Rev. Harry Parker of First Baptist Church of Oak Park.

The sign at the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Ontario Street read “Parting Words” in preparation for Rev. Harry Parker’s final sermon last Sunday at First Baptist Church of Oak Park. Parker, aka “The Hammer” (allegedly), has delivered over 1,000 sermons in his 28 years as pastor of what is probably the most racially diverse congregation in the village. In actuality, he has been a notable model of reason and fairmindedness in an era of societal polarization.

In recent years, he has battled cancer and the experience deepened his spirituality (which he explored in our Viewpoints section), along with the many trips he led with congregants (and on one occasion with a Wednesday Journalist) to the Holy Land.

The congregation — known for many Decembers hosting a Live Nativity diorama (with camels!), running a popular preschool nursery program, and the unusual stained-glass window fronting Oak Park Avenue, which, when backlit, features Abraham Lincoln and George Washington Carver on either side of Jesus — is throwing Harry a well-deserved retirement bash this Saturday night at Elmcrest Banquets in Elmwood Park.

Ken Trainor 

Join the discussion on social media!