Nashville police chaplain shared God’s love in wake of school shooting

By Timothy Cockes

NASHVILLE (BP) – Many first responders sprang into action in the aftermath of the tragic shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27. Among them was Sgt. Andrew Ivey, chaplain coordinator for the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) and a North American Mission Board (NAMB)-endorsed Chaplain.

“I would describe it as extremely difficult,” Ivey said. “There was a lot of grief, a lot of uncertainty from parents not knowing if their kids were OK or not.”

The morning’s devastating events caused Ivey and a team of chaplains to respond to provide counseling and support in the wake of the shooting which left three children and three adults dead.

Andrew Ivey, chaplain coordinator for the Metro Nashville Police Department, says chaplaincy is mainly about the “ministry of presence.”

In addition to the MNPD’s three team chaplains, a record number of the department’s volunteer chaplains responded to the scene, Ivey said.

“It was a very tough situation to minister in, but our chaplain team, which is made up of primarily volunteer chaplains, really stepped up and it’s amazing how God used us in the midst of it to provide hope and comfort to people who were struggling with that grief,” he said.

Out of the 27 volunteer chaplains Ivey helps coordinate, 13 responded on the day of the shooting. Many even left work after receiving correspondence about the tragedy from Ivey.

The event was deeply person for Ivey, as his 9-year-old daughter is the same age as several of the victims of the shooting.

“I can’t imagine the hurt that the parents are going through right now,” he said.

“How would I want somebody to tell me that my loved one had died? How would I want somebody to support me in the same situation, and that’s what I want to do for them.”

Ivey’s desire to become a police chaplain dates back to when he attended seminary after finishing service with the Marine Corps in 2004.

“I realized that God wasn’t calling me to the military, but to the police department,” Ivey said. “It can be hard to minister to police officers from being an outsider. I thought if I became a police officer, then I would have the opportunity to minister to the officers more.

“I felt like God was calling me to be a missionary to police.”

After seminary, Ivey joined the MNPD as an officer and has served in a variety of bivocational ministry roles over the years.

In 2013, he began assisting the department’s chaplain coordinator on an as-needed basis; he took over the position as the full-time chaplain coordinator in 2021.

Nashville’s police chaplain coordinator Andrew Ivey estimates that when a shooter killed six people at a Nashville Christian school, 13 of the department’s 27 volunteer chaplains responded, many of them leaving their regular jobs.

He soon reached out to NAMB about chaplaincy endorsement, which he received after finishing training.

Ivey said serving as a chaplain cuts through any superficial barriers that may exist in ministry.

“As a police chaplain, when we’re on the scene somewhere it’s generally because things are not good,” Ivey said. “We’re able to minister to real people in their real feelings in their real situation. It’s really where the rubber meets the road.”

Ivey, who serves as a deacon at Temple Baptist Church in White House, Tenn., said he has also observed Southern Baptists in the Nashville community stepping up to minister in wake of the tragedy.

“So many people from my church were praying for me,” Ivey said.

“My pastors and fellow deacons were texting me. … The chaplaincy leadership at the North American Mission Board were texting me letting me know NAMB chaplains are praying for you. They put the word out to other chaplains in other places asking for prayer.

“I truly believe that myself and our team of chaplains would not have been able to do what we did that day if it hadn’t been for so many people praying for us. God can do through us more than we can do ourselves. Southern Baptist churches have stepped up to minister to the community during this time and be there for a lot of hurting individuals.”

“Being there” is a large part of what chaplaincy is about, Ivey said.

“Chaplaincy starts as a ministry of presence,” he said.

“More than anything we want to be present with the individuals who are hurting, and just let them know we are here for you let us know anything we can do to support you. Sometimes we get to share the message that God loves you by saying it, but we always get to share it by showing them that God loves them.”

Published April 13, 2023

Timothy Cockes

Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.