Rev Jim Parker, or Pastor Jim as he is affectionately known, is more often on the streets of East York than in the pulpit at Bethany Baptist—and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jim was recently awarded the 2017 Agnes Macphail Award presented annually to a community activist in the East York area. In addition to pastoring at Bethany, Jim:
- Serves as chair of the Pape Business Improvement Area
- Organizes and runs several local recreational youth basketball leagues through “East York Strategy”
- Serves as chaplain to Toronto Police Services 54 Division and as a member of its Community Police Liaison Committee
- Serves at Bethany Food Bank
- Coordinates chess clubs at nearby William Burgess Public School and Westwood Middle School
Pauline Adams, from Bethany Baptist, nominated Pastor Jim for the award. “There is no one more determined to eliminate conflict and uncertainty from our community than Rev. Jim Parker.” Her conviction is shared by many in the community, indicated clearly in the 22 letters of nomination received.
When asked what drives him, Jim replied, “I am compelled by my faith to reach out in service to people, using my gifts to bring God’s light to a dark world. After pastoring Bethany for most of a decade, I realized that it was not enough to simply care for, preach to, and pastor the people in my own church, but find ways to meet people outside the church where they are. Tony Campolo tells a story of a man touring an oil refinery; he went to department after department and saw the oil refinery in action and came to the end of the tour. He then asked, “Where’s the shipping department? Where’s the place where the oil is loaded into trucks and taken to places that need the oil?” The tour guide then said, “There is no shipping department; we don’t need a shipping department—we use all the oil we refine to keep the whole refinery working properly. At Bethany, we have been building the shipping department.”
It all began when Walter McIntyre, Missional Initiatives Associate at CBOQ, organized a meeting of clergy in January 2006 that inspired Jim to act, to get to know other community stakeholders. So he began introducing himself to business leaders, politicians, school principals, police leadership, clergy, and others and found an eagerness within the community to come together and to be included in the solution.
When asked how Jim finds the time to preach, he says that many think that community work is an add-on if time permits. However, Jim says, “I have come to understand that community work needs to be part of my core job description, reaching out in some way beyond the walls of the church.” He goes on to say that once he saw community work as part of his job description, he began to organize his time differently to balance his time and energy.
With notes from East York Chronicle, February 9, 2017