On July 1, the Rev. Canon Baxter Park is retiring (again).
The former military chaplain moved to the Diocese of Ottawa following his retirement from the Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist in Corner Brook, Nfld. where he was Dean for five and half years.
He says he and his wife Nancy did some of the extensive travel they planned, but about four years ago, he spoke with Bishop John Chapman about doing some part-time ministry. “Between the jigs and the reels, we discerned together that Carp might be the place to go, but that it would have to be full-time.” Park agreed to return to full-time ministry there for two or three years, and then to assess it year by year.
Of course, the onset of the pandemic changed things in the small rural parish significantly as it did everywhere. “We’ve seen each other through,” says Park. “We’ve built a really supportive, good little parish. It was that when I went there, and it is that now.”
Noting that it is a rare example of a rural parish that is doing well, so it is a good opportunity for the priest who succeeds him.
“It’s going to take someone with ideas about how to bring young families back. It’s the children that we are missing, but that not unique to Carp, it’s everywhere.” He says the fact that he is inundated with requests for baptisms is a hopeful sign. “I’m grateful for that because it tells me that people still want to be involved.”
“In July, I start my 39th year of full-time ordained ministry. It’s time. It’s time to let someone else have a shot at it,” Park told Crosstalk (noting that he began ordained ministry when he was just 21 years old.)
A lot has changed in that time, he observed. When he was ordained in Western Newfoundland, that Diocese was still not ordaining women. “My seatmate in seminary was Trudy Goss who was the first female seminarian at Queen’s College…That’s one huge change to have so many colleagues who are women. I feel more comfortable in the Church I am retiring in than the one I became a priest in because of the greater acceptance of all people and all the sacraments to all the people all the time including [individuals from the LGBT community.] I feel really good about how hard we’ve worked on trying to reconcile with Indigenous people.”
Now that it is possible again, he and Nancy are looking forward to some travel. “There’s always sadness in [retirement] too because you build up all these relationships, and they don’t have to end but they have to change.”
While he is more than ready to say goodbye to the administrative sides of the job, Park says he could do the “priestly side of the ministry — services on Sundays, celebrating the Eucharist, visiting someone in the hospital—I could see myself doing that forever…. I’m sure you’ll see me around helping out here and there, but I’ll take a nice long break.”