Originally published on SouthWalton.Life on June 9, 2018.
A New Ministry Evolves
How a ministry got started:
Emily Rose Proctor is on a mission. Emily moved to Santa Rosa Beach three years ago with her husband, Richard, who accepted a call as priest at Christ the King Episcopal Church. “I grew up vacationing on Hwy. 30A,” said Emily. “But when we moved here, it didn’t take me long to begin seeing things from a different perspective. First, I began to notice all the everyday people who served the tourist industry. I saw many of them working long hours from May-September and then struggling to make ends meet in the off-season. Few of those I talked to attended church regularly, and seemed to be one crisis away from really being in trouble. “I began to wonder ‘where would these people go for support in times of trouble’.” Emily also met many families who had just moved to the area and were doing well financially, but still struggling to find community and establish networks of support. “Even people living here in paradise experience crisis and sometimes struggle to adjust to their new life here,” she said. “Where and to whom would they turn to for help?”
That’s when the idea of a community chaplain began to take shape. “ I was familiar with the role of a chaplain in a hospital and knew that Sacred Heart Hospital had chaplains on staff for those experiencing medical crises, but what about those whose crises and struggles didn’t send them to the hospital?” And, while the church community focused on members of their church and visitors, she wondered about the many “unchurched” in our community. What would it be like, she wondered, to have a community chaplain—someone trained to provide pastoral care, but who could also help connect people to the existing resources in the community—both community and faith-based?
In January of 2017, with the help of Christ the King Episcopal Church, the South Walton Ministerial Association, the Joyful Blessings Foundation, and in collaboration with Caring and Sharing of South Walton, the SoWal Community Chaplaincy was officially launched. Emily says her dream for the partnership with Caring and Sharing is for the community chaplain to provide assistance to anyone who lives, works or vacations in South Walton County by providing pastoral care, information and referrals to community and faith-based resources. This also includes working with other nonprofits, churches, civic groups, individuals, and businesses to provide opportunities for rehabilitation, with the goal of helping more people who live or work in South Walton achieve financial independence and well being, and ultimately make South Walton a better place to live, work and visit for everyone. “I’d love to see Caring and Sharing become a kind of community resource hub where people could come, not only for a bag of groceries or utility assistance, but also for prayer, financial education classes, job training, AA meetings, and to meet with other service providers who might serve south Walton County, but not have an office here, such as Shelter House or the Homeless and Housing Alliance,” she said.