Before he became a chaplain, Lawrence Peck built and renovated houses in his native Ontario. Peck recalls spending as much time sitting at peoples’ kitchen tables, “helping them with their family situations”, as he did working on their houses.
“Ever since I was a young person I’ve been a magnet for people struggling with stuff,” the 55-year-old Peck says. “I guess I’m an easy guy to talk to.”
After ten years as a contractor, Peck sold his business and, with wife Melanie, moved to Nova Scotia, where he enrolled in divinity school.
Four years later, the newly graduated Peck found himself in Labrador, building a church, “literally from the ground up,” he says.
“It was supposed to be a two-year term. We ended up staying eleven years.”
Peck spent much of that time as a volunteer chaplain with the RCMP, providing residents and police officers with non-denominational, faith-based counselling.
“I started off intervening in crisis situations for RCMP members. That grew into supporting people in the community as they coped with suicides, violence, and other social issues. The north is a beautiful place, but it takes its toll on people.”
Peck was hired as a full-time chaplain by the Edmonton Police Service four and a half years ago. He has an office in Police Headquarters, but he’s rarely there. “I like to get out and talk to people on their own turf.”
Full-time chaplains are a rarity in Canada’s law enforcement community. Peck says it is a privilege and an honour to be able to help EPS employees deal with the difficult times in their lives. “Most of us are oblivious to what’s really going on in the city. Police officers see the underbelly of society every day.”
Peck encourages people to know their limits, and to understand what sets them off. “If you know what you struggle with, you’ll have a better chance of being healthy.”
One of his responsibilities is talking to police recruits. Standing at the front of the classroom, eager young faces staring back at him, Peck reminds the recruits that just because they wear a uniform they are not supermen and women.
“I tell them to listen to their inner spirit, their gut. If something’s not right in their lives, if something’s not in sync, that inner voice will tell them. The key is making sure you hear it, and respond to it.”