Pastor Makes History
This May, Rev. Don Brown, FUMC Brazoria, became one of the first six clergypersons in the country to serve in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary’s “Clergy Support” (ACS) program. The ACS program designates qualified clergypersons to assist as unpaid volunteers to supplement the work of the US Navy Chaplains serving the Coast Guard. “It is an exciting honor to provide support to the real heroes of the Coast Guard,” Don shares. “Chaplain, LT, Ken Espinosa of the Houston-Galveston/Corpus Christi sectors is one busy man. It is my privilege to help him out in any way I can,” says Don.
Ken says, “Don is the first UMC pastor to fill this role in Texas.” Adds Ken, “My territory stretches from Lake Charles to South Padre so, if there is an emergency in one area while I am in another area, it will be very helpful to have Don to assist with ministry needs when I cannot be there.” He is thankful to have an auxiliary chaplain resource through this new program, knowing each of the six appointed clergy have been vetted and are trustworthy and ready for service. “Don is a force multiplier,” he adds, “because he will be helping us virtually double our strength to handle ministry needs much more effectively.”
Somewhat unexpectedly, Don became involved with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) ACS program before the program was officially finalized. “While traveling home from Lakeview last year, I received a call from a friend asking for help in providing a funeral location for a mutual friend who was killed in a civilian aircraft crash,” Don explains. “I offered to have the funeral at FUMC Brazoria. Several senior USCG officers were in attendance who mentioned that an effort was underway to add clergy support to the Auxiliary program.”
“Since then, I have been privileged to assist Chaplain Espinosa in conducting a funeral at the USCG base in Galveston for another Auxiliarist,” he adds. “I have also filled in for him at the ceremony recognizing the 47th Master Cutterman, which is the award recognizing an accrued 20 years of sea duty.”
The thorough application process involved a special background investigation, getting recommendations from a USCG Chaplain, a USCG officer and/or commander, verification of academic training, and approval from his District Superintendent, and the United Methodist Endorsing Agency. “I interviewed with the Commander of Sector Houston-Galveston,” Don adds, “and in May I was officially appointed.”
He describes his first “official” task as exciting and humbling. “I offered the invocation at the Coast Guard Foundation's Houston Gala on May 24th. I was honored to meet Commander of District Eight of the USCG, Rear Admiral David Callahan, USCG, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, USCG.” Following the event he received a Commandant's challenge coin as a thank you. “I already have it in a special case,” he adds.
Adds Don, “The next I provided the invocation for the change of command for USCG Cutter ‘Hatchet’ at the Sector Field Office in Galveston.”
Don has been a member of the USCG Auxiliary (Flotilla 6-10 at Air Station-Houston, Ellington Field) since 2008 and served from 1997-1999 before leaving to focus on his seminary education. “Currently, I serve as the Member Training Officer in Flotilla 6-10 along with my recent appointment to the Auxiliary Clergy Support program.”