Being fire department chaplain his calling
Sunday, May 18, 2008
THE REV. MARK D. SMITH
59, born and raised in Randolph, where he currently resides.
Smith, pastor of the Andover Presbyterian Church in Andover Borough, was recently named chaplain of the Byram Township Fire Department.
"It's been several years since we had our own chaplain. Pastor Mark will be fitted for his fireman's gear with 'chaplain' on the back," Fire Chief Paul Conklin said earlier. "He is part of the Byram Township Fire Department."
Smith said he's felt a religious calling throughout his life. He served as a youth minister in Clifton in the 1970s and did his undergraduate work at Oklahoma Christian University.
But he ended up taking a job in the corporate world at the Berkeley Heights-based AT&T, later Lucent, where he worked for many years in international sales, selling products in India, Indonesia, Taiwan and China.
After "filling in" for many years at the Mine Hill Presbyterian Church, Smith decided to take the plunge and formally advance his career in the clergy by enrolling in the New Brunswick Theological Seminary.
"My dream for the ministry never died," he said. "The church has always been a part of my life."
Not too old
After enrolling in the seminary, Smith was surprised to see that many of his classmates were also middle-aged people with a calling to Christ.
"I thought I'd be saying, 'Gee, I'm the oldest one here.' But the average age in my class was mid-40s," said Smith. "One person even said, 'I'm going to be 70.' It was very encouraging.
"A lot of people in their 50s think their future is behind them, but that's not necessarily true."
Following his graduation from the seminary, Smith took over as pastor of the Andover Presbyterian Church, whose motto is: "The Small Church with the Big Heart." He has served in Andover for the past three years.
Spreading the word
Smith sees becoming chaplain for the Byram firefighters as a way to spread the word of God -- and to help fire victims in a time of crisis.
"I want to support them in any way I can. I was approached to join the department and I jumped at the chance," said Smith, noting that many of his church's approximately 80 parishioners live in Byram.
"I want to provide emotional and spiritual support to the firemen and their families, as well as to families in crisis," he said.