Bob Douglas turned in his gun and badge Wednesday after 20 years of watching over the people of Baltimore as a police officer.
Yesterday morning, the Rev. Douglas turned all his attention and energy to watching over the congregation of Jenkins Memorial Church in Riviera Beach.
"He's worked two full-time jobs and only gotten paid for one," said Associate Pastor John Taylor. "He's been committed to serving people through police or the church, which he so dearly loves."
The congregation organized a surprise retirement party for him at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie Wednesday.
"We'd be handing out fliers outside the church, and he'd be inside," parishioner Jim Allen said of the secret arrangements. "We'd be talking about it at the bottom of the steps while he was at the top."
Two hundred parishioners and former Police Department colleagues greeted the 48-year-old pastor and his family as they entered the banquet hall.
"I've never had anyone do something like that for me; I'm really touched," said Mr. Douglas. "I like to do things for people, it gives me a sense of self-worth."
He spent all but two of his years with the police in the Crime Resistance Unit, educating people on safety and crime prevention.
Mr. Douglas conducted more than 1,000 security inspections of businesses and homes in Baltimore and spoke to citizens groups about home security and rape prevention.
Mr. Douglas' supervisor, Sgt. Hezzie Sessomes, told the retirement party crowd that he always appreciated Mr. Douglas' candor and openness. "We talked from A to Z, from families to kids to trouble that our families didn't even know about."
Agent Charles Feaster, Mr. Douglas' partner, drew a laugh from the crowd.
"When I first met him, he was my trainer. I learned a lot of positive things: carrying projectors, changing flats, lifting heavy boxes."
Turning serious, Mr. Feaster noted, "I've seen him buy shoes for children who didn't have them. It didn't matter who it was; there was a person in need, and he took the time to help.
"When he said, 'I think I've been called to the ministry,' I felt it was one of the greatest things that
could have happened."
Mr. Douglas said he first heard his calling to the ministry even before he joined the police.
"I was in the Marine Corps during Vietnam, and twice I got my orders but never went," he recalled. "About 98 percent of the people out of boot camp went to Vietnam. I was sent to Washington, where I met my wife. Her father was the pastor of this church. It had to be a divine calling."
In 1982 Mr. Douglas graduated from St. Mary's Seminary with a master's degree in theology and joined Jenkins Memorial Church. In 1988, he became chaplain for the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 3, in Baltimore.
Jenkins Memorial has grown from about 50 parishioners to almost 400 during his tenure. With the growth has come added responsibility.
"I try to be a community pastor," Mr. Douglas said. "Some only watch over their sheep; we watch over the whole community."