by Rev. Matt Ashley, South District Missional Strategist and Superintendent
United Methodist pastors are followers of Jesus who go where they are sent. Some are called to justice ministries with immigrants. Some are called to spiritual formation ministries. Some are called to campus ministry. Some are called to hospital chaplaincy. Some are leaders in the movement for police reform.
For the last 32 years, Rev. Bob Cutlipp has answered his call to minister to the men and women who serve in law enforcement, specifically through the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Bob currently resides in Willcox, AZ and is the pastor at Community United Methodist Church of Bowie. Recently he became the first Chaplain in the history of the Arizona DPS Chaplaincy Program to be awarded the Director’s Commendation.
Bob says that on Thursday, June 10th, he received a call at approximately 4:00 a.m. that a State Trooper had been shot while on duty. Bob was needed at the Northern Cochise Community Hospital to aid the stricken Trooper. As he was getting dressed, he observed out his bedroom window a police vehicle heading towards town. (He didn’t realize until much later that that was his son, who is a K-9 Officer for the Willcox Department of Public Safety.)
Bob left the house as quickly as he could and rushed to the hospital. After being with the wounded Trooper, he received another call to go to the scene of the standoff where the man who had been pursued was barricaded in a vehicle in front of someone’s home. The suspect refused multiple attempts to persuade him to surrender, and the situation ended tragically when Troopers used lethal force on the suspect to keep him from entering a neighbor’s home.
Law enforcement officers are trained in the use of force when necessary in the line of duty, but they are also human beings. As you can imagine, the officers on site were shaken by the experience and the knowledge that a man had lost his life, along with their grief at knowing their co-worker was in the hospital. Bob stayed on site to minister to the Law Enforcement officers from Cochise County, Willcox Department of Public Safety, Sierra Vista Swat Team and numbers of others including Willcox City Officials.
At one point Bob noticed that a number of the Troopers/Officers had been on scene for some 6 hours and most likely were hungry. He went to Carl’s Jr and got food and brought it back to the scene and distributed it to anyone who wanted breakfast sandwiches or coffee. Bob ended up remaining on the scene for over 12 hours.
As a result of Bob’s ministry of presence and compassion to the officers, the Director of DPS came to the DPS District Annual meeting in Hereford, AZ and presented Bob with the Director’s Commendation.
According to Bob, volunteering as a Chaplain means “being God’s hands and heart” to law enforcement officers, who often face significant danger in the line of duty. I invite you to be in prayer for the women and men who faithfully, honorably, and professionally serve in law enforcement. I am grateful for Bob’s faithful response to the ministry he is called to.
Thank you for listening –