It wasn’t easy to get First Parish Church’s Reverend Geoff Parker to talk about himself.  His tone was easily humble, but when he speaks about church, his voice goes up a little like it’s filled with hope and home.  When asked about his involvement in the Brunswick community, he deflected from his own invested role.

“My job as pastor is really to be a cheerleader and support and connector of other people and their passions,” he said.

Whenever he meets someone new, he asks himself “How will [I] honor their story?” This is something that he treats as a matter of faith. 

“I honestly believe that there is something holy happening in every single person, and so it’s about ‘How can I get out of my own way to experience what that is?’” he said. 

I experienced this myself, as throughout our interview, he would interject to ask about my perspective and reflections. His engagement struck me and changed what started out as just an interview into a thoughtful and rewarding conversation. Parker applies this principle generally, emphasizing the importance of community discussion about tough subjects.

“We’re making sure we’re engaging the serious conversations,” he assured. “One of the conversations about privilege is you know you have it if you don’t have to talk about these issues. It’s something we haven’t had to do, but it’s something we’re called to do in terms of seeking justice in the world.”

He credits Bowdoin for keeping the congregation on its toes in terms of social consciousness. Though he did not mention it in the interview, his pennant from Sarah Lawrence College and diploma from Yale Divinity School spoke to the intellectual engagement he demonstrates and values in this community.

“We enjoy all the rich benefits of having Bowdoin next door that help us really be an educated, engaged, learning congregation,” said the reverend. “A lot of times we go. If you guys are talking about something, it’s a really good cue for us that we should probably have some knowledge about what’s going on in the world too.”

Parker also appreciates the personal relationships between Bowdoin, Brunswick and his church. 

“I can look around, and I can point in my pew to the number of members of First Parish that are Bowdoin host families,” he said. “They make a real, intentional effort to make the church, as an expression of the community of Brunswick, a welcoming place and a safe place.”
When I asked him to explain where this appreciation came from, he gave me some spiritual context. 

“Here’s a big one that I stick with as part of my theological assertion—everybody is of worth and value just as who they are, not because of anything that they do,” Parker said. “And in a wonderful experience that is as challenging and as hardworking as going to college at a place like Bowdoin, sometimes you need a space for that. To be able to go, it’s not about what I got on my last test.”

"It’s not about how I’m doing in general or how I’m even doing socially in this environment. Sometimes I need a place where I can just be accepted and of worth just as who I am.”
"I hope we can provide a pausing place in the midst of a lot. You guys have really busy lives and so do a lot of people in the town of Brunswick,” he added. 

Throughout this interview, I was considering the role faith played in his life and decision to become a reverend. I wasn’t raised in a particularly religious household, and I wanted insight into how faith comes to someone. It took the whole interview, but eventually, he let me in on some of his perspective.

“What did it for me? There’s my belief in the story and scripture that drives my tradition, but what drew me to get interested in that was actually the experiences of what felt like holiness in my life in many ways. So for me, it started out in a Winnebago because I was in a band, and so me and seven of my friends traveled around the country in a Winnebago playing shows.

“This is more embarrassing than it even sounds, but here’s the thing: you wake up every day, and you’re surrounded by your best friends, and you do what you most love. And it’s hard, and you have to learn how you’re going to feed eight people on five bucks because you’re not making a lot of money, but what I took out of that was that I was incredibly moved by the experience of living in a community and working towards common goals and the belief that living in such a community could transform the world around you,” he explained.  “So I call that church now.”

“And then, you know, being in college and a little depressed and reading a little too much Russian literature, that also helps,” he added.