Tim Schroeder has a new pulpit — the Kelowna pastor preaches to the public on behalf of the police, and to the police for the public.
“Instead of viewing the police with suspicion and opposition, we should be doing everything we can to make emergency personnel’s jobs easy and let them know that they matter and we appreciate them,” said Schroeder.
His primary role is to support police officers, but he also wants to encourage the public to show their support and gratitude for the role police play in protecting them: “To encourage the community at large to step up. I do have a bit of a community voice that I don’t think will disappear because I’ve changed my role.”
For years, Schroeder’s role was the face of Trinity Church in Kelowna, and under his leadership the church grew from a congregation of 400 in 1985, when he came from Edmonton, to 2,500 today.
But he grew right along with the church, rubbing elbows and beliefs with the stars in the evangelical movement in North America.
He has been a pastor for 41 years — 34 of them at Trinity Church — but he’s not retired. Rather, he’s reloading.
“I don’t believe in retirement. I’m healthy; I have lot of mileage ahead of me. I have another good leg of the journey, Lord willing.”
He fell into the family business — his parents and his uncle were missionaries in Africa and his father a pastor at home — when he realized his outer vision was not good enough to be a police officer.
But his inner vision was 20-20, good enough for the pulpit and the parish.
“I’ve been pretty passionate about emergency services, law enforcement and the role of policing. I’ve been a chaplain on and off for 30 years and was in the (RCMP) auxiliary for almost 11 years, so my commitment and passion to policing is nothing new.”
The eight to 10 hours a week he spent on the street or in a police car changed him as a person and as a pastor, changes that were often reflected in his sermons.
“I grew up in a loving, stable family that said grace and prayed, no raised voices, so to go into a serious, violent, domestic dispute, to enforce child-custody orders, to see the capacity of what people can do to each other, that was quite an adjustment for me.
“My sermons were different. When I would preach on marriage and the best gift you can give to your children is to love their mother or father, after you’ve been to a handful of domestic disputes, you teach that topic with a lot more passion.
“That exposure was a valuable part of my ability to try to help people.”
His congregation might have changed, but the goal is still helping people. The change in his ministry came with other changes in his life: he turned 65 in February, his wife, Arlene, a nurse, retired, and his son, Travis, a doctor in Hamilton, Ont., is moving to Cranbrook with his wife, Elena, and nine-month-old son, Pete.
“I’ll have a lot more opportunity to be a grandparent,” Schroeder said.
His daughter, Lindsey, is a teacher in Kelowna.
The life changes presented an opportunity to re-evaluate and reflect on what would have the greatest impact for the next leg of the journey.
“In many ways, it was a re-evaluation that comes at one of those milestone events, a lot of life stuff coming together, and the realization that I have been a pastor in a local parish for 41 years and, at some point, if I’m going to make a change, when.”
He approached the Kelowna RCMP detachment and the Southeast District about becoming a chaplain.
“I will be working two-thirds time instead of just out of my back pocket when I had a spare moment.”
It is a win-win-win, for Schroeder, for the police and for Trinity.
“I am being made available to the RCMP out of the Trinity Foundation,” he said. “The police aren’t paying me. The foundation is.”
Schroeder’s police-public ministry is still being defined as it evolves.
“As the needs arise, we will find new ways to try to support members. I am just one more resource of many.”
While emphasizing that he is not a spokesperson for the police, he said it is much more difficult now to be a police officer than when he was on the street as an RCMP auxiliary.
“The expectation of the public has changed. The police are to deal with those who don’t adhere to any societal norms, but we expect them to do it in a respectful and gentle way — while being videotaped by people who have never had to do that job.
“They are also asked to deal with all the toxic, poisoning substances that are killing people by the thousands and handle that in a safe manner. That’s difficult.”
He noted that the proliferation of cellphones has put everyone in the spotlight, not only the police.
“If a schoolteacher steps out of line, it’s 100,000 hits immediately; if a cop steps out of line, it’s 150,000 whereas before, 10 people would have heard about it.
“Everything is exaggerated. Any mistake is magnified.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is a good example of the difference in expectations of emergency personnel and the rest of the public.
“Canadians were told to stay home. Emergency personnel don’t have that option. They go to work and deal with everything.
“This is a cliché, but while everyone else runs away from danger, emergency service people head toward it.”