Despair can take many forms these days: terrorism, racism, grief, divorce, poverty, and even the threat of war. But according to Reverend Gaylian Barbour, the key to surviving the troubles we face today is “hope.” The world can seem overwhelming.
“Don’t lose hope. All the hate, the troubles, they can make you want to give up,” explains Barbour, pastor at Mt. Calvary African Methodist Episcopal Church. “We have to know that there is someone up there to turn to, who will help us through it.” That’s her advice for anyone losing faith or feeling hopeless these days. And if you sit in on one of her “straightforward, no holds barred” sermons, you’ll believe it.
Now in her 15th year as a pastor, the much-admired preacher has made her home at Mt. Calvary in Navassa where she leads Sunday worship service and Wednesday night Bible study.
Barbour is a native of Selma, North Carolina, where she grew up in the A.M.E. church. Her experience with the church as a child inspired her to preach.
“It was just a natural progression for me when I received the calling from God.”
Barbour received her baccalaureate degree in Theology from Christian Life School of Theology in Fayetteville, North Carolina. In 2000, at the seat of the 129th Session of the North Carolina Annual Conference, she was ordained as an Itinerant Elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She is also currently licensed by the State of North Carolina as a Registered Nurse.
Barbour’s ability to relate to her congregation, along with her transparency, is what quite possibly sets her apart.
“I don’t put myself on a pedestal,” she says. “When I face the same struggles as the other members, it makes what I say more relevant.” Perhaps that connection is one of the motivators for bringing people to church.
And Mt. Calvary has the members to prove it. With 200 members, even a seasoned pro like Barbour can feel a little intimidated. “There are always butterflies in my stomach,” she admits. “But that’s a good thing. It means I am truly relying on the Lord to help me.”
Everything that Barbour got out of the church growing up she wants to give back to her own congregation. She knows what her own spiritual journey has meant and appreciates seeing the change in someone else’s personal and spiritual growth, and watching them become leaders themselves. In order to truly grow, she wants her members to take her words outside of the church, “not only the knowledge of the text, but apply that knowledge to what they are going through themselves.”
On being a woman in the ministry, Barbour says “it’s been a challenge.” Though there have been great strides over the last decade, she says “there are still some who are just not accepting of women in the clergy.” So many denominations have a history and reputation of being patriarchal and hierarchical, and believe that the role of the pastor is reserved specifically for men. “But that just makes me even more determined. Because I know I was called by God,” says Barbour.
Mt. Calvary AME is part of the 215-year-old African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.). The African Methodist Episcopal Church is made up of 19 administrative regions, including the Second Episcopal District, according to the Mt. Calvary A.M.E. website.
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