Preaching to their new Suffolk choirs

Published 10:19 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2018

With schools back in session and football season ready to kick off the month of September festivities on Thursday, it’s starting to feel like summer is winding down, even though the last official day of the season is still weeks away on Sept. 22.

I’ve been thinking about everything that the Suffolk News-Herald has covered this season and one thing stuck out to me: Suffolk welcomed quite a few new pastors to its places of worship. We at the News-Herald have written about a number of them, and there are still more about whom we’ll be writing in the coming days and weeks.

I was just at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church on Bridge Road last week to speak with the Rev. Gillian Weighton about going from her church in Racine, Wisc. to becoming a North Suffolk pastor. I asked the Rev. Mary Anne Biggs similar questions in late July, after she also moved from Wisconsin to Suffolk’s warmer temperatures.


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Biggs made the drive to fill the void left by the beloved Rev. Greg Ryan, who passed away from acute leukemia on May 31, 2017, at age 54. She’s done an admirable job since then as she’s made her mark on the Chuckatuck congregation of Oakland Christian Church.

Then there’s the Rev. Dr. Joseph Alexander Perry, who became the new pastor at St. Mark AME Zion Church earlier in July. He’s been a regular columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald and The Tidewater News, and he has a name I can support.

He balances his column writing with work at the Department of Motor Vehicles in North Carolina and his regular drives from Sunbury, N.C., to his Suffolk congregation.

“A pastor should be in constant contact with the people he pastors and the community he serves,” he said.

Religion plays a big role in the Suffolk community going back more than a century. On Pine Street, Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal Church celebrated 152 years of community worship on Aug. 19. That sense of worship has of course found its way into this newsroom.

When Chris Surber, the former pastor of Liberty Spring Christian Church on Whaleyville Boulevard, decided to leave the Suffolk church in August to become pastor of Mt. Hope Congregational Church in Livonia, Mich., Res Spears took his place in an interim capacity. Spears isn’t just a devout man. He’s also the former Suffolk News-Herald editor who hired me in the first place. Look for more on his new role soon.

There’s been a lot of movement in Suffolk’s churchgoing community, and I wish each and every newly appointed pastor good fortune going into the fall. I’m certain this community will continue to embrace your charity with open arms.