Reverend Forrest Todd Parkinson was just sworn in as the new pastor of the Syosset Community Church.
The pastor comes with plenty of experience and quite the interesting life story. The congregation, located at 36 Church St. in Syosset, is part of the United Church of Christ, which is a Protestant Christian denomination. Having taken a wild journey to the pulpit, Parkinson discussed his mission with the Tribune as he looks to bring a new energy into this congregation and throughout the area.
Q: What makes you excited to join this congregation?
A: It’s a lovely church and I know families who have been part of it. I visited here from time-to-time as a child. When I was changing denominations, this was one of the churches that was happy to have me come preach and fill their pulpit.
Q: What was your journey like changing denominations?
A: I was a Roman Catholic priest and I decided that I wasn’t happy with celibacy. I wasn’t dating anybody, but I’d been in the ministry for about five years in Deer Park and I wanted to explore making a change. I decided to take a leave of absence, went to Stony Brook University and studied psychology and social work. During that time, I decided I did want to make a change. I went for advanced training in psychotherapy in New York City at the Blanton Peale Institute, I met my wife Moira, who’s a pastor. We fell in love and got married in 2003.
Q: How has your faith grown over the years?
A: My faith has grown in a lot of ways. As we mature, reflecting on our human experiences, our faith will grow, especially if that faith is authentic. Our faith can grow, deepen and mature. I never felt like I wanted to go to war with my old denomination or anything like that. I might have some differences of opinion in who ought to be called into ministry, I’ll never forget their faithfulness to me and the depth of spirituality I experienced in the Roman Catholic church. One of the things about Syosset Community Church that I have so much gratitude to them is at a time when I was wondering whether or not I would continue in ministry, they were the ones that asked me to come preach to their pulpit because the pastor was away. It came about that this church called me to the pulpit this past October.
Q: What are your goals with this congregation moving forward?
A: As a smaller congregation, we need to involve the human resources. Where is the energy? What is the desires of the congregation? Of course, every congregation wants to go back to the ’70s and ’80s with full Sunday schools. I think this church recognizes that where we want to be is discovering how we can use our resources best and the facility to serve our community well. Identifying a particular ministry we want to invest in for outreach is going to be a process. We need to get to know each other and ourselves better. We need to identify possible focuses for outreach that goes beyond Sunday morning services. It’s the bedrock of how we understand ourselves as a congregation, but the sentiments in the community have changed in terms of how much they want to attend Sunday services. Many churches have closed and many have made decisions of whether they want a full-time minister or a part-time minister. A little church like this needs to take care of the outreach they participate in, one that’s true to themselves and true to their mission.