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Get to know the Red Wing fire chaplain

Red Wing Fire Chaplin Michael Montgomery. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Fire Chaplin badge. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

Name: Michael Montgomery

Title: Fire chaplain

What brought you to Red Wing?

We were granted residency in New Zealand after living in the country for four years, but we had a connection in Minnesota tell us about an opportunity to pastor here in Red Wing. We visited and we loved it.

My wife wanted to be back in the States in a small town, close to a big town, in a historic home where the kids could grow up. The kids were ready to come home, too. Now, even though my son is homeschooled, he's on the robotics team at Red Wing High School. He's got a lot of opportunities ahead of him.

Have you ever worked as a chaplain before?

I've been a pastor for 20 years, and when I was working as an assistant, some of the pastors I worked with have been chaplains. In fact, one of the guys I worked with was the police chaplain in Littleton during the Columbine tragedy and another was an FBI chaplain who helped after 9/11.

They always said, if you get to be a chaplain you should take it because it's a different kind of ministry. It's an opportunity to be in the community in a different way.

Did they have any advice for you?

I called several of them before I took the position in March and each one of them said it's a ministry of presence. What they meant by that is you can have the title of chaplain, but if you never come around, they're not going to open up to you and they're not going to call you. The fact that I was asked to perform a wedding for one of the paid on-call firefighters a couple weeks ago — I was privileged to do that.

What does a fire chaplain do?

If there's some kind of a crisis, a fire, a family's watching their house burn down, my role is to go in there and minister to them. I'll also find out if they're connected to a church, a faith, and put them in contact with that organization or church.

But I'm also available for the firefighters. They see stuff all the time and sometimes they might not need to talk, or need someone to pray with, so I roll around to the department a couple times a week and stop in and hang out with the guys and get to know them.

What's it like working with the fire department?

Red Wing is a small town, but we have a great fire department and hopefully everyone appreciates that. When you hear the sirens, there's a good group of guys and gals that are responding and you might need them someday. We have a great chief; he has a lot of vision and he really cares about his team.

Is it challenging to find time for chaplain work on top of your other responsibilities?

I look at it as an opportunity to serve. Everyone has a job, and then if they go to church they're probably asked to serve on top of that or part of a community organization. To me it's just an opportunity to serve our community of Red Wing in just a different capacity outside of being a full-time pastor. For me it's not a burden, it's a pleasure.