An open-minded, all-inclusive attitude has earned Brantford’s Rev. Barry Pridham of Sydenham Street United Church Brant News’ 2012 Community Hero Award.
Local residents who have been touched by Pridham’s generosity and kindness applauded the accolade, presented annually to an individual who makes a difference in the Brant community.
“He is, first of all, a great humanitarian,” said Marina Muzinich. “His passion is connecting people through diversity. His main idea is to educate people and include people through listening to one another.”
Muzinich, a single mother who immigrated to Canada from Croatia, first met Pridham during a round table discussion on poverty.
“He initiated a diversity evening and the first one was with a Muslim community,” she said. “He plans to continue with this listening, involving First Nations people.
“As a human, I think he makes a difference by his non-judgmental, empathic feeling that he projects onto other people.
“He steps out of his comfort zone to give his time and advice no matter if he is going to have anything in return.”
Though he is a minister in the United Church, Pridham’s involvement in the community is non-denominational.
“We are all equal, that was instilled into me by my faith,” Pridham said. “God makes all people, God wants us to be one.”
Harold Peeling, 87, was impressed by Pridham when he first met him through his son, Bob, five years ago.
“I think he is a very caring person,” Peeling said.
When Peeling’s wife was admitted to hospital, Pridham began visiting her, even though the couple attended a different church.
“He said to me ‘I don’t care whose church you go to, if I can help I will,’ and that really impressed me,” Peeling said.
Dylan Stewart, 17, said Pridham’s door is always open whenever someone needs an ear to listen.
Pridham was there for Stewart when the Brantford teen was “trying to figure out life.”
“I was trying to figure out the next steps to move on in life and get life started after high school,” he said. “He’s just there always helping out with everything and everyone seems to know him.”
In addition to leading a church congregation, Pridham has organized meals for those in need, led vigils for victims of violence and helped plan events to bring local Muslims and Christians together with the goal of finding common ground between faiths.
Samar Ramadan credits Pridham for helping her find work in the community.
“He introduced me to tons of people when I was looking for a job,” she said. “He took me to Rotary and introduced me to everybody.”
Ramadan describes Pridham as an unselfish, kind-hearted individual who is very approachable.
“I love him to death. He puts an effort into meeting people and making them feel welcome and making them feel at home,” she said. “The thing about Rev. Barry is that he welcomes me as a Muslim person, he doesn’t make me feel different. Between the mosque and church and cultural lectures and meals for the homeless, he’s done it all.”
Pridham said he can’t tolerate the injustice of when someone puts another person down, or when someone believes they are better than other people.
He was the first reverend to marry a gay couple in Brantford and believes that fairness, justice, equality, safety, respect and integrity are what make a community livable and acceptable.
“Again, breaking down barriers between race, culture, ethnicity, religion,” he said. “There is no ‘them,’ there is only ‘us.’”