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A Facebook reunion

Longtime senior pastor and a gifted former colleague talk about mentoring

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Eustacia Marshall and the Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon were the Facebook Live guests of the Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty this week.

LOUISVILLE — The longtime senior pastor of C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a former pastor there who’s now a designated pastor in West Philadelphia were reunited Wednesday during a Facebook Live half-hour event called “Mentoring in Ministry.”

The Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon, CN Jenkins pastor for 28 years and the brother of the late Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon, and the Rev. Eustacia Marshall, designated pastor of the West Philadelphia Partnership and the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, the president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, swapped stories and insights Wednesday. They were the guests of the Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty, senior director for Theological Funds Development for the Committee on Theological Education and the Presbyterian Foundation.

“This has been a challenging season,” Marshall said, what with a pandemic that is not only biological, “but the uncovered history of white supremacy in our country. It’s been challenging to do ministry, be a mama and be a wife. I will say it is truly my sense of God’s presence and mercy that’s been very important to me at this time.”

Cannon dialed up a football metaphor: “I think part of where we are now is calling audibles and moving with the flow,” he said. “The pandemic has taught me those things we were doing before, they aren’t that important. Nobody is looking to see if the organ was played or the bulletin was proofread. The difference is the church has become alive.”

Marshall said she considers pastoral ministry to be mentoring. “Jesus walked with 12 disciples and mentored them,” she said. In Mark’s gospel, “Jesus sees them and calls them to follow him. What do we see? Where do we see God working in the lives of people, and how can we join? Those are questions I wrestle with in ministry.” During West Philadelphia Partnership session meetings, ruling elders answer out loud a series of questions, including, “Where do you see God working in your life? In our life together? How is God calling us to follow?”

The sanctuary of CN Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of CN Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church)

Those questions were “formed in me at CN Jenkins, watching Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon helping to draw awareness to the fact that God is always at work, even when it’s hard for us to see,” Marshall said. “We need to think with a new kind of imagination. So many voices have a claim on us. How can we draw our ears to hear and our eyes to see what God is doing?”

“I saw in (Marshall) a gift from God,” Cannon said of his former colleague. “I saw in Pastor Marshall a student of ministry ready to go.”

Cannon also offered this mentoring tip: when you’re scanning the congregation for potential leadership, don’t forget students in middle school and older.

“Don’t overlook the junior high schoolers in the pews right now,” he said. “You don’t know where they’ll be in 15 years.”

For her part, Marshall called Cannon, “one of many who have been so formational in my life.” She said she’s currently working on studying the Exodus 3 text where God tells Moses that he’s standing on holy ground. In the text, God calls Moses by name twice.

“I’m fascinated by what God sees in Moses,” she said. “God says, ‘where you are is holy ground.’ You can see the holy in someone who is human and has frailties. I can say that being at CN Jenkins, I had the blessing and the grace of having people see something in me, and I have tried to pay it forward. The way God uses people has always been incredible to me.”

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