Institute (SAESI), under the then President Simon Barkhuizen from the Germiston Fire Department invited Ken Gaydos during 1989 / 1990 to address the congress regarding the Chaplaincy.
It was also expressed that any kind of Chaplaincy in South Africa would also be utilized to assist traumatised patients and members of the public, besides the role that the Chaplain would play within the Department itself.
The then Fire Chiefs of Boksburg (Nick Swanepoel); Germiston (Simon Barkhuizen); Johannesburg (Alan Cloete); and Roodepoort (Ronnie Cloete) decided to start Chaplain Services within their departments.
The Rev. Claude Kidwell became the first Chaplain to assist the old Johannesburg Fire Department during 1990, with a few more Chaplains joining during the years that lay ahead.
It must however be noted that all these Chaplains, like the situation is today, serve on a volunteer, non-paid basis.
In 1995, the Rev. Frank Meulenbeld joined both Roodepoort and Johannesburg Fire Departments as South Africa’s first full-time but volunteer Chaplain.
Subsequently, more Chaplains joined in other departments as well, like Nigel, Pretoria and Springs.
On the 1st of May 1996 the various Chaplains met for the first Chaplain “Break-away” to have fellowship together, and to discuss the past year as well as the road ahead.
As the Chaplains realized the uniqueness of all the local authorities, including their local Emergency Services, the Emergency Services Chaplaincy (Southern Africa) was formed officially on the 1st of May 1996, to regulate, train, register, and give direction to Chaplains working with their local Emergency Services departments.
This organisation has grown from the original 8 founder Chaplains to over 400 as per date, with Chaplains appointed within all cities within the Gauteng province, and with Chaplains in every province of this country, including Chaplains trained for the Kingdom of Swaziland.
The Emergency Services Chaplaincy (Southern Africa) is registered with the Department of Social Development as a Non-Profit Organisation, as well as a Public Benefit Organisation.
Over the past years a change in approach has been seen i.r.o. the Chaplain service.
Initially, Fire Departments in the larger cities appointed Chaplains as part of their volunteer staff, and issued them with their departmental uniform, wearing unique Chaplain insignia.
However, as smaller Fire Departments in KwaZulu-Natal wanted to appoint Chaplains, it was noted that their municipal by-laws did not make provision for any kind of volunteer / reservist staff, and as other uniformed services inquired about utilizing Chaplains, the national body realized that an independent Chaplain uniform be designed, which all formally registered Chaplains would be able to wear.
This has also been successfully implemented, and our motto has become that “we do not work FOR any department, but we work WITH any department”.
Of course, any department still appointing its own departmental Chaplains are free to do so, even though we do kindly ask to only use Chaplains who have done the official Emergency Services Chaplaincy (Southern Africa) training course, and who are formally registered with the national body. This protects both the Chaplain Service in general, as well as the department concerned.
The Chaplaincy always endeavours to work closely with particularly the Emergency Services Chief of a specific town / district; and to then recruit possible candidates for the Chaplaincy.
A training course is then taught in that community, and those who have completed this course can then join the national Chaplain ministry and they would be allowed to wear the insignia of the Chaplaincy, as these insignia are all registered “trademarks”.
As all Chaplains work on a free and volunteer basis, it is up to the local departments if they do want to assist the Chaplaincy on a financial basis or by providing office space and / or the use of official vehicles.
Early in 2019 a formal decision was made to extend the services of the Chaplaincy - to not only the Fire Departments and Paramedical Services, but officially to any and ALL First Responders that require our services (such as the Metro Police, South African Police, Towing Services etc.)
It was also decided to change the Training Programme, which was previously run in classes at certain locations across the country, to an Online Training system. Through Online Training, we will be able to reach more prospective Chaplains, with the hope of expanding into our neighbouring countries in Southern Africa.
Boksburg, Gauteng, South Africa.
+27 82 329 9973