Forest Park Baptist attracts pastor rooted in diversity
The 20 people seated on the pews of Forest Park Baptist Church two Sundays ago erupted into applause as Elder Sean Blaylock introduced them and the members attending online to their newest pastor, the Reverend Dr Timothy Eh.
Part of the excitement can be explained by the fact that the worshiping congregation in the white stucco building on Harlem Avenue had been without a pastor for two years. Blaylock elicited smiles when he recalled that the congregation during this time had fervently prayed, “Oh Lord, please bring us a pastor!
While the congregation was delighted to receive Hein, his wife Manju and their four children, their new pastor was equally excited to begin his new ministry with them.
Because the relationship between pastors and their congregations has similarities to marriage, Hein recalled that the committed relationship that officially began on September 5 began much like dating online.
Hein laughed when he said that when he and the search committee first met through Zoom, he could sense right away that he and the congregation were “soul mates”.
They were a good game, he said, because of the diversity. He grew up as a white boy in a white family that lived in California, Colorado and finally in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. His wife Manju comes from an Indian family but was born in Zambia where her parents were missionaries. “Manju,” said Hein, “calls himself Indo-African.”
Manju became an American citizen in 2006, so you could tell that she is an African American Indian. Because their marriage is multicultural, said Hein, they tend not to fit in perfectly anywhere, which is why they were drawn to the Church in Forest Park which is truly multicultural. Two Sundays ago the members sitting on the benches were exactly half white and half colored.
He was also drawn to the church, because he immediately felt “this vibration” that they were both “zealous to be faithful to the word of God,” that they were a community of faith. who built what they believed and how they live on a biblical foundation. .
He also felt a common commitment to the mission. “Even for over two years they were without a pastor,” said Hein, “the church has maintained its support for missions at the local, national and international levels.”
Realizing that Baptists, especially Southern Baptists, are often stereotyped as anti-intellectual, Hein has walked his spiritual / theological journey to show that he and his new congregation do not fit into any box.
Hein grew up in a family that attended their Baptist church together twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday evening. “I can’t remember,” he said, “when my father wasn’t a deacon or held a leadership position in the church. The church was the water I swam in. People started saying that I would make a good pastor when I was 8 years old.
Perhaps it is because he felt this conviction when he resisted it for years that the members of the church feel a kinship with him. He would eventually get a BA from Moody Bible College in 2003, but again resisted the idea of going to seminary.
Part of the reason is that he met “this lovely girl from India” who was still a year old before graduating from Moody’s. He worked at Moody’s in the admissions office and the multicultural couple married as soon as she graduated.
During their first year of marriage, they debated the question of what to come next while still living in Chicago and, to his surprise, he enrolled in a school in Louisville. “Surprise” was the word he used two weeks ago as he looked back, because he did not fit into this extremely conservative spiritual environment. In fact, he and Manju even tried to be agents of change in the Southern Baptist community, which was not always comfortable, but he stuck it out and earned a master’s degree in divinity in 2008.
He and Manju both worked at a church in the DC area for five years, then moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he completed a doctorate. of Christian origins and had four children along the way.
What the Forest Park Baptist Church has achieved in its new pastor is a shepherd who passionately loves Jesus and encourages his people to share this love with their friends and neighbors and at the same time is able to “think the faith” , as Douglas John Hall would say: from a scholarly point of view.
Her vision for the future of her congregation includes spending the first year together building relationships with church members and the community. He dreams of the church moving from a relationship of trust in God and one another to a reputation in Forest Park and the surrounding area as a faith community that loves God and loves its neighbors.