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The new head of Edinburg United Church is both a man of the cloth and a man of the uniform.
The Rev. Timothy Paroz splits his Sundays between the church, located at 4081 Rock Spring Road, and the combat support hospital where he serves as chaplain with the U.S. Army Reserves unit out of Twinsburg.
"Ministry for me was something natural to go into," he said, adding that he grew up in and around the church.
However, he entered the Peace Corps instead of the seminary in 2001, but was evacuated from Turkmenistan shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Paroz attended The Methodist Theological School in Ohio from 2002 to 2005, where he earned a Master of Theological Studies in Christian ethics, and returned from 2007 to 2009 to earn a Master of Divinity degree.
He served as youth pastor at Columbia Heights United Methodist Church from 2002 to 2003 and as pastor of Calvary and Pleasant Ridge United Methodist churches from 2003 to 2005, then moved out of state and took a break from the ministry.
He joined the U.S. Army Reserves, commissioned as a chaplain, in December 2007.
Paroz was mobilized to Fort Drum in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom from August 2009 to August 2010 and was later deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn in November 2010, returning in October 2011.
"My entire family supported my deployment with encouragement, cards, letters, packages, cookies and candy. I received personal notes from three churches, correspondence with several former teachers, a signed pillowcase with well wishes, cards from total strangers, and packages of support from a half dozen churches in Twinsburg," he said.
"It was truly an honor to serve in Iraq and to work with the men and women I had the opportunity to deploy with," he said.
Paroz said he appreciates the multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-ecumenical nature of the military, which may have led to his participation in the United Church of Christ denomination. "I like the United Church of Christ -- what they stand for, how they are open and accepting of people," he said.
He interviewed with the Eastern Ohio Association of United Churches of Christ in February 2012, then three churches, including Edinburg, in August. He was hired in September and started as lead pastor on Dec. 1.
In the interim, he church-hopped during the summer months to gauge various worship and management styles. "It gave me insight to help the church with ways of showing hospitality," he said, adding he is looking for some external ways the church can display the character trait, including redesigning the website, redoing the parking lot and painting the church.
He noted that the church started a dry pantry roughly a year ago, which is bolstered by donations. A handmade "giving tree" situated at the front of the sanctuary serves to remind parishioners of the ongoing need.
Edinburg United also supports the Palmyra Back Door Pantry and Center of Hope, runs a Kid Watch program, and hosts a preschool co-op.
Paroz, who hopes to bring administrative stability to the church, plans to work as an Army chaplain "as long as I have something to offer and I can manage both ministries with excellence. ... It is a challenge to balance parish life with Army life, but so far it has been smooth and everyone has been very understanding.
"My roles as pastor and chaplain are in essence one and the same. I see my soldiers as extended parishioners; I only get to see them two days per month, but their concerns are as valid, and the ministry with them can be just as rewarding."
Paroz said he does a lot of counseling in his role as chaplain, advising military leaders on matters of religion and morality, and serves as a morale booster.
"You have to be a little more conscious of what you say around people. Soldiers have their own unique set of problems that you don't face in the church world. Infidelity is huge, and there are more financial issues," he said. "It's a challenge to let them know I care about them. You get to know them in different ways, whereas in the church world, they seek me."
Paroz said he and his wife, Kim, who supports him and assists in ministry planning, have been well received at the church. They are expecting their first child in August.
Sunday services are held at 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. For more information, call 330-352-1532.
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