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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The ministry and the military

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Throughout his life, Pastor Darrell Sydnor Sr. has succeeded through dedication and determination.

Those characteristics have enabled him to maintain the fine balance he has needed to serve his church, his community and his country.

Currently, Sydnor serves as pastor of Rock of Faith Missionary Baptist Church on the city’s Eastside. He was installed in January, following the amicable departure of Rev. Rayford Brown, who returned to his home state of South Carolina.

“Things are going really well, and Rock of Faith is transforming into a new chapter,” Sydnor said. “We want to do more mission work and be more present in the community. That will be our focus.”

When members of Rock of Faith organized a search committee to replace Brown, they soon realized that Sydnor, who was already an associate minister at the church, was exactly who they needed. His administrative and theological background more than qualified him to fill the position.

In addition to serving as a pastor, Sydnor is a major in the U.S. Army, and enhances every task he conducts in civilian life with what he has learned in the military. The Richmond, Va., native joined the armed forces after high school, and later became the first soldier to receive the Army’s new prestigious Green to Gold officer training scholarship.

He earned a degree in business management from Tuskegee University, and a graduate degree in human resource administration from Central Michigan University.

Sydnor’s skills were aptly applied while he was stationed in South Korea for 15 months, where he was the Army’s equivalent of a postmaster and oversaw the operation of several military postal installations. He received special recognition from the U.S. Postmaster General after the opening of a postal station near the volatile border zone that separates North and South Korea.

It was also in Korea where Sydnor, away from his family and left to quiet quarters after his workday, became closer to God and accepted his call to ministry.

“After three months of prayer and consideration, I discovered who God really is,” Sydnor said. “All I ever wanted to do was be the best solider I could be. I still wanted to do that, but my top priority became pleasing God.”

Sydnor was licensed to preach while still in Korea, and after being stationed in New York City, was mentored by Pastors Joe Louis Brown and H. Devoe Chapman, two popular ministers from the area.

Sydnor was soon reassigned to the Middle East, where he directed teams that conducted sometimes dangerous inspections of post offices in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, he was praised by officials for helping to reorganize the country’s postal system.

After returning to Indianapolis in July, Sydnor was assigned to the 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, which prepares and supports more than 7,000 soldiers in five states. Sydnor’s tenure with the military will be completed at the end of the year, and he will be able to devote himself to ministry at Rock of Faith full time. His top objective for the church, he said, is getting it back into correct focus.

“A lot of times we get so focused on a church that we forget the purpose of the church, which is to serve,” he said. “And we want to get plugged back into this community.”

Sydnor has been reaching out to residents and organizations in the church’s neighborhood, which includes economically depressed subdivisions and apartment complexes that have dealt with high rates of crime.

“We want to find out what the needs are so we can do our part in meeting them,” Sydnor said. “People should not have to just rely on local officials for help. The church is supposed to be an effective part of assisting people, and it shouldn’t make a difference whether or not they’re a member of your congregation if their need is legitimate.”

Sydnor added that he would like to see Rock of Faith expand its recreational facility and day care center to better accommodate the needs of area youth.

In addition to his responsibilities with the church and military, Sydnor also is the protector and provider for his family, which includes his wife, Cora, and their three children, ages 6 to 20.

“When the church was interviewing candidates for the pastor’s position and I heard Sydnor preach, I told them, ‘You already have what you need here,’” said Rev. Fitzhugh Lyons, pastor of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, president of the International Denominational Ministers Alliance, and a consultant on Rock of Faith’s search committee. “It looks like they made a sound choice.”

Sydnor said he will not be afraid to work with alliances of ministers who address controversial issues related to social justice, such as discrimination and police brutality.

“I’ve been in the military since I was 18 years old, so I have a little fight in me,” Sydnor said, laughing. “I want to turn my focus from fighting for this country to fighting for my community. If that means laying down my M-16, picking up a Bible and allying with other pastors, by all means I’m ready to do that.”

This series is dedicated to ministers who lead churches while also serving in the nation’s armed forces.

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