When Derby police are called to the scene of a situation that is emotional, tense, confusing and stressful, they are able to offer the services of volunteer police chaplain Ben Ray.
“Pastor Ben,” as he is affectionately called, has filled the pulpit at First Presbyterian Church in Derby since August 2000. When he joined the chaplaincy program 15 years ago there were two – himself and Don Mayberry, then pastor at Pleasantview Baptist Church, who recruited him for the program.
Ray has been the sole police chaplain, “on call 24/7”, since 2014 when Mayberry left to start a church in Augusta.
“Most of the time I’m called if it’s a death notification, suicide…any difficult situation [the officers] will ask if they would like a chaplain to be called,” Ray explained.
Ray acknowledges because it is a volunteer position, he is not always able to follow up with families as he would like and would do in his role as a pastor.
“It affects me every time because most of the time when I’m called, I know they don’t have spiritual guidance and I know I’m in there for a short period of time. At that point, I really try to understand my role as chaplain is to provide the most spiritual care I can, and then what comes out from that I’ll do later,” he said.
Ray has high praise for the men and women at the Derby Police Department.
“I greatly appreciate watching the professionalism of our police department,” Ray said. “Not everyone on suicide calls wants to have a chaplain there, so it’s been moving to see the professionalism of the police as they’ve had to do their job while also being sympathetic with families and situations.”
Ray explained that many times his role is to “run interference for the officers, because they have to do their job so I can ask [family members] questions or I can explain to the family why [the officers] are doing what they have to do…or ask the type of questions they ask.”
“Over the years, watching that professionalism as they have to do their job but also still care for the people they’re serving, and to be a part of that, means a lot to me,” he said.
“This community is very special in a lot of ways. When I get called it’s never before midnight, but we’ve had situations with domestic violence and had to remove someone from the home and find a place for them to stay,” he said.
With cooperation from Derby’s hotel, businesses and local donors, Ray got a grant through the Derby Community Foundation for domestic violence cases “to provide up to two nights at the hotel and some toiletries and other things if they have to leave [the home] with nothing.”
The father of three, Ray has been helping with the Police Appreciation Banquet since 2003, has served for 18 years as the president of the Derby Ministerial Alliance, and occasionally enters charity “runs” with his wife, Tiffany.
“My father was a pastor in Ellsworth, and he never joined any clubs because he thought it was important to always serve the church,” Ray said. “He served the community in a lot of ways, so when Don Mayberry asked me to join the chaplaincy, it clicked that I could do something for the community not associated with the church and be helpful for both. That’s why I said yes, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.”