The sign by the road made a simple announcement: “Welcome to our new pastor Teresa McClure.” And with that, as of July 1, the oldest continuous congregation in the Karns community ushered a woman to the pulpit of Beaver Ridge United Methodist Church.
The church’s modern building and sanctuary belies the fact that it has existed in the area once called Beaver Ridge for just over 200 years. Even still, the sanctuary is currently undergoing renovations as McClure has stepped into her new position.
“Yes, I’ve started out right in the middle of it,” she said. “It’s interesting to give a sermon with particle board and what-not lying about. But, I’m pretty excited about it. We’ll hopefully be done in a couple more months. The pandemic has delayed materials, so things are finished as they come in.”
In the meantime, she is brushing up on social media technology, attending an online conference to improve webcasting of church services and other events. Prior to her new assignment, she was the pastor at New Life/Hopewell United Methodist Church and had already adjusted to life online with church during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We had to pivot and pivot quickly,” she said. “We had the tech up and available for creating an online congregation.”
McClure’s path to pastorship was not the usual one. She mostly grew up in Manchester, Tennessee, before her family moved to Halls in 1977. She’s a proud Red Devil alumnus of the class of 1981. She still lives in Halls with her husband, John, and has two grown children. She spent most of her adult life working in the medical field, lastly as a patient case manager for Covenant Health before heeding the call to ministry in 2007.
She became a church secretary then a youth leader which led to becoming a minster of youth and pastoral care. She went on to complete her studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. While she doesn’t dwell on it, she noted that there weren’t many women in ministry in this area to look to for footsteps to follow in.
“Some people have politely told me that women aren’t supposed to be pastors,” she said. “But I prefer not to focus on that. I received my calling. There is fruit in what I do, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. It is pure joy.”
Part of that joy is getting to know her new congregation.
“First and foremost, church is about loving our neighbors,” she said. “We have to get out of the building and into the community and beyond. And this church has such a beautiful history of serving the community. I’m already falling in love with it.”
McClure speaks passionately about what she sees as a minister’s purpose.
“We all need that connection. We all need that knock on the door, to be told ‘you’re seen, you’re heard, you matter.’ It’s about walking with them and celebrating with them,” she said. “Just as it is about crying with them and grieving with them. It brings a unique opportunity, to connect with people that others may not have been able to, in a way that’s authentic.”
When not tending to her flock, McClure enjoys spending time with family and friends, loves to travel, and enjoys a good hike. Just don’t put her in charge of the latter.
“I will defer to my hiking partner, because I will get us lost in the woods,” she said. “I’m not picky at all about where, I’m just directionally challenged.”
Perhaps she’s just in tune to a different compass.