Police officer trades in red surge to become man of the cloth
AMHERST – A career change from the RCMP to the ministry might seem unusual to some, but for Shawn Wheaton it was just a matter of listening to Him instead of himself.
After 22 years of police work, the new minister at Crossroads Gospel Temple left the force in 2009 after he felt he was called to another path.
© Andrew Wagstaff - cumberlandnewsnow
Shawn Wheaton is the new pastor at Crossroads Gospel Temple in Amherst. The Newfoundlander spent a 22-year career in the RCMP in Alberta before leaving to join the ministry in 2009.
“I went through a deep valley in my life, and it really brought me to look at how I was living my life before God,” he said. “Was I truly following God’s plan for my life? I knew at that time that I was not.”
Born in Botwood, N.L., Wheaton was raised on “The Rock,” spending his early childhood in Fredericton, N.L., and then living in different communities in areas such as Fogo Island and Bonavista Bay after his father joined the ministry.
Despite that background, he was determined to follow his father’s footsteps. From an early age he wanted to be a Mountie.
“I remember when I was just a kid, 5-6 years old, my grandfather had a friend who was an RCMP officer in Carmanville,” he recalled. “I was visiting them, and the friend would be there, and I wanted to be a Mountie like him when I grew up. I always had it in mind.”
At the age of 22, he signed up at St. John’s, and headed off to Regina for his training in 1987. From there he was posted to Edmonton, and would spend his entire policing career in Alberta, including five years in Fort McMurray, 12 years in Sherwood Park.
He loved his job, despite its challenges.
“You see a lot when the lights go down that the majority of people never see, and most policemen would not desire people to see,” said Wheaton. “You serve, you go out and do your job and deal with issues. When you get called, it’s because something has gone wrong.”
He investigated cases ranging from shoplifting to homicide, but also experienced the more enjoyable aspects of the job, such as giving talks at schools, and having camaraderie with his fellow officers. Along the way, he married wife Kim, and they had four children.
But around 2003-04, Wheaton realized there was something missing. He decided to recommit himself to Jesus Christ.
“You can stand back as a fan and cheer, but a follower is on the field,” he said. “I went from being a guy who was non-committal, to being very involved with my local church.”
He soon found himself leading the church’s men’s group, and then helping Kim after she took on the role as children’s pastor. In 2007, he was invited by his pastor to become the church’s part-time associate pastor, which he accepted.
Life became very busy in and around the church, while he was still maintaining his full-time job with the RCMP, which was going very well. In 2008 he was given his “dream job” in the commercial crime unit, and two weeks later was promoted to corporal.
Yet he still felt God pulling him in the direction of leaving police work and entering the ministry. In 2009 he did just that.
“I said I would give it up, as difficult as it was for me and my family, knowing God would open doors for me on this side,” said Wheaton.
The door that opened was at Briercrest Seminary in Caronport, Sask., where he enrolled in the Masters program at the age of 44. On Sept. 1, the family packed up and left their beautiful home in Edmonton and five days later pulled up at their new mobile home in Caronport.
Three years later, he received his Masters degree in Leadership Management, graduating in June of 2012. He then worked for a year as an interim pastor at a nearby church in Caron, Sask., while their oldest daughter completed high school in Caronport. They moved to Amherst this summer and became part of the Crossroads church. His first service as pastor was on Aug. 25.
The first three months have been a busy period, with changes both in the form of building renovations and in programming.
Despite what some might see as a huge difference in careers, Wheaton has drawn many parallels between being a pastor and being a police officer, and has found that his police training and experience has helped him in his new role.
“You’re dealing with problems people walk through and face,” he said. “When the police are called, it’s usually got the point where it’s hostile, violent or really gone askew. In the ministry you’re also dealing with the good, the bad and the indifferent, but it’s all done under the umbrella of Jesus Christ.”