Transitional Executive Presbyter Tom Lovell
“Having been an active member of North Alabama Presbytery as a parish pastor since the fall of 2009, I thought I knew the Presbytery fairly well. However, shortly after assuming the role of Transitional Presbyter in January 2022, I quickly realized my limited knowledge. Over the past 18 months, I have visited with the Sessions and/or worshiped with each of our congregations, discovering first-hand, just how active and involved our congregations are in their communities in ways which proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. During this time, I have especially come to appreciate and applaud the ministry of our smaller congregations. While their membership numbers may seem low, they are incredibly strong in their faith and have sought out ways through partnering with neighboring congregations and community groups to reach out to the least of God’s children and minister to the needs of the most vulnerable. Earlier this summer, I worshipped with one of our oldest congregations (established in 1820). During worship, the pastor announced that the church was preparing to host a Vacation Bible School for the first time in decades. In fact, not one person in attendance (and there were those who had been a part of this congregation for 50+ years) could remember the last VBS the church hosted. The next week, the congregation’s Facebook page shared photos of several dozen children and adults enjoying VBS. In the past year, we dissolved three congregations, selling two buildings. Yet, their legacy of faith lives on in the thousands of lives touched by their ministries, and also as the proceeds from the sale of these properties now support many incredible ministries throughout our Presbytery and beyond. These funds have also enabled the Presbytery to establish a “Legacy Fund,” which will be used to support and resource future ministries within our congregations and our presbytery in the decades to come. One of the greatest joys that I have experienced as NAP’s Transitional Presbyter has been to witness and to celebrate the dedication, commitment, and resolve of our congregations, regardless of the number listed on their membership rolls.
Another joy I have experienced has been the opportunity to meet with and get to know those who are serving our congregations as pastors. Though roughly one-half of our congregations have full-time, installed pastors, we have a wonderful group of Stated Supply Pastors, Interim Pastors, and Ruling Elders who provide faithful pastoral and worship leadership for their congregations and inspire them to serve their communities in Christ’s name.
The 26 congregations which comprise North Alabama Presbytery are experiencing the same challenges as other congregations within our Synod, yet in the midst of these challenges, I have been privileged to witness numerous signs of vitality which gives me great hope for the future God has planned for us!