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Editor’s note: Former Lancaster resident Mike Taylor was recently honored for his 20 years of service as a volunteer chaplain at the Rowan County (N.C) Sheriff Office. His story and photos are reprinted with permission from the Salisbury Post.
SALISBURY, N.C. – As a child, when other children were playing outdoors, Michael Taylor was officiating funerals for family pets. In a way, he always knew he was destined to work in service to God.
Taylor has been chaplain for the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, a volunteer position, for the last 20 years. On Mondays, Taylor can be seen strolling down the hallways of the sheriff’s office, doughnuts in hand, waving and chatting with officers.
“Would you like a doughnut?” he asks.
“Thanks, preacher,” some of the officers respond.
Taylor has been adding to the officers waistlines for the past decade. He jokes that the doughnuts won’t add calories because they are “holy.”
A life of service
“When I was a little boy, I felt God’s hand on me,” he said.
The Lancaster County native would climb into a black cherry tree and preach to the other trees.
Taylor was between the ages of 8 and 10 when he began preaching funerals for all his relatives’ cats and dogs.
But as time went on, he strayed away from his calling and received salvation in his 20s. He was involved in two vehicle accidents two months apart that happened on the same stretch of road.
Taylor believes God spared his life so he could impact others.
“It got my attention. God did that to get my attention because if I was to leave this earth I would not be ready,” he said.
Those accidents also made Taylor realize life is short.
“The most important thing that is going to count is what we do for God; that’s going to make the eternal difference,” he said.
He spent four years in the Army Reserves at a time when he began getting into ministry.
A few of Taylor’s relatives were in law enforcement – an uncle was a trooper and his grandfather was a magistrate in South Carolina.
“I got to meet a lot of law enforcement through him,” he said of his grandfather.
Taylor’s first chaplaincy was with the Oakboro Police Department, and from there he moved on to the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office.
“They asked me, being a local pastor. It was just something that appealed to me,” he said.
He pastored churches in Oakboro and Jefferson.
About five or six years ago, Taylor suffered a stroke that weakened the left side of his body. He lost strength to the point he couldn’t pick up a piece of paper.
“I recognize that time is precious. I don’t want to regret,” he said.
Taylor said he’s got to spend time doing something.
Taylor has been a regular fixture at the sheriff’s office and in the community. He has been pastor at Phaniels Baptist Church in Rockwell for 21 years.
Capt. John Sifford said Taylor has been a source of support for the officers and the community. He’s accompanied officers on death notification response and has visited officers in the hospital. If an inmate has had a death in the family, sometimes Taylor takes time to accompany an officer to notify the inmate.
“If they have a need, they call me,” Taylor said.
Taylor checks in with the sheriff, who may tell him about an officer who has had a death in the family. Taylor said he’ll send a card to the family or visit with the officer.
“Communication is key to my job as pastor and chaplain,” he said.
After Taylor makes his rounds at the sheriff’s office, he heads to the jail annex on Grace Church Road. He presides over the assistant chaplains at the annex, who conduct Bible study there.
Sheriff Kevin Auten recently gave Taylor honorary captain status. Auten said the sheriff’s office is appreciative of everything Taylor does and noted he volunteers his time.
“He doesn’t get paid a dime. He’s so giving and works so hard, and not just for this agency,” Auten said.
The sheriff said it’s hard to find someone like Taylor who is a giver. It’s because of his giving nature that the sheriff’s office nominated Taylor for the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor. The award is presented to people who have exemplified extraordinary service to the state. He was given the honor during the May Respect for Law Breakfast, where area law enforcement are recognized for their service to the community.
Taylor said he didn’t know he was receiving the award. He attended the breakfast in support of the officers who’d received awards from their respective agencies.
Auten said the award was a way the department could give back to Taylor in some way, the same measure that was given to them.
“God gave me a giving heart,” Taylor said.
He’s a firm believer in appreciating people while they are living.
Taylor’s day begins at 5 a.m. as it has for the last 25 years – with morning prayer.
He visits church members who are in nursing homes and the shut-ins once a month.
“While others are out doing other things, I just enjoy ministering,” he said.
Taylor ministers through his program – Shield A Badge with Prayer, which he started 18 years ago. The program pairs officers and judicial officials with someone in the community who prays for that officer or official for an entire year.
Taylor and his wife, Phyllis, also from Lancaster, have been married for more than 40 years and have two sons, Michael and Phillip. The Taylors have seven grandchildren.