My Encounter With the Aylmer Police

The Incident

Yesterday afternoon I dropped my daughter off at work in town. Near the place she works I saw two Aylmer police cruisers behind the vehicle of an elderly women who looked to be in some distress. Recognizing the woman as a friend I felt it was my place to help, so after driving by I turned around and parked a hundred or so meters back, donned my mask, and set out on foot to see if I could be of assistance. 

There had been a very mild fender bender and the other vehicle had already left. However, there was some unfinished business with my elderly friend. I said hello to my friend and introduced myself to the officers. 

The Encounter

What happened next? I’ll tell you, but first allow me to admit something I’m a little embarrassed about in hindsight.  As I was turning around, I paused as I considered getting out of my vehicle. I second guessed whether I should try to offer assistance. Why? Well, I discovered I was worried about how my offer of assistance might be received. How would the officers respond, in these tense times, in the middle of a state of emergency and a stay-at-home order, to me entering this situation? I wondered if they’d be angry and if their response would be hostile.  

I actually thought these things, and I’d like to say I’m not sure why, but the reason is kind of obvious to me. If you start a sentence with “It’s been a hard year for…” there is no end to the options for how to finish the sentence. But it really has been a hard year for police officers in North America. Closer to home, I haven’t heard much good about the local police in the past year either. Some even believe they are so awful that they’re worthy of intimidation and mistreatment. And so I discovered that my view of police officers has been tainted not by my personal experience, but by the events reported in the news over the last year.

What Happened Next?

But I got out anyway. I offered to help anyway. And I was immediately welcomed with open arms (I say that figuratively, of course). There was not a single negative note in their reception of my assistance. In fact, it was all gratitude and eager cooperation. 

As I continued to enquire about what had happened, I discovered that these two officers had been models of leniency and decency and compassion throughout the encounter. For the sake of my friend’s privacy I won’t mention specifics, but I will say this: the officers, rather than ticketing her hundreds of dollars as they rightfully could have, instead issued three summonses for a court appearance where she will be able to explain her mistake and probably come away with no financial penalty.

Are You Still With Me?

I titled this post in such a way that your assumptions would be tested, as mine were yesterday. Be honest, you probably clicked here expecting a negative report, didn’t you? Because that’s almost exclusively what gets reported. That’s what is deemed newsworthy. 

After the encounter I began to reflect on the other interactions I’ve had with police officers in my lifetime. There haven’t been many but there have been a few: an interview when I was 10 or 11 after it was suspected that a friend of mine had committed arson; a couple of speeding tickets over the years; more recently, being pulled over due to a misunderstanding. Every encounter I’ve had with police officers has been positive. 

Now, I know other people have different experiences – experiences that would lead them to an appropriate skepticism and even legitimate fears in the same circumstances I encountered. I don’t fault them for that, but I should not discount my positive experiences on the basis of their negative experiences. Someday perhaps I will have a negative encounter with the police, and then I’ll write about that.

Are there bad-apple police officers? Yes.

And there are bad-apple massage therapists and bad-apple doctors and bad-apple pastors? Yes. 

And I hate to tell you this, but there is even a “bad-apple-whatever-you-are” too.

The problem is that at this point we’ve heard so much bad news about so many people that we’ve exchanged the benefit of the doubt for the assumption of hostility… and that’s not good. 

Let’s make it a good news day! In the comments below, feel free to share a positive experience you’ve had with law enforcement. 

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A Humble Retraction

I had a phone conversation with John Hueston yesterday. John is the president and editor of our local paper, the Aylmer Express, a paper I mentioned in a recent post on my site. John took issue with my words, and so he reached out to express his thoughts and feelings. It was a lively conversation that included segments of disagreement, explanation, and common ground.

The post in which the offending words appear was not an open letter like the previous post I had written. It was more of a journal entry documenting my emotional state and my reactions to the events of the past months as I experienced them at the time. As a result, I didn’t make the effort I should have to review the sources of my dismay and verify whether my impressions at the time held firm still today, when the dust of those events has somewhat settled.

The offending words in my post read as follows: “Our local paper, in addition to some straightforward reporting, also publishes editorials that are barely less incendiary than Pastor Hildebrandt’s speeches. This also escalates tension.”

My intention with these sentences and the surrounding paragraphs was to shine a light on the sources of escalation in our community. In November, when John published his editorials and I read them, they struck me as harsh, mean, and unhelpful. Having gone back and read those same editorials, with the advantage of hindsight and recent history, they strike me today as appropriately blunt and properly confrontational. They are the words of someone who cares passionately for his community.

What started in my mind as, “Well, that doesn’t seem very helpful…” grew into the aforementioned paragraph. The intention of my words was certainly not to equate John’s life’s work and impact on Aylmer and community with anyone else’s, but I can see how they could be taken that way. And so I owe John an apology. In retrospect, my words were unwarranted.

As a result of this reflection on my part I offer an apology to Mr. Hueston and have retracted the words from my original post, with a link to this explanation.

An Appeal to Pastor Friends (and others) – guest post by Dr. Stan Fowler

Some of you have led your church to disobey governmental restrictions that suspend your public gatherings, and others of you are thinking about it. Some of you have suggested that those of us who accept the temporary restrictions just don’t understand the nature of the church. As a friend and brother in Christ, I appeal to you to dial back the rhetoric and reconsider your choice.

Dr. Stan Fowler is Professor Emeritus of Theology at Heritage College & Seminary. He is an elder at Grandview Baptist Church in Kitchener, and has been in pastoral ministry since 1972 and theological education since 1980. He is the husband of one wife, the father of four, and the grandfather of six. (Facebook/Twitter)

Below are Dr. Fowler’s thoughts on the current restrictions and a word of caution and encouragement to fellow pastors and church leaders.

Some of you have led your church to disobey governmental restrictions that suspend your public gatherings, and others of you are thinking about it. Some of you have suggested that those of us who accept the temporary restrictions just don’t understand the nature of the church. As a friend and brother in Christ, I appeal to you to dial back the rhetoric and reconsider your choice.

Many thoughtful people have argued that the lockdowns are not really the best way to balance all the legitimate interests during the pandemic, and that is a debate that needs to occur, but good people differ on that question. If you accept the idea of a declared emergency, then you should admit that whether the current governmental choices are right or not, it is not a case of tyranny. The governing officials have to decide which “experts” to listen to, and they may have picked the wrong group, but let’s admit that we don’t have a word from God that identifies the right “experts” on this complex question.

The temporary inability to gather is a frustration to all of us. We all understand the good reasons why Scripture instructs us to gather, but the normative practices can’t all happen in their normal way in abnormal times. We are the body of Christ in the world whether we are able to gather in the same room or not. My pastor’s sermon livestreamed to my computer is still his faithful word for this time and place, no matter how it is transmitted. Baptisms do not have to occur in the gathered church, and in fact, there is no such example in the NT. Individuals can be counselled and encouraged via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, or telephone.

We all recognize that none of this is the norm or the ideal, but perhaps we can just be grateful that technology enables us to carry on with most of our ministries in unusual ways. I recognize that there is animosity toward traditional Christian values in various forms in our cultural setting. Various judicial and legislative actions have challenged our teaching of the truth as we understand it and our practice of our faith.

This is not the place to list all of the particulars, but I agree that there are current threats that may well lead us to civil disobedience. There are culture wars that are worth fighting, but temporary restrictions in the interest of public health are not persecution of the church. Giving up our right to gather as usual to serve the common good looks like one example of the good deeds that we should be known for as opposed to being known as rebels (1 Pet 2:13-16).

We may not make the same choices on this point, but you are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and this is my small contribution to the family discussion.

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