God has poured his love upon Philadelphia Park since the day Rev. Rae Cameron arrived as its first part-time Chaplain in 1975. While Pastor of Frankford Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Rev. Cameron had previously ministered at the former Liberty Bell Racetrack, replaced by Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia. Pastor Cameron’s records show that from 1971 to 1975 he and other pastors from Pennsylvania and New Jersey met to develop outreaches to racetracks. Doors to the tracks opened for Rae when he contacted Chaplain “Salty” Roberts, founder of Race Track Chaplaincy of America. Of great help was also Rev. Homer Tricules, an American Baptist Chaplain serving tracks in New Jersey. The hard work and prayers were about to bear fruit.
In those formative days, the Race Track Coordinating Committee led the way, consisting of pastors from American Baptist and Southern Baptist churches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Committee, formed in April of 1972, enabled Rev. Cameron to become the first part-time Chaplain at Keystone Park (later renamed Philadelphia Park). His contract called for him to work at the track two days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., serving those working on the backstretch. Churches near the track provided meals and/or refreshments and led worship services with Pastor Cameron. The ministry steadily gained strength through the dedicated efforts of those who cared deeply for the stable employees.
In October of 1980, the chaplaincy took another stride forward.
God led Rev. Nick Salios to serve as part-time Chaplain at both Philadelphia Park and Penn National Race Course, near Grantville, PA. Chaplain Cordell remembers hearing “Salty” speak at the RTCA national meeting in 2001 at which “Salty” recalled the night he went to the home of Rev. Salios to enlist him in ministry to racetracks. Nick accepted the invitation, and his dedication and vision for the ministry enabled both works to flourish, despite his having to drive back and forth, dividing his time weekly between the tracks for 12 years! Growth and innovation characterized the labors of Chaplain Salios.
Early in 2000 Chaplain Salios and the Council of the RTCA, PA Division, contacted Rev. Jack Cordell, Pastor of Crossroads Community Baptist Church in Erie, PA. The Council extended a call to Rev. Cordell to become the next Chaplain at Philadelphia Park, and in June of 2000, he began his ministry here. Since coming to the track, Jack has expanded the work so very ably established by Nick and Rose Salios. This website is a part of the expansion, enabling the Chaplain to communicate the work to churches and individuals. He has also focused on developing greater involvement by area churches and pastors of various denominations as well as community organizations.
In December of 2009, Chaplain Cordell retired and Rev. Rick Bunker was called to be the current Chaplain. He is bringing over twenty years of full-time pastoral experience to the continuing work of sharing Jesus Christ with those who work at the Track and also to their families. During most of his time as a pastor he has been very involved with Christian Education and Healthcare Administration as well. He looks forward to focusing fully on the ministry here at the track in partnership with the many churches and ministries that have created the wonderful synergy that exists here today. The Chaplain’s efforts have been wonderfully blessed by a growing participation of community organizations and churches.
For nearly forty years, God has kept His hand on the work at Philadelphia Park, displaying His love through those who care. The future of the work is bright, because God continues to shine His love upon it.