The Rev. Perry Waddell chats with Frieda Brownlee during Bible study at Mt. Zion Church of Christ Holiness on Western Avenue. Pastor Waddell's son, also named Perry, listens.
By day, Perry Waddell is a man in blue. Nights and weekends, he's a man of the cloth.
As a veteran Toledo police burglary detective, he helps victims and arrests criminals.
As a minister, he preaches to his small south end congregation and trains them for missionary work outside the church.
The two roles don't conflict, he says, but complement each because both are "people-person" jobs.
"When you are concerned and have a passion for people, you do what's necessary to meet their needs," he says quietly while sitting at his desk in the Safety Building downtown. "Just because someone is a criminal doesn't mean you treat them different than anyone else. But you still have a job to do."
Those who know him say he does both of his jobs well.
Burglary Sgt. Bob Baumgart-ner says the 47-year-old detective goes "above board" to mediate cases and is well liked by his colleagues and the community.
"He brings a very compassionate, caring perspective. He goes beyond to placate or solve society's problems, more than the criminal problems," the sergeant says.
And, he says, Mr. Waddell is "the one who kind of keeps the burglary squad straight."
At Mt. Zion Church of Christ Holiness, the same holds true.
"He's always been a nice guy. He's always been mediator. He's always squashed any kind of violence, such as fights at school," says parishioner Charlie Foster, who lived on the same block and attended the same high school as her pastor.
Mr. Waddell became a police officer 22 years ago simply because he needed a job. He was driving a bus for Toledo Public Schools and attending the University of Toledo when his father told him the police department was hiring. He applied and was accepted to the academy.
During his tenure on the force, he's been a school officer, academy instructor, and field training officer for rookies.
Eleven years ago, Mr. Waddell was called to the ministry. Within a few years, he became pastor of the church in which he was born and raised.
Mr. Waddell trained under the former pastor, who has since died. He taught Mr. Waddell how to study, prepare a sermon, greet parishioners, and deliver the message.
Mr. Waddell became interim pastor in 1997 when the former pastor became ill. He was appointed pastor the next year.
At the time, Mr. Waddell didn't think he was ready to become the church's leader. "But I'm still pastor, and the church is growing spiritually and numerically," he says. "It takes a dedicated person to be a pastor. I was dedicated to my calling and the position I was appointed."
Mr. Waddell later graduated from Liberty Bible Institute in Virginia with a certificate in biblical studies.
He says relocating the church was part of the vision the Lord gave him. So what began with about a dozen members at an industrial site in Springfield Township has grown to about 65 members at a neighborhood church on Western Avenue.
That's where Mr. Waddell, who gives his small salary back to the church, enthusiastically presides over Sunday services, Wednesday night Bible study, and leadership classes every third weekend.
"Our biases, whatever hang-up you have with someone, you take it to the Lord," he tells more than a dozen Bible study attendees in a booming voice. "He's the only one who solves our problems. We can't do it."
Standing before the group in the sanctuary, the husband and father of two adult sons talks about the Bible's teachings. He reads verses with his parishioners and bows his head and folds his hands for the prayers they say aloud.
"Yes," he says after one line in a prayer.
"Thank you," he says after another.
Contact Christina Hall at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6007.
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