REVS. SCOTT and ELMARIE PARKER
Scott Parker serves as Presbyterian Church (USA) Associate Writer in Residence for Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Through written story-telling, Scott works with regional partners in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq to communicate their experiences and views with people in the United States.
Elmarie Parker, PCUSA Regional Liaison to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The heartbeat of her work is to help deepen and strengthen the relational ties between the church in her region and the church in the United States and to develop the practical ministries that are birthed from these relationships. More specifically, she facilitates Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) support for partner programs, relationships and activities and implements partnership strategy. She facilitates and seeks to strengthen healthy, effective and appropriate relationships among entities of the PC(USA) and those of partner denominations and organizations in the region. Additionally, Elmarie supports PC(USA) co-workers serving in this region in communications, information sharing, mentoring/guiding, encouraging, and reflection.
Both Scott and Elmarie served as parish pastors prior to this call, starting in California, then Florida, and then Ohio. Scott received his Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Elmarie also graduated from Fuller with a Master of Divinity and Master of Science in Marital and Family Therapy.
The Parkers began their current work in July 2013, moving to Beirut, Lebanon at the beginning of Advent in December 2013. This is a call that takes up all the threads of their previous ministry and personal experiences, and is weaving them more deeply into Christ’s work in the world.
For Elmarie, it was visiting with the Presbyterian Church in Basrah, Iraq in 2011 that planted the seeds for this call. “I remember returning from my first trip to Iraq, having been captured by the heart-courage of these Presbyterian congregations. They have initiated community outreach ministries rather than go into hiding amidst the tremendous pressures they have faced since 2003. Non-Christian neighbors are now asking that Presbyterian preschools be expanded into primary schools. Presbyterians facilitate a radio ministry proclaiming Christ’s message of peace, and a prison visitation ministry that gives hope to female inmates. Seeing the faithfulness of the church in these Middle Eastern countries has inspired me to stand with them and to do all I can to help deepen and strengthen the ties between them and Presbyterians in the U.S.”
Just months before beginning his appointment, Scott visited a refugee camp in Lebanon populated by people who fled Syria’s civil war. He met a family who spent the winter in a thin tent, a woman whose father was killed when a bomb leveled a church and whose brother was tortured when he refused to renounce his faith, and a pastor on vacation preparing to return to his church despite daily death threats.
While he had heard the stories of hardship before arriving, the visit and the relationships he established gave him a new perspective on the situation. He came to know some of those who fled the war as people with “real names and real stories and real lives” that in some ways paralleled his own.
Both Scott and Elmarie believe the opportunity to work with church partners in these countries of the Middle East and in the United States matches well with their sense of call and their ministerial gifts. “It feels like the Lord has been preparing me for this work my whole life,” Elmarie says. “It’s my privilege to help facilitate the PC(USA)’s continuing ability to stand in solidarity and active partnership with our sisters and brothers through meaningful and encouraging presence and shared action.”
“I believe that there’s a convergence between the current needs and opportunities being opened by God’s Spirit in the Middle East and my own skills and gifts,” Scott says, “And I believe that the future of the church in the United States depends upon learning from and engaging with our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.”
Two years into their work, the Parkers see even more why it matters for the Church in the Middle East to continue in its witness and work of ministry. “We have been serving here in the midst of the violence in Syria growing worse and in the midst of the self-proclaimed Islamic State expanding its reach into Northern Iraq. Again and again we have seen all parts of the Christian family in these countries living Christ’s way of peace and transforming love toward all those in need, praying regularly for those who are carrying out the violence, offering forgiveness to the perpetrators, and inviting dialogue and partnership with the moderate Muslim community who also seeks to build societies founded on humanitarian values, international law, and the principles of democracy. Because of this, lives are being changed at the grass roots level and structures of education and government are being influenced. It is a privilege to stand with the Christian community here and to encourage international support of their vision, call, and work.”
Scott and Elmarie have been married for 20 years. Together, they enjoy time with their nephews and niece, road trips, trying new foods, playing games, good movies and a variety of music. They have also enjoyed the company of feline fur kids since 2004. Born in Florida, Elmarie spent her toddler years in South Africa, and the remainder of her growing-up years on a Christmas tree farm in the rugged hills of Silverton, Oregon. Her family still lives in Silverton. Scott was born and raised in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska.