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Decker receives honor for community service

High Street United Methodist Church Pastor Nathan Decker, who will be leaving the area for another church this summer, was honored recently for his sustained service to the Franklin community and its police department.

Franklin Police Chief Steve Patterson and three of his officers presented Decker with a plaque during the Sunday service on May 16.

The plaque from the City of Franklin Police Department reads, “Your support and encouragement has been a blessing to our agency and the community we both serve. It is with sincere appreciation that we wish you well in your future endeavors.”

“That will be a plaque that stays on a wall somewhere in whatever office I ever have because it meant so much to me that they took the time and effort to say thank you,” Decker said. “It was a great thing because I’ve enjoyed all of the different times that I’ve been able to — especially before the pandemic — do ride-alongs and be there for our police officers and be there for our community. They’ve allowed me to kind of be somewhat of a quasi-chaplain to them, and it’s been a real honor to be able to do that.”

Decker has served and lived in the area for the last six years and is being redeployed by the United Methodist Church to another church. He will become the pastor at Chester United Methodist Church on July 1.

“When we saw his message to everyone that he was leaving, it was obvious we had to do something to recognize him,” Patterson said. “He has touched our department over the years.  I know for myself it is the periodic phone calls or impromptu meetings in the city with him asking, ‘What can I do for you?’ and knowing that if we needed him he was there to support us.”

Patterson also mentioned how Decker would do ride-alongs with officers to see what was occurring in the city. 

“While doing those ride-alongs he would visit with officers and just talk to them about work, life and be a listening ear,” Patterson said.

Decker briefly referenced unrest in the country in connection to George Floyd, who died while in Minneapolis police custody, for which former police officer Derek Chauvin was later found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. 

“We stepped up and said, ‘Not in our town,’” Decker said, noting this was done through relationship-building. “And so we reached out to African American churches. We had a prayer circle with the police officers at the police station where we alternated different persons, clergy and lay, all different flavors of humanity.”

Decker noted he has also been part of a race relations committee that he said is really starting to bear fruit.

“I’ve been serving on that for a year, and it just has been amazing to see what from that prayer circle that happened way back in — I want to say it was 2017 way before a lot of this came to a head — how a lot of that is really bringing our community together,” he said.

Summarizing one of his greatest joys in serving the community, Decker said, “What makes my heart sing is when I can get people who view things differently to sit down at a table together and have a conversation.”

Bill Billings, a member of High Street UMC, also drew attention to some of Decker’s other areas of community service.

“I guess about three years ago, I had a bright idea that we needed to do something for the first responders in our community, and I thought if we had a steak supper and gave all the first responders a free steak supper, that would be a start,” Billings said. “So I talked to Ken Gay, who is adjutant at the American Legion, and to Nathan Decker, who at that time was a Rotarian, and I said, ‘Nathan, can you pull together a supper?’ And he got with Ken Gay, and he pulled it all together. And it was very, very successful.”

The supper has become an annual event.

“My passion is finding places that we can bring community together, and it really brought a lot of different folks,” Decker said of the supper. “Some of the businesses in the community, especially the banks, would do the funding through their nonprofit contributions. The Rotarians would do a lot of the labor and such, and then the veteran’s hall would provide the space as well as desserts. Some of the other local businesses, like the hospital and The Village, would provide salad and baked potatoes.”

Billings said the best part of these annual suppers for first responders was Decker’s famous speech at each of the gatherings.

“I can quote the entire speech because it was short,” he asid. “It was only two words — ‘Thank you.’”

Billings also said Decker has helped organize people to repair and fix up houses in Franklin for some who do not have sustainable living conditions.

Decker said these efforts, which have proven to be a blessing, have been done on the side through volunteer work.