“I grew up in Enterprise, Alabama. I never saw a female pastor until I was in high school. We had an awesome female pastor at my home church of Enterprise First Methodist. I discovered that I could do that as a job and people encouraged me.
I met my husband at Huntingdon, and we both went to seminary at Duke. Moving from Durham, North Carolina to Marlow three years ago to pastor at Marlow Methodist Church, my first congregation, was a dramatic change. It is challenging to be a female pastor here, but I have the benefit of being the second female pastor. The people who weren’t okay with a woman pastor had already left. However, the first preacher in the Bible was a woman. Mary was the first person to reveal the good news of a risen Christ.
People say Marlow is the place people go to get lost. More people than you would think live out here, and many don’t want to be found. It looks and feels like Appalachia. There are the very wealthy and the very poor. Both are equally hidden far off the road.
Before Sally, people who didn’t have electricity or access to clean water came to our church on a regular day asking for help. The hurricane pulled back the veil revealing poverty and lack of resources. It also lifted some of the shame of asking for help because we all need help right now. People who would not normally ask for help, now have a reason to come out and say I need something. It is a chance to love each other in new ways.
We have been having conversations since I arrived about no power, no water, no work and no groceries. Some live in homes that we wouldn’t call inhabitable. There is no homeless shelter in Baldwin County or a place to send people who need help. Someone say we don’t have homeless people in Baldwin County. That is incorrect.
2020 was going to be the year our church was going to better serve the community. We have a food pantry, but we want to help with problems further upstream. I made a connection with a therapist, and we were going to rent out space in the house next door so that therapists could have a place for office hours. We were going to have a child psychologist to help with some of the trauma and offer help with addiction recovery. COVID happened and cancelled those plans. This church is amazing and wants to do good in the community, but there are also things they are afraid of in reaching out.
This week I have been thinking more about the amount of stress that a person is under when they are not sure about having food, shelter, electricity or water. It is hard to think deeply into who God is or the meaning of life. Instead, you start doing drugs and meth to numb the pain. If we help meet immediate needs and get people past survival, maybe they can open themselves to love and connect in different ways. We could give them belonging and security. I want the church to offer a beautiful space and be an oasis. We also need more art in our community.
A tornado hit my high school in Enterprise and killed eight students. My mother took us out of school that day so I wasn’t there. The aftermath and community coming together was beautiful. The school was destroyed, and I finished my final high school years in FEMA trailers. Our Bible study group fed us and gave us a place to be together. I recently realized I didn’t make it out unscathed. I think it made me more compassionate for others going through crisis.
I have learned at Marlow Methodist that I can be a pastor. God’s calling feels more like an invitation than a demand for my life. I love being in service in the community because meeting physical needs leads to meeting spiritual needs. We are meant to enjoy life. We are meant to have freedom. We are meant to have feelings of gratitude and wonder at the Glory of God’s creation.”