By Jeff Brumley
Through e-mails and Facebook posts, Alan Sherouse informed extended friends and colleagues that he’s stepping down as pastor of Metro Baptist Church to lead a church in North Carolina.
“I am in the midst of transition from Metro to become the pastor of First Baptist Church, Greensboro, NC.,” Sherouse said in an e-mail sent Thursday, his last in the office at the New York City church he’s pastored since May 2009. “Jenny and I and our family are excited about this new opportunity, but also experiencing the range of emotions that come with leaving a place and people dearly loved at Metro.”
Sherouse added that this coming Sunday is his last at Metro, and that his first at First Baptist will be Sept. 22. He reminded readers that Tiffany Triplett Henkel will continue in her role as pastor serving as director of Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries.
What he didn’t address is how a minister leaves a church that has been the hub of recovery from Hurricane Sandy, not to mention a leader among Cooperative Baptist churches in urban ministry and diversity in worship.
And what about that community farm on top of the church, which is located in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan?
“I think the garden is a symbol, and it’s not every church that is lightweight enough, institutionally, to pull off something like that,” Sherouse said when called by ABPnews. “But it’s also great to go to a church … that is absolutely wide-eyed to the future and open to reinvention — and that is what appealed to me as a pastor.”
Sherouse answered other questions about his time at Metro and his move to North Carolina. Here is some of what he had to say.
Is it difficult to leave a unique place like Metro Baptist Church?
It’s the next step in my life, in my family’s life and my sense of call. First Baptist Church of Greensboro is a church of strong legacy and resources and impressive ministries. And I think in many ways it can be a paradigm for how a church like that loves the best parts of its heritage while embracing reinvention…. They are asking for someone who can love that history and provide new vision.
Did the issue of raising young children in Manhattan factor into your decision?
New York is challenging, but it’s not any more challenging to have a family here than other places. Wherever you are, you find the ways the city returns to you what you put into it. Here, there are parks, cultural attractions and other opportunities and things our kids can see — and diversity. We do feel a keen sense of loss. But there also is a clear sense of gain in Greensboro, and we as a family have a sense of vocation in both places.
What drew you to Metro Baptist in the first place?
What drew me here was the church’s progressive heritage and witness within Baptist life. The church’s clear commitment to justice and peace, the church’s level of community engagement through Rauschenbusch (Metro Ministries)…. And it was in an incredibly exciting city I felt would not only be an exciting context for ministry, but also a kind of compressed experience that would prepare me for whatever I would be called to do in the future.
How will your experience there come into play in North Carolina?
First Baptist, Greensboro, is a wonderful church, a strong church, but I think it sees the diversity of a church like Metro and wonders: how does that kind of diversity transfer to a context like our community in Greensboro? And they are asking the same thing with entrepreneurial ministry and imaginative ways to use buildings and resources.
Was there a high point for you in New York?
Metro continues to find new highs and the sustained high we experienced together…was sustained growth over the last five years. We’re all excited for what that means — a growing membership…. That’s been a sustained highlight that’s led to new initiatives.
Was there a low point?
I wouldn’t say there was a low point for my work or my energy for the work. I’d say one of the distinctive moments was an experience of grief with the loss of a longtime church member who was a deacon…. She was one of Metro’s saints and we found out literally seconds before the Sunday morning service. And as that news was shared…there was no way to proceed with business as usual, so the service became an improvisational time of remembrance. This was a year and a half into my time here. But in that low, we also experienced what church can be — particularly church in a city that can be isolating.