A productive interfaith information session, hosted by the Manchester Township Police Department Tuesday morning, encouraged an open dialog among local faith-based partners and Manchester Township officials.

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The meeting, which was attended by Mayor Kenneth Palmer, Chief Lisa Parker, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Arthur Abline, Police Chaplain James Davis, and numerous local religious leaders of various faiths, provided an opportunity for everyone to meet and discuss ways they can better serve the residents of Manchester Township.

Mayor Palmer said that it is important all organizations within Manchester Township have open dialogs with each other and residents. This way, they will be able to coordinate their efforts and have clear communication with the public in times of emergency, which could be anything from a major storm to responding to traffic or other emergencies.

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Coordinator Abline noted that, for example, during Superstorm Sandy local places of worship offered services and assistance that town officials previously did not think they were capable of providing. This meeting served as a way for the township and these organizations to get to know one another and discuss how they can provide assistance in times of need.

“Local religious leaders are pillars of our community who have established close relationships with their followers. Developing relationships with them is beneficial for police and the residents of Manchester Township,” said Chief Parker. “It’s important that we know each other’s capabilities, community concerns, and form close partnerships before a critical event occurs.”

An invaluable resource to their community, a police chaplain may help with making death notifications, assist with crisis situations, and mitigate the stress families deal with during difficult times. The services a police chaplain do not have to be religious in nature, as they are inclusive of all faiths and are trained in counseling, crisis management and critical incident debriefing. “Chaplain Davis has been there for many of our citizens during critical times. He is experienced and dedicated to his calling,” said Chief Parker.

“We all need to work together from our various perspectives and respect each other while providing assistance to our community,” said Chaplain Davis. “It’s not about us and our beliefs, it’s for the person that we’re serving.”

Rev. Gary W. Holden, founder, president and CEO of the Police Chaplain Program of NJ, spoke at the meeting, stressing the importance of community engagement. As a clergy member who responded to the Ferguson, MO, riots last year, he said interacting with and getting to know the public plays an important role in helping to ease tensions.