Sumter religious group brings firefighters together

Special to The ItemAugust 22, 2013 

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— Sumter firefighters have a new outlet for spiritual encouragement in the recently founded local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Firefighters.

Founded by local firefighters Richie Brogdon, president, and Doc Jolly, vice president, the club held its second official meeting on Tuesday with roughly 40 people in attendance.

“We are praising God for this group right here,” Brogdon said.

The group is a mixture of current volunteer and paid firefighters from the city and county, as well as retired firefighters.

“They come to worship,” Brogdon said, pointing out the job of a firefighter is high stress, so it helps to have an outlet for the firefighters to gather and discuss issues in their lives.

Attendees of the monthly meeting can also pay a small fee to partake in a prepared meal.

Engineer Terrance Dupree said the camaraderie eases the pressures associated with the job.

“Sometimes people are uncomfortable in churches, but when you have your brothers around you, you open up more,” he said.

The monthly meetings help participants open up to one another about spiritual matters and, in turn, Dupree said, encourage others to be more active in their spiritual lives.

On Tuesday night, the group shared prayer requests with one another before the Rev. David Bagwell, a chaplain for the fire department, prayed. Later, Bagwell said it was a humbling experience to be a firefighter.

“God allows us to do this,” he said. “Sometimes you are there in the last seconds of a person’s life. The door to eternity is open.”

In those moments, it’s vital, Bagwell said, for firefighters to have the right words to say.

“They could make a decision for Jesus,” he said.

During the meeting, Brogdon announced the group would be called the Franklin/Barber Sumter Fire Department Fellowship of Christian Firefighters in memory of Gene Franklin, a former department chaplain who died in a motorcycle wreck in 2008 and in honor Don Barber, who has taught a weekly Sunday School class for the firefighters at the department’s headquarters for 40 years.

Brogdon said the group’s activity has drawn interest from firefighters across the county. They have advertised mostly by word of mouth, and Brogdon said they are trying to let retired firefighters know about the monthly meetings. “They are a part of our family; they are our brotherhood,” he said.

The group meets the third Tuesday of each month. For more information about the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Firefighters, contact the Sumter Fire Department

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