Crofton pastor learns to enjoy surprises of ministry


January 02, 2001|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN THE Rev. Robert Parsley, pastor of First Baptist Church of Crofton, studied for the ministry, he learned about preaching and counseling and studying the Bible. He didn't learn how to chase a donkey.

But life, as Parsley will tell you with a grin, holds lots of surprises. And donkey chasing can be a useful skill.

For 16 years, the Crofton church has celebrated Christmas with a living Nativity scene in front of the church on Crofton Parkway. Church members have played the roles of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds and the kings in this traditional community event.

In 1999, Parsley added a feature. He contacted a Pasadena farmer and arranged for animals to join the scene. That was the year that Maxie, the goat, somehow ran away. She was caught and safely returned.

Parsley determined that the animals would be secured in 2000. So, after the players had staged their living Nativity, he slowly and carefully latched the animals in a gated yard behind the church.

A few minutes later, the organist yelled, "The donkey's loose!" Parsley looked incredulous. Somehow Jill the donkey had nuzzled the latch open and escaped. Parsley set off in pursuit. Racing across the yard, he couldn't catch Jill until he offered the animal some food. That caught her attention long enough for Parsley to slip a halter over her head and lead her back to the yard, and a doubly secured latch.

Life in the ministry has held many other surprises for Parsley. He remembers discussing church placements while he was in seminary. He was asked where he wanted to go. Anywhere but Mississippi, he joked. Sure enough, what he says was "God's humor" called him to his first church in Lula, Miss. And he loved it. He said he met wonderful people there.

After Mississippi, Parsley moved to a church in Hawaii. Then he moved to Smackover, Ark., where he served as pastor for a year and a half.

When Crofton pastor Brent Coleman announced that he was retiring two years ago, the church contacted Parsley about taking the post.

Parsley said he was excited about Crofton because he views this as an area where community is important.

So many people in the area come from somewhere else, he said, that the church should be a focal point for developing a sense of home and belonging.

For the young people in his church, he has encouraged the growth of youth groups, mission trips, camping trips and social events, such as a New Year's Eve party.

For this year, Parsley isn't sure what to expect but figures more surprises will be in store.

And he looks forward to enjoying his work with a church that offers the joy of "belonging to a group of people doing good things."

New book discussion group

For two years, Crofton resident Donna Doyle published a monthly magazine titled Romance Reviews. To help her, publishers and authors sent her hundreds of books, filling up two of her home's bedrooms.

Doyle stopped publishing the magazine about a year ago but continues to review new books. Her "Romance Reviews" are available on a Web site that she updates monthly,

Doyle also formed a book discussion group called the Page Turners Club. From 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month, the group members meet at the Crofton library to share their love of books.

Several club members enjoyed the books of Diana Gabaldon. Doyle noticed that when someone mentioned Gabaldon's work, the conversation became animated and people enjoyed discussing her writing.

Curious about Gabaldon, Doyle went to her book rooms and found two volumes she had received from Gabaldon's publisher.

As soon as she started reading, Doyle was hooked. With the support of the Page Turners Club, Doyle has started a book discussion club devoted to Gabaldon's work.

The group will hold its first meeting from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in the meeting room of the Crofton library. Anyone interested is invited.

Information: 410-793-3896, or e-mail

Frosty story time

The Crofton branch of Anne Arundel County Public Library invites children ages 2 to 6 (and their parents) to join Frosty the Snowman in a celebration of snow at 7 p.m. Jan. 9.

The program will feature winter stories and songs, and children will learn how to make a snowy craft.

Information: 410-222-7915.

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