Reverend has a return engagement in Alpine

Rev. Jamall Calloway

Alpine Community Church is bringing on Reverend Jamall Calloway to potentially succeed Pastor Ken Colman.

Church Officer Tom Myers said ACC leaders asked Calloway to speak as a visiting pastor one Sunday after Colman left to take a job closer to his family in Washington. Although church leaders had somewhat arbitrarily chosen Calloway from a list of available pastors supplied by the larger United Church of Christ organization, they instantly connected with him.

“It was a wonderful sermon. On his way home, the story is he called his wife, told her he loved Alpine, and came back for lunch in town,” Myers said.

Chuckling, Calloway confirmed he did bring his wife back to Alpine almost immediately.

Based on a new designation UCC put in place, Myers said, the church has temporarily hired Calloway and will ultimately call for a vote from congregants on whether the visiting reverend will stay in place.

In the meantime, he’s been doing double duty as a summer pastor in the Massachusetts Berkshires as well as working as an assistant professor in the University of San Diego department of theology and religious studies, and as an affiliated faculty member in the USD Africana Studies Program.

Calloway is also an honorary research professor in the religion, philosophy, and classics department on the Pietermaritzburg campus at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Working in ministry and teaching, he said, is like recognizing we have a right arm and a left connected by the same heart.

“When I’m teaching, I’m interested in developing how I get students to question philosophy and religious literature in a way that is productive for their lives and accept there are no certainties. When I’m in front of the church, I’m trying to help everyone, myself included, accept that we don’t control everything,” Calloway said.

The reverend, who holds a Doctorate in systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a Bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary humanities from Tougaloo College, said he enjoys bible study as part of working in ministry.

“I think that in American society, especially with Christianity, we don’t really know what the bible says about everything. We reduce it to sound bites but don’t always know how complicated and nuanced and diverse it is so reading the bible on its own terms tends to be very fulfilling for me,” Calloway said.

He especially appreciates the writings of Eugene Peterson, a pastor and author known for “The Message: the Bible In Contemporary Language,” which presents the bible in modern English.

“Being present with people during some of the most sacred aspects of their lives, being with other human beings in the face of humanity is where I really feel like I’m serving my calling,” the pastor said.

Connecting with congregants in a post-COVID world is challenging, he said.

“It’s, well, really, it’s difficult because technology was really, really helpful and it sort of ushered a lot of smaller churches into using YouTube. Now, doing things live— we need to continue to cultivate that newer outreach while at the same time ushering in community, all while being safe about it. It’s challenging,” Calloway said.

Myers agreed, saying “everyone is still kind of searching for a path” through outreach and connection in a post-COVID world.

“There were so many changes that happened during COVID, initially we were closed entirely then we were able to open with services outdoors, then allowed to do limited services indoors and outdoors. Now, we seem to be back in the sanctuary on what looks like it might be a permanent basis until another giant pandemic issue,” Myers said, and they’re now focusing on reaching back out to congregants who were unable to attend church through the various states of closure.

At this point, the pastor said, he is introducing himself to the community.

“After I was asked to deliver the morning message in Alpine a few months ago and the community enjoyed my presence, I drove home, I told my wife we had to go back,” Calloway said.

Church leaders have “talked a lot by Zoom and phone” with Calloway, Myers said, made a connection but they’re still working to get the word out about the new pastor in town.

“I think the church is taking a chance on me. I don’t know them too well but I think they’re taking a chance on me so I hope it works out,” Calloway said.

Calloway will formally begin his ministry with Alpine Community Church on Sept. 18.

Reverend has a return engagement in Alpine

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