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Church celebrates pastor’s first anniversary

Despite having been around for more than 50 years, New Mount Joy Food for Living Ministries is celebrating the first anniversary of only its second pastor this week.

Pastor Viola Parker, who took the reigns from Bishop William Wiggins Sr. last year, will be honored with a banquet this afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Shepherd Center, 2500 E. Washington St.

Wiggins started the church as a lunch-hour ministry to his co-workers at Planters Peanuts 54 years ago. He led the church for 53 years, growing attendance to more than 600, until his health dictated that he pass his position to someone else.

After much prayer, he turned over the senior pastor’s position to Parker, who initially did not feel she was deserving, she said.

“For him to choose me was a great blessing,” Parker said Friday, adding that she asked why other people in the church weren’t being chosen.

“God says you,” came the response from Wiggins.

It was a long journey for Parker. After being raised in a Christian home and singing in church with her family, she moved to New York and “got out of the realm of the Christian life,” Parker said.

“I know the way that I was living, it wasn’t right,” she said. “I rededicated my life to the Lord. I always knew there was something extra.”

After moving back to Suffolk, Parker began attending New Mount Joy. She served in various areas of the church, including the music ministry, before she began getting calls to do guest ministry at other churches.

When she asked Wiggins if she could visit the other churches, he never said no, Parker recalled.

“He had that much confidence in me,” she said. “You walk into your ministry before you’re actually called sometimes.”

Parker’s first year at the church has not been without its struggles, but she said having Wiggins still around is a blessing.

“He just loves the Lord,” Parker said.

Parker also acknowledged the work of her assistants and her co-pastor, Wiggins’ son, William Wiggins Jr.

“I thank God for the relationship we have,” Parker said of all the staff at the church.

The church hosts many ministries for its members and the community. Parker especially acknowledged the youth ministry.

“I love the youth,” Parker said. “We have very good youth department leaders.”

Teaching young people at church is an important facet of their overall education, she said.

“If they get the right teaching here and at home, they can be great students at school,” Parker said.

Valerie Felton, executive secretary at the church, said Parker has been good for the church.

“I just thank God the Lord laid on [Bishop Wiggins’] heart to have Pastor Parker,” Felton said. “She is a joy to work with, and she has the people’s souls at heart.”

For more information on the church, visit www.newmountjoy.org or call 539-2931. The church is located at 307 County St.