Pastor David Szeto selected as Merrill Fire Department’s first Fire Chaplain
FOR THE TOMAHAWK LEADER
MERRILL – St. John Lutheran Church Pastor David Szeto has been selected as the first Fire Chaplain in Merrill Fire Department’s 130-year history.
The process to select a fire chaplain started in May, when the fire department contacted each of the religious organizations in the area to see if their leader would also be interested in serving as chaplain for the department. The fire department received five responses back from interested church leaders. Each chaplain candidate was brought in to meet with each of the three crews that work at the fire department. Members of the department were then allowed to interview each of the candidates.
After the interviews, Pastor Szeto was selected by the membership of the fire department to serve them as Chaplain. Szeto graciously accepted the new role.
The primary duties of a fire chaplain are to provide mental, psychological and spiritual support to emergency responders. Fire departments today are promoting more than just physical health, but also mental health for their members.
“I have always said as fire chief, it is my job to return our members back to their families at the end of their shift and the end of their career in one piece/peace,” noted Merrill Fire Chief Josh Klug.
In addition to providing service to members of the Merrill Fire Department, Chaplain Szeto will also be available to assist in the community on potential emergency-related calls. Death notifications and immediate grief counseling are also functions that he is willing to provide.
If Chaplain Szeto is needed, the fire department can send him an immediate request to join them on scene.
Even though this is the first time Szeto has served as a Fire Chaplain, he has been in the ministry for 13 years. He went to Concordia Seminary at St. Louis, Mo., and first served at Trinity Lutheran Church & School in Hicksville, N.Y. He and his family moved to Merrill in 2009 when he was called to St. John Lutheran Church. They left in 2013, only to return again in 2015 to serve as the lead pastor at St. John.
“I am honored and humbled to serve the Lord and members of the Merrill Fire Department as their Chaplain,” Szeto said.
“While the position is voluntary and thankless, we know that Chaplain Szeto will play an important role in the success of our department and the overall well-being of the Merrill community,” Klug stated.
Chaplain Szeto is planning to attend the annual Fire Chaplain conference held during the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs conference. He will also receive additional training throughout the year when available to assist him with his new chaplain duties.