Chaplain retires after 20 years of giving comfort

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — For 20 years, Matthew Lambert prayed he would not get the call.

It is not that the volunteer fire district chaplain didn’t want to help or minded getting up in the middle of the night. He just didn’t want people to suffer.

Inevitably, the calls would come and Lambert would go to offer his support to those who lost their homes or perhaps a loved one.

It was a meaningful calling. He considered the opportunity to help a gift from God.

“I think it’s the connection with families in distress,” Lambert said. “Many times they don’t know what to do. You come there and get to be like a family member.”

Lambert has stepped down as a fire district chaplain. He remains a pastor for the Bethel Chapel in Mountlake Terrace. He’s been there for more than 30 years.

In 1992, he began to volunteer as a chaplain for the Mountlake Terrace Fire Department. He moved over to Snohomish County Fire District 1 when Mountlake Terrace merged. In doing so, he became part of a sprawling district that stretches from the Snohomish-King county line to south of Everett and serves roughly 200,000 people.

Lambert is thankful for technological advances, such as a GPS system that helps him find his way to door steps in neighborhoods he does not know.

“It really took a lot of the stress out of it,” he said.

Fire District 1 Assistant Chief Brad Reading figures he has been on hundreds of calls with Lambert over the years. They met at the Mountlake Terrace department when Lambert signed up. A year ago, Lambert performed the wedding ceremony when Reading remarried.

“We are definitely going to miss him,” Reading said. “He truly cares about people, and he has a great sense of humor. You can talk to him about anything.”

With church and family obligations, Lambert, 69, thought about stepping down many times over the years. The support of his wife, Su, kept him going.

“I am a pastor, but often my wife was just as involved,” he said. “We always just prayed and asked for God’s guidance.”

Fires were just a part of the calls Lambert took. More common were medical emergencies.

Some people were believers; some were not.

Lambert said he would assess and respect each situation as he helped families through their grief.

“You only do what they request,” he said.

For those who were receptive, he would sing to soothe them.

Reading said the role of chaplains is invaluable whether it is through prayer or practical advice.

“The good part is when the chaplains get there, they can take care of the families for us so we can do our job,” Reading said. “They usually stay involved well after we leave. They really help the fire personnel on the scene.”

Lambert could recall many cases over the years. Yet no two calls were exactly the same and the opportunity to serve was rewarding, he said.

“Every case is different,” he said. “Once you help them through the grief and the process and follow up, they are so grateful.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

More in Local News

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
Everett’s brush with Katharine Graham, leader of ‘The Post’

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson recalls The Washington Post publisher’s visits to Everett.

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Edmonds police are searching for Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, in the homicide of his roommate. If you see him, call 911. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Train kills man who was trying to get off tracks in Monroe

The conductor said he attempted to stop after sighting the man, who’d been lying on the rails.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

Most Read