On Tuesday, Sept. 20, all first responders were invited to attend the Blessing of the Badges at the First United Methodist Church in Moorestown located at 446 Camden Ave. Clergy members from a variety of local churches and synagogues were present to anoint the badges of police, fire and EMS with oil.
The ceremony began at 7 p.m. and offered prayers of protection, strength and peace to all service members. Regardless of religious affiliation, all members of the community were invited to attend this supportive event.
Recognizing the courage and dedication of emergency service workers, the idea for this ceremony stemmed from Moorestown resident Connie Murray, who came up with the idea as a way to thank all emergency workers who risk their lives every day.
“I had attended a Blessing of the Badges event in Northern Jersey and it was phenomenal. It moved me to tears,” Murray said. “I knew I wanted to have one here, that I would have to spearhead it and that my home church, the First United Methodist Church in Moorestown, was a large enough venue.”
With dozens of community members in attendance, the service began with an invocation by the Rev. Richard Nichols of the First Methodist Church of Moorestown. After he concluded in prayer, Mayor Phil Garwood presented an introduction and greeting.
“Tonight, we will thank those who spend their careers serving others. Tonight, we salute those who volunteer their nights, weekends and holidays protecting our community,” Garwood said. “Everyday that each of you report for duty, you know all the risks you and your families take.”
Garwood next mentioned all of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty and, although he is not a first responder, he recalled knowing all too well the price some first responders are forced to pay for their service. His wife’s cousin, Capt. Thomas J. Moody of the New York Fire Department, Squad 88, HAZMAT Company №1, lost his life on Sept. 11, 2001, during the attacks on the U.S.
“He gave his life not because he wanted to, but because duty called and he answered. Like all of you, he knew the dangers before him, and in his line of work, he responded,” Garwood said. “You should all be proud of what you do: You save lives.”
Proceeding with the night’s ceremony, Bryan H. Norcross, undersheriff at the Burlington County Sheriff’s department, and Police Chief Lee Lieber discussed the importance and honor that comes with wearing the badge on each service member’s uniform.
Adding to the informative element of this ceremony, Deputy Chief Edgar Thomas of the Moorestown Fire Department and Chief Robert Grant of the Lenola Fire Department explained the Maltese Cross, a cross having four equal arms that expand in width outward. Next, Jennifer Aspinall, EMT of the Moorestown and Lenola Emergency Medical Services, explained the Star of Life on their uniforms, a blue, six-pointed star outlined with a white border that features the rod of Asclepius in the center.
Throughout the rest of the service, Deputy Mayor Victoria Napolitano described the challenges for first responders, and Gary M. Gans, rabbi emeritus at the Congregation Beth Tikvah in Marlton, gave a tribute to the fallen prayer. After Rick Young performed “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, the Rev. Dr. Stanely Hearst Sr., pastor at the Bethel AME Church in Moorestown, gave a blessing prayer.
Lastly, led by Nichols, all first responders, accompanied by their family members, were invited to come forward to have their badge anointed with oil. Individual prayer requests were also fulfilled.