It was in May 2018 that I returned to live in Valdosta.
Shortly thereafter I was invited to attend the July 1 service at St. Paul A.M.E. Church by the pastor, Rev. Billie Graham McFadden, who now serves as presiding elder of the Augusta South District, along with his wife, Pastor Tammie McFadden, Augusta South District consultant.
That first Sunday morning did not go well for me, as I was rushing and slipped on the front steps, soiling my white dress in the wet grass from the rain the night before. There was no time to change.
Therefore, I proceeded to church praying all the while that it would work out, not knowing that a bishop would be speaking. Thank goodness that my white robe was still in the cleaner bag, as it got me through morning service.
I was privileged to meet Bishop Ronnie E. Brailsford and Episcopal Supervisor Rev. Carolyn Brailsford of the 20th Episcopal District, Africa, while awaiting service in the pastor’s chambers.
Somewhat embarrassed, I explained my tardiness due to an unfortunate fall and that I was happy to have made it. Bishop Brailsford preached a dynamic sermon and his wife, a professional singer, sang to the glory of God, which inspired me to connect with St. Paul at the invitation.
Every pastor must have a home church in order to be properly connected in the AME denomination. I remained at St. Paul for nine months and received my first charge as pastor of Bethel AME Church, Hahira, on the last day of annual conference, Friday, March 1, 2019.
This was my indoctrination into Valdosta South District ministry.
The wonderful people at Bethel received me with open arms and it was a great mission for one and a half years. I learned a lot about ministry in South Georgia, and met several astounding people, many who are now lifetime friends. Additionally, the quaint town of Hahira is simply beautiful.
God, however, had other plans for me.
I was reassigned as pastor of Payton AME Church, Valdosta, the first week of September 2020. The members have received me well and we are in the “getting to know you” phase of our marriage.
Every change is a testing ground in ministry, as each order is alike and different in many respects. There will be growing pains, but things always work out when God is in the driver’s seat, and I do believe that everything is going to be all right in this new normal.
Fortunately, I can say that I have been blessed through each of these assignments, and I am thankful to our presiding elder, Patrick Brinson; Valdosta South District Consultant, Angela Brinson; the Right Reverend Reginald T. Jackson, presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District; and Episcopal Supervisor Christy Davis Jackson, Esquire, for the opportunities that I have been given, and for their trust in me to serve the people of God in this awesome position as pastor.
We never walk alone. God is with us every step of the way. Yes, it is my journey, and God’s plan for my life.
“Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” (John 1:16 NIV)
God bless you is my earnest prayer!
The Rev. Dr. Berlinda A. Hart Love is pastor of Payton A.M.E. Church.