At Mt. Zion Assembly Healing Temple, this year’s Christmas sermon will be the first ever delivered by a female suffragan bishop.
But it will be coming from the voice of someone whom many churchgoers have known since she was a child.
Mt. Zion is part of the Minnesota, Wisconsin Dakotas District Council, which is part of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. As a suffragan bishop, Monica Parchia Price represents the entire state of Wisconsin.
Her ascent represents a victory for women and the extension of a legacy that embodies the Christmas spirit: generosity, nurturing and unity.
In 1949, Price’s father, Earl Parchia Sr., came from Chicago and started the church. At the time, Milwaukee was not home to many Pentecostal churches and even her father’s former pastor didn’t think he would stay past six months.
But Parchia, a 24-year-old World War II veteran, wasn’t easily deterred. In 1951, he renamed the church, then Milwaukee Mission, to Mt. Zion Healing Assembly and began expanding his reach — and the reach of the church.
Price recalls how her father marched with Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement. “My father was one of the only Pentecostal pastors involved in civil rights,” she said.
Growing up, her father’s commitments meant ups and downs for the family. Price remembered being frustrated that he was often busy or out of the house during her childhood, but she came to realize that as pastor, he was a father figure to everyone in the congregation.
Though it crossed her mind to follow in his path, she earned a degree in journalism and public relations from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and worked in other fields.
Then Parchia fell ill with leukemia, and even though his wife stepped in, the future of Mt. Zion was uncertain. Price told her father that congregants were beginning to wonder who the next leader would be.
He turned to her and asked, “ ‘Why do they want to know? Don’t they know who’s in the driver’s seat?’ And he looked at me.”
She still went to him three times to ask if being a pastor was really her calling.
The last time, what he told her sealed the calling. “He said, ‘You’re not waiting on God, God’s waiting on you.’ And that’s when I knew I was good.”
He died in 2010, and for a time, her mother continued to lead Mt. Zion, with Price stepping up to be by her side. Price became the senior pastor in 2015. After her mother died in 2016, leading the church became her sole responsibility.
Assuming the role of pastor wasn’t easy, partly because many of the people she knew had to make the transition from seeing her as Monica to recognizing her as Pastor Price.
Sherlyn Brown, a secretary at the District Council who remembers Monica as a little girl, admitted she struggled with that.
“It was a challenge for me to realize that a transition has taken place; it’s time for the next generation,” Brown said.
But if anything, she said, the mission of the church that was nurtured by Price’s father has flourished under Price’s leadership.
“Her father was a great leader, a visionary … she’s just like him: very charismatic, very involved, very hands-on, (well-) traveled,” Brown said. “She has picked that mantle up.”
Some people also struggled with the idea that the pastor is a woman — and they weren’t shy about telling her.
“One of the congregants came to me and said, ‘We’re behind you, but we’re used to a man, so it’s going to take some time,’” Price recalled.
Between 300 and 500 people typically worship at Sunday services. The church, in the 4300 block of North Green Bay Avenue, also operates a pre-K-12 school called Early View Academy of Excellence, with an enrollment of about 300.
Between pastoring, community outreach and school duties, Price seems constantly in motion. Earlier this year, her work earned her an appointment as a suffragan bishop. The elevation ceremony for her appointment was held on the same day as her wedding anniversary, Oct. 18.
Price calls it providence.
“It’s a good day for women,” she remarked.
But, she says, there is still work to be done to bring other women into leadership roles in her denomination.
“We have to be twice as good and half as emotional,” she said, smiling.
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Source: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel