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

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Mill Creek’s Donna Michelson ready to retire at year’s end

The city’s longest-serving council member says she has every intention of staying involved.

Smokey Point Behavioral Hospital accepting adolescent patients

The facility is the first mental heallth unit in the county to offer in-patient services for children.

Within an hour, 2 planes crash-land at Paine Field

One simply landed hard and went off the end of a runway. Another crash involved unextended landing gear.

Ian Terry / The Herald Westbound cars merge from Highway 204 and 20th Street Southeast onto the trestle during the morning commute on Thursday, March 30 in Lake Stevens. Photo taken on 03302017
Pay a toll on US 2 trestle? 10,000 say no on social media

A GOP lawmaker’s chart shows theoretical toll rates of up to $6.30 to cross the trestle one way.

Teen murder suspect captured — then escapes and is recaptured

The 16-year-old is one of at least three young suspects in the shooting death of an Everett woman.

Most Read