Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we’re thrilled to introduce Esther Soud Parker.

Esther, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My early church experiences were in the Church of God. When I was a teenager, we moved to a Southern Baptist Church. As an adult, I experienced faith communities in a variety of Air Force base chapels and local churches as my husband was in the military and we lived in many different areas.

I had not considered going into ministry at that point. Instead, I worked as an accountant. With plans to work in finance, I majored in Business Administration and English, and later received a Master of Science in Business Administration. For ten years, I worked in the accounting field analyzing financial statements, performing audits, and preparing corporate and individual taxes.

When our children were born, I stopped working outside the home. We eventually joined a CBF church and I volunteered in a variety of lay ministry roles such as Stephen’s Ministry, AIDS Ministry, children’s choir leader, children’s Sunday School teacher, serving as a Deacon, and in multiple committee positions.

As the children got older, I fully intended to go back into accounting. However, while serving as an interim children’s minister, I began to feel God’s call to go to Divinity School. I graduated from Campbell University Divinity School, focusing on Education and Pastoral Care.

After graduation, I was ordained into the gospel ministry and served as a hospital chaplain for eighteen months before being called as a minister of children, and later as a minister of education and children.

In 2013, Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina, extended a call for me to serve as their minister to children and their families. What a gift it is for me to be in ministry at Watts Street!

What is the thing you love most about ministry?
What I love most about ministry is sharing in the faith journey with children and their families in our congregation.

What have been the hardest challenges you have encountered?
One of the hardest challenges I have encountered is being with family members as they say goodbye to their loved ones. It’s a holy, sacred time, and filled with a wide range of emotions – joys and sorrows. While I am grateful to be welcomed in these moments, I am also aware it is a difficult and often stressful time for the family.

What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
“Love God. Love the People. Do the Work.” Daniel Aleshire delivered this challenge in a sermon during convocation when I was in Divinity School and it has helped shape my ministry. It’s a reminder that the work of ministry is important but we must first love God and love the people in our community.