Pastor Shows Faith in His City

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair

Writer/Photographer

55 Division

Pastor Wendell Gibbs realized many years ago that the faith community could be a vital link between police and the public they are sworn to serve.

It began years earlier as an Assistant Pastor in the Heron Park neighbourhood connecting police officers with members of their community. He has since evolved to wearing a uniform himself as a volunteer Toronto Police Chaplain, ministering to police officers as well as still playing a role connecting police to the community.

Most recently, Gibbs and the Canadian Black Clergy & Allies (CBCA) – a faith-based organization formed in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd – organized a prayer breakfast with police officers and the faith community and prayer walks across the city to encourage greater partnership among police and faith groups.

“We recognize there are challenges on both sides, but we are working towards healing and reconciliation to alleviate the tensions within our community and law enforcement.”

The prayer-walk was an extension of the Etobicoke Strategy which brings Toronto Police Neighbourhood Officers in 23 Division and Faith leaders to walk through Etobicoke, meeting community members and engaging in prayer. Led by Dr. Carmen Lewis and Dr. Andrew King, the Strategy have been prayer walking every month for the last 18 years.

Gibbs – who has been part of pastoral networks for nearly 25 years –also has a full-time role as Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Toronto. Established in 1826, it is the oldest black institution in Toronto, and of the oldest in Ontario.

While 55 Division is where he is assigned as a chaplain, he also serves 41 Division, and 52 Division (within his church neighbourhood), and is also immersed in spiritual care to many other units within the Service.

“What I enjoy the most about this work, is I am able to do exactly what Jesus’ story is all about, reaching out to people from all walks of life, and especially those in law enforcement. They do not fully get the recognition for their dedicated service and danger; when people are running away from a crisis, they run towards it to save lives.”

Gibbs is further collaborating a prayer-walk on April 11, officers and faith leaders will walk in every Division. 

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