Police chaplain turned pastor shares message about respecting authorities

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In response to recent social unrest and the “defund the police” movement, Pastor Tony Durante gave a chapel service message about respecting police and authorities to the students at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Plantation.

Dressed in his police chaplain uniform, he spoke to the student body during the livestream event from the sanctuary. 

In his message to students about police, he referenced Bible verse Romans 13: 1-5 in which Apostle Paul describes the one in authority is “God’s servant to do you good.”

Durante, 53, has devoted his life to serving and mentoring underserved people who need help the most.

In 2018, he was recruited to the position of pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church & School in Plantation. The church was established in 1961 and the school opened in 1963, serving children 18 months old through eighth grade.

Before that, in 2013, Durante was asked by the Delray Beach Police Department to serve as its volunteer police chaplain to which he agreed and continues to this day.

“As I watched Pastor Tony speak to our students, I was struck by the power of both the image and his words,” said Linda Root, the church school’s principal. “Here was our pastor, who takes the time to pray with our students, dressed in his police uniform. As a Black pastor and chaplain, his message about the authority God has placed in servants like police officers was timely and important. We are so blessed to have Pastor Tony who ministers to our school community with God’s word.” 

Durante with his younger sister, Lori, was raised by parents Kenneth and Charlotte Durante in the historic Black neighborhood of Delray Beach known as Jefferson Manor.

The maternal side of Durante’s family originates from Greene County, Alabama where some family members were engaged in the 1960s civil rights movement in which nonviolence toward law enforcement and not resisting arrest were tenets.

Durante earned a bachelor’s in anthropology at Florida Atlantic University. After graduating he was selected to serve as a Lutheran Christian missionary and teacher of English at a Lutheran church in Hokkaido, Japan.

He speaks Japanese fluently from the time he began studying the culture in high school.

During his high school and college years, he worked in the exhibition curating division at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach.

When Durante returned from Hokkaido in 1995, he was recruited as a police officer by the Delray Beach Police Department

After six years on the force, he was spiritually guided to join the ministry staff at a Lutheran church and school in Delray Beach in 2001. Shortly thereafter, he earned a theology degree from Concordia University and was ordained a Lutheran minister.

“My experience on the force taught me about humanity and real life, resulting in my decision to become a minister. My most serious challenge is to motivate people to worship in an unchurched world.”

Our Savior Lutheran Church & School Pastor Tony Durante also serves as the Delray Beach Police Department's chaplain.

Our Savior Lutheran Church & School Pastor Tony Durante also serves as the Delray Beach Police Department’s chaplain. (Tony Durante / Courtesy)

Durante is motivated by his work.

“I enjoy making a difference in the lives of people, or rather watching people become different as they have encounters with Jesus,” he said.

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He said he was disappointed when he had to close the church for two months during the pandemic.

Durante and wife Junko have raised three daughters.

“Fatherhood is my greatest achievement,” he said.

Durante is preparing student ambassadors for the city of Delray Beach Sister Cities Student Exchange program as he has done for the past 20 years. High school students are selected to serve as ambassadors and travel to Miyazu, Japan. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 trip has been rescheduled to 2022.

Asked if in his early years was there someone he wanted to emulate, Durante said:  “At the risk of sounding cliché (for a minister), my answer is Jesus. I tried to come up with another answer, but I know everyone I respect has flaws that I don’t envy or admire. I just admire how they overcome their flaws and respect those who demonstrate humility and compassion for others.”

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