Obituary: Kevin Parks / A.M.E. pastor in Homestead with a joyful message

Feb. 16, 1966 - May 22, 2014

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When Pastor Kevin Parks came to Pittsburgh four years ago, he had a message for his congregation at Park Place African Methodist Episcopal Church in Homestead.

"Get ready to shout," he said at his first sermon, where he challenged the congregation to take comfort in the promise of Christian salvation and to joyfully proclaim that message.

It was a message that Mr. Parks carried with him from his lung cancer diagnosis last October until his death Thursday at age 48.

"When anyone talked to him [about his illness], he would end up being the one to uplift them, bringing words of encouragement and laughter to them," said his mother, Yvonne Parks of Raleigh, N.C. "And he stayed with laughter till the very last day."

Mr. Parks, born in Richmond, Ind., came from a family full of A.M.E. pastors, bishops and elders. He was a studious and athletic child, his mother said, but also someone who always asked questions and wanted to know the answers-- a quality that led him, like his father, to become a pastor.

After getting degrees in communications and African-American studies at Indiana University, he graduated from Payne Theological Seminary.

As an African Methodist Episcopalian pastor, Mr. Parks and his family were relocated every few years to serve at a new church.

In Kalamazoo, Mich., he was instrumental in lobbying local government to bring a grocery store and a bank to an underserved neighborhood.

In Elyria, Ohio, he focused on empowering the young, taking on an extra role as basketball coach.

In Pittsburgh, he continued working to help young members of the community.

"He knew that the youth were the ones that would take the torch and continue on," said Corey Cannon, a churchgoer and friend. "So he tried to involve the youth in everything."

Mr. Parks's wife, Armintry, said that he redesigned the church's annual black history banquet to include honors for outstanding youths in the local community.

Mrs. Parks said he brought the same patience and concern to guiding their two children.

"He would listen forever. But you had to have the patience to listen to him, too. He could be very detailed and really laying it in-- but not in a mean way; in a caring, supportive way."

In addition to youth ministry, Mr. Parks led a ministry to visit the ill and isolated members of the community.

"He was a listener and a communicator," said his wife. "Just knew how to shed light on your concerns and give you hope."

Mr. Cannon said that Mr. Parks had a way of connecting with people. In his case, they bonded over football and Mr. Parks's lifelong favorite TV series, "Star Trek."

"He was the one pastor who really helped me with my spiritual walk with Jesus Christ," Mr. Cannon said. "He was my pastor, but he was my friend first."

In addition to his wife and mother, Mr. Parks is survived by a brother, Walter III of Montreal; a sister, Pamela Parks Bowman of Raleigh; and two sons, Wesley and David, both of West Mifflin.

Visitation will be Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Park Place A.M.E. Church, 215 E. 10th Ave., Homestead. Services will be Saturday at 10 a.m. in Bethel A.M.E. church, 2720 Webster Ave., Hill District. Arrangements are by Aldrich Funeral Homes in Munhall.

Brett Sholtis: or 412-263-1581.

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