Almost three years ago, Emily Proctor moved to Santa Rosa Beach when her husband was called as a priest to Christ the King Episcopal Church. It was then she noticed that the people of South Walton struggled to find support and assistance in times of need.
Proctor began SoWal Community Chaplain Inc. to reach those who live, work or vacation in South Walton.
“The cross-section in South Walton of new residents and vacationers from all over the country and lower income employees makes for a unique context for ministry,” Proctor told The Sun.
Proctor also said that in South Walton there is a need for more awareness of available resources and greater collaboration between faith-based and community-based organizations and service providers.
“I am also very part-time at Red Bay Presbyterian Church, preaching to the ‘Metho-Bapterians’ there every third and fifth Sunday,” she said.
Proctor defines her job in SoWal Community Chaplain as having three parts. First, as an ordained Presbyterian minister, Proctor is able, in partnership with Caring and Sharing, to provide pastoral care to those who may not have a home church to help them through times of crisis.
“I visit grief and caregiver groups, volunteer as a chaplain with the South Walton Fire District, participate in the South Walton Ministerial Association’s community events, and help organize occasional events such as a Service of Remembrance and Healing with Santa Rosa Beach Community Church last December,” she said.
The other parts of her ministry include helping increase public awareness of available community and faith-based resources and working with Caring and Sharing and other organizations to increase access to services for people in South Walton.
“This is a long-term process of building relationships, assessing community needs and opportunities, participating in existing collaborative initiatives and perhaps initiating new ones,” Proctor said.
Proctor grew up Presbyterian in Dothan Alabama, and spent time vacationing in South Walton with her grandparents.
“I went through a period of agnosticism at the end of high school and the beginning of college before I had a ‘Holy Spirit’ experience and encountered Jesus at my denomination’s General Assembly, where I was a Young Adult Advisory Delegate in 2000,” she said.
This experience led her to begin her ministry work with people struggling with disease, mental illness and homelessness. She followed that with a year working in New Hampshire with low-income students.
While at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, she also spent a year as an intern, focusing on outreach and pastoral care.
“I met my husband, Richard Gillespie Proctor, in seminary and we got married in 2010, a year after graduating,” Proctor said. “We have both served churches in Baltimore, Maryland, and Jacksonville, Florida. We have a two-year-old son Julian and a three-month-old daughter Madeleine.”
Proctor’s goal is to have the work she is doing become a part of the ministry of Caring and Sharing of South Walton.
“I could also lead workshops or trainings in areas such as conflict mediation, how to find the help you (or your employee) need, helping without hurting, etc.,” she said. “This ministry has so much potential to serve so many different community needs.”
For more information about the SoWal Community Chaplain, please visit www.sowalchaplain.org and like the SoWal Community Chaplain on Facebook to keep up with all the latest news.