This is the third installment of a yearlong series that will follow newly appointed United Methodist clergy as they begin their ministry.
7:00 A.M. EST Oct. 13, 2010 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
The Rev. Brian Rossbert leads prayer during children’s time at New
Bethel United Methodist Church. UMNS photos by Kathy L. Gilbert.
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The Rev. Brian Rossbert spent most of his third wedding anniversary at a church council meeting, which is typical of the way life is working out for him these days.
Rossbert is a young pastor assigned to two rural West Nashville churches in the Tennessee Annual (regional) Conference. As part of his appointment, he is also volunteer coordinator for the West Nashville Flood Recovery Network.
His wife, Laura, is a second-year master of divinity degree candidate at Vanderbilt University and serving as pastoral intern at East End United Methodist Church.
Every Sunday, and most days in between, they are at opposite ends of town.
It takes a lot of shuffling, but the Rossberts are working it out.
When Laura preached her first sermon recently, Brian asked his churches to adjust their worship times so he could surprise her by being in the pew to support her. New Bethel met one hour earlier, and Centenary met one hour later. Several members of his congregations went along to add their support.
Judith Mayo, church historian at New Bethel, was one of those who went to support Laura. She is happy Laura is in school, which means the churches will get to keep them around a little longer than usual.
Both New Bethel and Centenary are “starter” churches for young pastors. Usually the pastors stay with them for one to three years.
“We don’t mind being a starter church; we are very happy to train pastors,” said Mayo.
New Bethel had its 2010 homecoming Oct. 10. The Rev. Cheri Parker, who was pastor at the churches from 1983 to 1990, came back as guest preacher for the celebration.
Parker stayed with the churches longer than most. She and her husband, Jack Keller, started their family while she was pastor there.
From the pulpit, she reminisced about having her babies in baskets at the altar beside her when she preached.
“You taught me to be a pastor,” she said. “I will be forever thankful.”
Hearing the call
The Rev. Brian Rossbert (far right) directs a mission team of young people working on a home damaged by floods in Nashville, Tenn.
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Rossbert heard the call to ministry when he was working for a congressman in Washington, D.C. After working on the Hill, he attended Wesley Seminary and graduated with a master’s of divinity in 2009.
Bob Kimbro, another longtime member of New Bethel, said Rossbert is special.
“I think being in Washington, D.C., for a while really helped him mature,” he said. “He has a wonderful worshipping spirit.”
Members of both congregations are thankful for the Rossberts.
“I know he will leave us; he’s just too good,” Kimbro said.
Prepping and leading worship, Sunday school and weekly Bible studies for two churches; organizing and supervising work teams for flood recovery; attending an overnight training seminar and finding someone to fill in so he could attend a friend’s wedding in Colorado – these are just a few things Rossbert was juggling recently.
That was the week he felt called to change his sermon at Centenary from Timothy and the gospel of Luke to Psalm 100.
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.”
As he looked out at his congregation, he sensed people needed to be reminded that worship could happen in lots of places other than in a church building on Sunday.
Joyful noises don’t always sound melodious. Sometimes they sound a lot like hammers nailing up a wall or shovels scooping out dirt or a neighbor mowing your lawn, he said.
He also admitted he was holding up a mirror for himself.
“Sometimes the best sermons are when you are preaching to yourself.”
*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.