‘Not an ordinary day’

Published 10:20 pm Friday, July 15, 2011

The Rev. Myrtle Hatcher is the new pastor of Main Street United Methodist Church. She replaces the Rev. Robert parks, who took a post in Farmville.

As the title of the pastor’s sermon suggested, it was no ordinary day at Main Street United Methodist Church on July 3.

The congregation arrived at church and went to their usual Sunday school classes. They sat in their usual spots in the pews and sang the usual hymns.

But then, something out of the ordinary happened. A black female pastor got up to speak.

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The Rev. Myrtle Hatcher titled her sermon “This is not an ordinary day” because it wasn’t. She understood that her new congregation has never had a woman for a pastor, or a racial minority for a pastor — let alone both in the same person.

“The congregation here has been overwhelmingly welcoming,” Hatcher said this week of the predominantly white church. “They’ve just been so gracious.”

Hatcher is the newest pastor at the church after the Rev. Robert Parks left for a post as the Farmville District superintendent. As a part of the United Methodist Church, Main Street UMC pastors are on the itinerant system, where pastors move from church to church on a fairly regular basis and are appointed by United Methodist bishops, not by local churches.

The system dates from the roots of the Methodist church in the American frontier days, when pastors rode circuits on horseback from town to town.

Hatcher, who has been a Methodist all her life, is a firm believer in the itinerant system, she said.

“It allows the church to experience a lot of different styles of pastors,” she said. “It gives you an opportunity to work with a lot of different churches.”

United Methodist pastors used to be moved every four to five years, but now slightly longer appointments are more typical. Hatcher stayed at St. James United Methodist Church in Hampton for 12 years, after working at churches in Norfolk and on the Northern Neck.

After her Hampton appointment, she became a district superintendent for Hampton Roads and is just coming out of that position.

Before going into seminary at Duke University in 1982, she was in education. She took a position on staff at Mary Baldwin College after earning her degree there.

“I still love teaching,” she said.

But one day, someone suggested she should go into the ministry. She asked a couple of other friends, and got the surprising response of “That’s what everybody knows you should do.”

Apparently, it’s been working well. Only two weeks into her new appointment, she already is receiving positive feedback from church members, including one email from a member about how practical her sermons are.

“I’m a narrative pastor,” Hatcher said. “I do very few high theology type things. People just need to know everyday life, how God is working with you.”

Hatcher and her husband, John, have one deceased son. Their five grandchildren and daughter-in-law live in Norfolk.

Services at the church, 202 N. Main St., are held at 8:30 and 11 a.m. every Sunday. For more information, call 539-8751.