Thirty Clergy In A Jury Assembly Room (To Say Nothing Of The Dog)

Four years ago, I got an invitation to a conference sponsored by the Ann Arbor Police Department. where all of the local clergy could get together with them and discuss, well, I never found out exactly what, because I couldn’t manage to get the day off from work so I didn’t go. My only strong memory of that invitation is that they promised us a chance to meet one of the K-9 units after the conference was done, and I’d missed the opportunity. Really, when was I going to get another invitation like that?

It turns out the answer was “January of 2013”, when I got another invite in the Grove P.O. box. (See? Someone does still send us snail-mail other than bulk rate ads from Dollar Bill Copying.) This time, I did manage to get the day off from work, so off I went to the new AAPD building. (New to me, anyway, I spent many years delivering flowers to the old one, but they began the complete remodel right after I left that job.) The new place is beautiful, and definitely does not have that “fifty year old elementary school that hasn’t even been repainted” feel that the old one had from the inside.

The conference was held in the jury assembly room (presumably no juries needed to assemble that morning), and I ended up sitting with the Salvation Army folks (the easiest ones to guess what denomination they were based solely on their clothing), the ministers fro. St. Paul Lutheran and First Church of the Nazarene, and a representative from the Friends Meeting, who actually recognized me as someone who used their basement for meetings. (Even now that I’m beardless. Weird.)

Most of the presentations were centered on preparing for the possibility of shooting incidents. (Given how many high-profile school and church shootings there have been in the last twelve months, I strongly suspect that was why the AAPD chose to do the conference again this year.) And most of the suggestions centered on making sure the building’s security was taken care of, making sure that the door locks work and everyone knows how to leave the building in case of an emergency. These suggestions were very helpful for the clergy with buildings. For me, not so much. (“In case of an emergency in the nemeton, the exits are there, there, there, there, there, and pretty much every other direction too. Just don’t run headfirst into a tree and you’re good.”) I will at least make sure the non-emergency numbers for the Ann Arbor PD and Washtenaw County Sheriff are in my cell phone, as they’d prefer that we use those numbers in a non-emergency situation like trespassing.

For the breakout session, the other clergy talked about how they hadn’t thought in terms of preventing break-ins or how to deal with possible shootings, and what an eye-opener this was for them. The only concern I could mention was possible protestors showing up and accusing us of being Satanists, which is kind of lame compared to break-ins and shootings, isn’t it? But at least I confirmed that my understanding of trespass law and who to call to deal with that was correct.

After the conference was over, those of us who could stay went on a tour of the new facility. Only about ten of us started out on the tour, and then folks ended up excusing themselves and leaving during the tour, giving the whole thing a weird Willy Wonka vibe. (I said this out loud at one point, and the detective lieutenant responded, “I told them not to touch the walls!”) We got to visit the courtroom and chat with the magistrate in between her court sessions, then we toured the detective bureau and saw the crime lab (it wasn’t as impressive as you’d expect), and then the regular police area with the evidence lockers and taser armory (which actually was as impressive as you’d expect, or maybe I’m just into electronics) and all that.

The final stop was in the basement garage, where the new K-9 unit was located, but we were told not to disturb him. There it was, my own Charlie moment, and I passed. I somehow managed not to go over and peek into the fenced-off area. Sadly, the tour ended, and even though I was the last one to leave, I was awarded neither ownership of the Ann Arbor Police Department nor a lifetime supply of chocolate. Ah well. They did give me money to pay for parking in the structure, so that’s something.

Before I left the building (while Sgt. Bush was getting the parking money for me), I had a chance to chat with Chaplain Jen, who was curious about how I could support my ministry with a congregation of fifteen people. When I told her about my day job, she said, “Ah, you’re a tentmaker!”, which I’d never heard before but apparently is a Christian term for a clergyperson who gets no income from being a clergyperson and has to work another job on the side. So now I know what to call myself at the next clergy conference I attend. I also talked briefly to Sgt. Bush about the possibility of doing an Ann Arbor Pagan Pride Day sometime in the future, and she’s the one I’d be contacting about special event police coverage if we need it, so now I know.

All in all, it was a good experience to meet the other local clergyfolk, even if 80% of the discussion couldn’t be applies to our buildingless Grove. And I will definitely try to go the next time they schedule one. Especially if we get to meet a police dog.

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF