Log In

Reset Password

A New Chaplain For Newtown Police Department



Text Size

UPDATE (2:15 pm): This article has been updated with the correct website address for Life Line Chaplaincy.

* * * * *

John Revell did not set out to become a chaplain for multiple police departments.

“I never dreamed of being a chaplain,” he told The Newtown Bee in April. “It was never on my radar.”

Earlier this year the recent Newtown transplant became the new chaplain for Newtown Police Department. The local PD announced the addition to its staff in late January. A Facebook post said in part Revell would “serve as a valuable resource for our staff, providing spiritual support, counseling, and guidance as needed. His presence reinforces our commitment to the well-being of our officers and staff, acknowledging the unique pressures and pressures they face in their roles.”

The former pastor of Stamford Baptist Church, Revell met the chief of that city’s police department in February 2012, he said, a few months after stepping into his church leadership position. While visiting, Revell said he told the chief his father had been in the US Marine Corps in the South Pacific during World War II and then he was a police officer, “all before becoming a pastor.

“In growing up, veterans and first responders were very comfortable in my dad’s church,” he said. Consequently, Revell made a point of making sure veterans and first responders were always comfortable in his congregation.

In a surprise move, Revell was invited by that police chief to serve as chaplain for Stamford.

“I’d never considered it. I’d never had any exposure to police chaplaincy or first responder public safety chaplaincy,” he admitted. The idea intrigued him, though, and he accepted the invitation.

Just a few months later he was called upon for his first emergency.

“One Thursday morning in late May, about 4:45, the chief called and said ‘Rev, one of my guys went down hard. I don’t think he’s going to make it,’” Revell shared. The officer was married, with young children, and the chief was looking for the kind of help a chaplain familiar with his department could offer, even a short time after Revell joined the staff.

Revell began visiting the hospital, often joined by his wife Debbie, regularly spending time with the injured officer. The officer survived, “a long recovery,” and the incident showed other members of the department that Revell — or “Rev,” as many have taken to calling him — was there for all of them.

“That started breaking down the walls,” Revell said. “There is a hesitance to let outsiders in sometimes. They started warming up to me.”

His connection with Newtown began in 2012, following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Obviously it hit everybody here, locally, but it also hit the surrounding communities hard as well,” he said. “Our guys, the Stamford cops, they were devastated by it.

“I came with them the following week to do escorts for the funerals,” he added. “The motorcycle officers had me come along with them.”

Standing in funeral homes and churches wearing his chaplain badge, Revell found himself being approached by members of the community, first responders, and families, “just pouring their hearts out.”

That, he said, was his first introduction to trauma, “not just for police officers but also for first responders. It opened my eyes to the reality of not just the kind of trauma that can happen to the general public but the kind of trauma our first responders face on an all-too-often basis.”

Revell has continued to help first responders deal with various crises, including mass casualty events, life-threatening job-related injuries, traumatic criminal investigations, and horrific accident scenes.

As more police officers opened up to the chaplain and shared their burdens with him, he realized the opportunity to serve them “was a lot bigger than I ever imagined.”

He has since been invited to serve as chaplain for Stamford Fire Department and Stamford Dispatch Center, Westport Police Department, and Connecticut State Police Troop A and Troop G. The invitation from Newtown PD Chief David Kullgren came at the beginning of this year.

A New Home

John and Debbie Revell had long dreamed of opening their home to first responders. They wanted to welcome large gatherings and serve meals, he said. They also wanted to provide a centrally located place for first responders of Fairfield County. The former Monroe residents began praying about this, he said.

The Lord, he said, provided property for the couple and their dream home in Newtown. Construction began in October 2021, and the Revells moved into their new home just six months later.

“I was able to do a lot of work myself, and we now live right here in town,” he said.

“We just got enough to where we could move in,” he said with a laugh, “but we moved in. And still, the more we get done, there’s still a million little things to still do. But we’re here.”

The Revells hosted a chili dinner for regional police chiefs, including Chief Kullgren — the first of what they hope will become an annual event — on a Monday night last December. Rank and file officers attended a similar event two nights later.

Kullgren contacted Revell shortly after the new year.

“He said ‘It’s been a while since we’ve had a chaplain. Would you consider being our chaplain?’” Revell said.

Jim Solomon, pastor of New Hope Community Church, was the most recent chaplain for the local police department. He was the NPD chaplain for about ten years, until he and his family moved out of the area in 2016.

Revell accepted the invitation. He also cautioned he may have reached his bandwidth.

“I like to be present. I like to be available. This doesn’t work otherwise,” he explained.

Within a few weeks of accepting the invitation, Revell and his wife visited 191 South Main Street with another batch of their chili, this time providing lunch to their new friends.

Revell now has a regular schedule for visiting the various departments he serves. He’ll visit one department for morning and afternoon line-up one day, and other departments on other days. He joins them during roll call and reminds them that he is praying for them, he said.

The officers know when he’ll be around in person. They also know he’s available to them 24/7.

“Sometimes officers will want to talk after roll call, and I’ll hang out and be with them,” he said. “Sometimes it’s later, off-site. They all have my phone number, and they all know where I live.”

In a statement to The Newtown Bee, Kullgren said having a chaplain available for his department “was a strategic decision to benefit the men and women of our police force and the dispatchers who support us.

“The mental health of our staff is paramount to the success of our day-to-day operations,” he continued. “There is no one method for managing strong mental health for first responders; it must be done in various forms and from different directions.

“Having a strong, experienced chaplain is one of the many ways we support our staff.”

In just a few months, Revell said, local officers have already begun feeling comfortable talking to him.

Life Line Chaplaincy

By the end of 2015, Revell launched Life Line Chaplaincy, a not-for-profit organization devoted to “pushing back on first responder suicides” which are, he said, “at a rate most of the general population has no clue about. It’s very high.”

Between May 2016 and January 2021, Revell said, there were 12 police officer suicides in Fairfield and New Haven counties alone.

“I have devoted the rest of my life to do anything and everything I can to keep first responders out of the morgue from self-inflicted wounds,” he said. That devotion continues to the families of first responders, and sparing them “the horror of making those funeral arrangements,” he added.

Life Line Chaplaincy is devoted to providing resources to push back against those suicides. The organization, according to its website, does this through pastoral ministry, chaplaincy, not-for-profit management, financial management, and business.

In late April, Life Line Chaplaincy presented The GY6 Initiative, a first responder wellness conference at Bristol Event Center. Its name comes from the military and law enforcement term “Got Your Six,” or “I’ve got your back.” To learn more visit llchaplaincy.org.

The free event offered multiple sessions covering the reality and impact of trauma, managing trauma, trauma’s impact on the brain and the body, tackling substance abuse, moral injury among first responders, and protecting families from the job.

The entire event was professionally recorded with the intent of being released online so that anyone could then access the sessions when and where they want to. Despite a growing acceptance of mental illness and seeking help for it, Revell is keenly aware that many still find it difficult to seek help.

“There’s no stigma in watching a video,” he said. “We did this purposely to reach more people.”

Revell was proud to host Chief Kullgren and members of his staff among the first responder agencies from across the state in attendance.


Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at shannon@thebee.com.

Newtown Police Chief David Kullgren (left) invited Reverend John Revell to serve as the police department’s new chaplain at the beginning of the year.—Bee Photo, Hicks
Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply