Bethany Hires Coordinator of Community Engagement

Bethany Theological Seminary has hired Derek Parker to serve as Coordinator of Community Engagement. Parker is a graduate of Earlham School of Religion (ESR) and brings 25 years of experience in pastoral, administrative, and nonprofit leadership roles, including in the Wayne County community. 

Parker is a Recorded Minister by the New Association of Friends (Quaker) and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. He has served in pastoral roles in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, and currently serves the Universalist Church of Eldorado, Ohio in a part-time role. He also currently serves as assistant director of Open Arms Ministry, a non-profit sponsored by multiple faith-based organizations in Richmond that provides emergency utility and rental assistance to low-income families in crisis.

Parker earned a bachelor’s degree in geophysics from the University of Chicago and a Master of Divinity from ESR. He is currently working on a Doctor of Arts in Religion and the Humanities from Harrison Middleton University.

“We are very excited to welcome Derek to Bethany,” says President Jeff Carter. “His experience in both church work and the non-profit sector will help us prepare students to put their faith into action and make a positive difference in the communities in which they minister and serve.” 

At Bethany, in this newly created role, he will foster connections between ministry formation and the new Bethany BOLD program. He will organize community engagement placements for students and facilitate student reflection discussions. 

The Bethany BOLD program (which stands for Build, Organize, Love, and Dare) was launched during the 2022-23 academic year, with funding from a $1M grant from Lilly Endowment. The program prepares students to lead congregations as they respond to diversity and division. The rigorous and demanding program will challenge Bethany’s best and brightest students to apply their faith and education to address real-world problems, including poverty and racial injustice.

“Derek brings experience as a pastor and deep knowledge of non-profit organizations and the Wayne County community,” notes Dr. Maggie Elwell, assistant professor of peace studies and director of Bethany BOLD. “He’ll be a fantastic mentor and guide to our students. We are excited for Derek’s work as Bethany BOLD begins to grow.”

Parker will begin his work at Bethany on June 20, 2023.