Jan Heglund

Reverend Jan Heglund was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She enjoyed a loving and supportive family circle with her parents and younger brother Ken. She played the piano and the accordion, took ballet, toe, tap, ballroom dancing and modeling lessons. Her high school years were exciting and fun. Being bright and popular, she was on the National Honor Roll, and was Queen of Job’s Daughter, Bethel #1 in Portland. At Job’s Daughters, she shared important times with her mother who was also involved in that organization. She sang in the church choir and attended Young Life Camp in Malibu, Canada. She attended Oregon State College and pledged Kappa Alpha Theta sorority where she was the chapter chaplain. Her life was wonderful.

Then tragedy struck. The summer before she was to return to Oregon State for her second year, where she had been elected Vice President of the Junior Class, her mother died at forty-five years of age. Rev. Jan was only nineteen. The direction of her life took a very definite turn. Rather than return to college at Oregon State, she stayed home to take care of her brother, seven years her junior. She attended Portland State for a while and worked. When her father remarried, she did return to Oregon State, but became disenchanted. When a friend suggested a move to San Francisco, the two young women left on a Greyhound bus, leaving all the woes of Oregon behind. Rev. Jan and her friend had only themselves to care for, a switch from the burdens placed on her at an early age by the untimely death of her mother. She immediately got a job and entered into the exciting life of San Francisco, working and making friends. There she met and married Peter Nelson from a long-time San Francisco family. They were married in 1960 at Old St. Mary’s Church in Chinatown. Their lives were a whirlwind – full of many friends and lots of activity. After a move to Mill Valley, Rev. Jan gave birth to their first child, Tanya.

The couple took a trip to Europe and visited friends who showed them an amazing time. Her husband’s job required a transfer to New York, then to New Jersey and Chicago. After several years away from the Bay Area, they were able to return to California, to a home in Mill Valley where they adopted their son, Joshua. The marriage ended in divorce. After many years of being a single mother, Rev. Jan met and married Richard Heglund to whom she has been married for thirty-five years at the time of this writing. Dick is an architect. They bought a home in Fairfax where they still live.

Rev. Jan was not always “Reverend” Jan. Her career in the clergy came later in life. Earlier she had worked at Owens-Illinois Glass Company, Early Success in School, Planned Parenthood, International Diamond, and in 1980 started working at San Rafael High School as the assistant to the vice-principal, a job she truly enjoyed for twenty years. During this time she was very active in St. John’s Episcopal Church, Ross. At the strong suggestion of Bart Sarjeant, her priest and good friend, in 1991 she entered the three-year journey to ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church. In 1994, she was ordained at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco as a deacon, and has served since then in a very unique ministry.

In 1992, Father Bart invited her to join him and other adult supervisors to take thirty-five Marin Country high school kids on a work project to Newfoundland, Canada. They drove two thirty-two foot motors homes, took a Ryder truck for all the gear and drove across the United States into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and eventually ended up in Newfoundland where they built eight two-bedroom cottages at the local youth camp. They drove back across the Trans-Canada and were gone all summer, driving a total of 11,000 miles. That trip was life-changing for her. While there, she met the Arch-Bishop of Western Newfoundland, The Rev. Stewart Payne, a saint of a human being. He told her he wanted her to come back and work for him. In that she had left her husband alone at home for the summer and was still in the ordination process, they decided the timing was not right. However, in early May of 1994, the Bishop called again and asked if she was ready to come back to work. He also asked if she got seasick and informed her that he would be placing her in three small fishing villages on the Southern coast of Newfoundland. They were tiny villages only accessible by boat. At the end of May, she graduated from the School for Deacons seminary on June 4, 1994, and was ordained at Grace Cathedral. About a week later, she got on a plane for the summer going to places in Newfoundland that she could not even pronounce. The summer in Newfoundland was spent being the main clergy person for four different churches, doing weddings, funerals and Bible studies. She was able to get to know people with amazing histories, strong constitutions, great faith and whose graciousness was unbelievable. It was also there that the villagers decided that the proper way to address her was as “Reverend Jan,” a moniker by which she is known to this day. Following that summer, she served as clergy every other summer for a number of years, and still returns to visit with friends.

While going through the Ordination process, Reverend Jan was working at San Rafael High School, raising her two children and her husband Dick’s two children and attending School for Deacons seminary. The ordination process is grueling and challenging – especially for a person who had not been in an academic environment for many years. Reverend Jan was assigned to Church of Our Saviour Episcopal Church in Mill Valley, where she served at the altar, visited parishioners and continued to do weddings and funerals. It was an active church and she loved serving there. After that she served at Christ Episcopal Church in Sausalito until she retired from serving at the altar in 2012.

After ordination, Reverend Jan was not sure what her specific calling as clergy was. A Deacon is a ‘bridge person,’ bringing the needs of the world to the church and the church to the world. Although she had made many visits to hospitals, she knew she did not want to be a hospital chaplain. Although she had done counseling at San Quentin in reply to the request of the Warden, Jeannie Woodford, she did not want to do jail ministry. While working at San Rafael High School and attending school, she rode in a police car for the purpose of writing a paper for her Social Ministries class. Perhaps that is where the seed was planted. One day in 1995, she noticed a tiny ad in the paper that said the San Rafael Police Department was starting a chaplaincy program. Bells went off and she applied for the job. When she sat in the room to be interviewed, she thought, “THIS is me! This fits like a glove!” And she didn’t even know what it was yet. This event, along with the death of her mother, the move to San Francisco and her ordination to clergy, was to change her life and hand her a passion that still burns brightly today.

So, Reverend Jan began her career as a police chaplain. She has ministered to officers, victims and loved ones for nearly fifteen years. Her experiences as a law enforcement chaplain are beyond imagination. She worked at Ground Zero during 9/11. She has been the chaplain at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. As chaplain to the San Rafael Police Department, she has been out on every kind of call possible: Bomb threats, stalking, suicides, domestic violence, etc. She has delivered eulogies at the funerals of officers from different agencies, including the San Francisco Division of the FBI. She has done over seventy weddings, baby blessings, house blessings and even cat blessings. She has done hundreds of hours of counseling and support for others going through a rough journey. She has conducted a deathbed wedding of a couple who had eloped when they married and always wanted a religious wedding. There was not a dry eye for those around the hospital bed. She has visited officers’ relatives in the hospital and at home. She does a great deal of public speaking to explain her role, and loves every minute of it.

As word passed in the community of the great work she was doing, her responsibilities increased. She is now the chaplain for the Center for Domestic Peace, the Returning Vets Club at College of Marin, the International Footprinters Association (North Bay, Chapter #15), Project Grace (a non-profit that takes women who have lost a child to a foreign country where they work on a project with the women and children of that area). She is on the Advisory Board for the Arts, Social Science and Humanities Department at Dominican College. One of the most time consuming and most rewarding efforts is being chaplain coordinator for First Responders Support Network, a five-day intense residential program for first responders who have been felled by PTSD due to their accumulated exposures to critical incidents. She is one of the founding members of this program, which is only the second group in the world to serve this population.

Rev. Jan has traveled to Nicaragua, Greece and Africa with Project Grace to build schools and help at orphanages. She states that this has opened her eyes to the presence of God wherever people gather and live. It has also shown her how blessed she is. Reverend Jan is writing a book about her experiences. She was put in touch with John Wills, the author of Women Warriors, Stories from the Thin Blue Line. His published work includes many of her experiences and the sales seem to be successful. This has spurred her on to finish her own book, entitled, Do I Have to Talk About God in this Small Space? The small space referred to is of course, a patrol car.

Reverend Jan remains a very busy person. She runs or bikes five miles a day, reads and writes. She has had articles published in the Marin Independent Journal, the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Magazine, Women Leadership in Faith and Modern Profiles of An Ancient Faith. Her tremendous service has not gone unnoticed. She has received the Making A Difference For Women Award from Soroptimist International of Marin County in 2008, and the Outstanding Clergy Award from National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2010. She is also a recipient of the 2012-13 Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award.