Washington District Superintendent Eric S. Park has been appointed to serve as senior pastor of the Butler First United Methodist Church, effective September 1, 2013. There he hopes to continue the multi-faceted ministry developed under the leadership of the Rev. J. David Panther, the longtime senior pastor who died May 26 after a prolonged battle with cancer. Panther was first appointed to the church as an associate in 1992.
"Eric's appointment to First Church Butler is a confirmation of his calling to the local church," said Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, who made the appointment. "Because of the unique circumstances related to David Panther's death, we undertook a very thorough discernment process with the leadership of First: Butler in order to more fully understand all of the dynamics at work in that setting.
"As a result, Eric became the enthusiastic choice of everyone involved due to his creativity, pastoral care, and keen insight. While he will be truly missed as a part of our cabinet, I know that Eric will flourish and the people of First: Butler will be significantly blessed by the ministry he and Tara will provide," he added.
In a letter to clergy and lay leaders in the Washington District, Park described the process that led to the appointment and said, “I am very pleased to be able to report that there is an enthusiastic affirmation of this new appointment by all parties involved,” including he and his wife Tara.
“While serving with the laity and clergy of the Washington District has been both a profound blessing and honor, and while working alongside our Bishop and my colleagues around the Cabinet table has been a life-changing privilege, I have always looked forward with much excitement to the possibility of returning to the rhythms and patterns of local church ministry one day,” Park said later. “After all, the unparalleled disciple-making potential of the local church is what brought me into ministry in the first place.”
Park’s ministry has touched many lives in Western PA and beyond. After serving three years as pastor of First UMC in McDonald, in 1995 he was appointed as an associate at Christ UMC in Bethel Park, where he and his wife launched the popular Sunday evening contemporary worship service with progressive rock band Ten-Point-Ten. Tara played keyboard and was vocalist. In 2005, she released her first solo CD, Things Unseen, with music and lyrics written by Eric. Since then, the couple has released two other CDs, mostly with original music, and is working on a third.
In July 2002, Park moved to Central Highlands Community UMC as senior pastor. He served there until he was appointed to fill a vacancy as superintendent of the Washington District beginning Jan. 1, 2009.
Park was nominated by the annual conference as a candidate for Bishop in both 2008 and 2012. He currently serves as vice chairperson of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Discipleship.