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Calvary Calls Co-Pastors

Press Contacts:

Carol Blythe: (301) 681-7569 blythecarol@gmail.com

Becky Vaughn: (706) 540-9724 becky@beckyvaughn.org

January 9, 2017

Calvary Baptist Church Adopts New Senior Minister Model with Women Co-Pastors

Calvary Baptist Church takes great pleasure in announcing the hiring of Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen as the church’s new senior ministers. The two women were presented as co-pastors to Calvary’s congregation on January 8 during morning worship, and were enthusiastically approved to be the new leadership team. The calling of women co-pastors is another exciting first for the historic Baptist church, which has been located in downtown Washington, DC for more than 150 years.

The married couple come to Calvary from Greenville, SC, where Sarratt has been serving as associate chaplain for behavioral health in the Greenville Health System and Swearingen as associate chaplain at Furman University. Sarratt has also been filling the role of part-time associate minister at Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Both Sarratt and Swearingen were ordained at their home church, First Baptist Church of Greenville, after it adopted and implemented a non-discrimination policy in 2015.

Sarratt and Swearingen accepted Calvary’s call to serve as co-pastors, telling church members: “We have found it so easy to fall in love with Calvary and its longstanding commitment to be a voice of justice and compassion for those who perpetually find the wholeness of their humanity disregarded and maligned.”

Calvary Baptist Church has always been known for its progressive outlook, beginning with the small group of abolitionists who founded it in 1862. The congregation is committed to being an urban church where social justice matters deeply and everyone is welcome in Christian fellowship. Calvary has benefitted from the leadership of women at all levels of church life.

Reverend Amy Butler, Calvary’s previous senior minister, was called in 2014 by The Riverside Church in New York City to serve as its senior minister. Earlier this year, Reverend Edgar Palacios, Calvary’s longtime associate minister, accepted an appointment by the government of his native El Salvador to serve as its ambassador to Canada.

According to Carol Blythe, chair of Calvary’s Ministerial Selection Committee, “As we met and talked with Sally and Maria about their vision for pastoral leadership at Calvary, we were struck by their deep faith and commitment to being part of a gospel community.”

Blythe added, “We were impressed by how their gifts, talents, and experience matched our ministry priorities—and we are thrilled about their upcoming pastorate and the versatility the co-pastor model will provide our congregation.”

Sarratt and Swearingen bring complementary skills and backgrounds to Calvary that match the church’s needs in exciting ways. After Sarratt spent two years working as a global service corps missionary through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, she obtained an MBA at the University of Virginia, and became a successful businesswoman in the corporate world. She eventually felt the call to ministry and went on to earn a Master of Theological Studies degree at Emory University. As a chaplain, Sarratt’s service includes providing grief support for patients and facilitating a weekly outpatient spirituality group. And in her role at Greenville Unitarian, she preaches, coordinates pastoral care, and presides over rites of passage for the 400-member congregation.

Swearingen grew up the child of a minister in a bilingual household which connected her to both English and Spanish speaking congregations during her formative years. She earned a Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School, which honored her with the Jameson Jones Excellence in Preaching Award. Swearingen has a particular passion for the pulpit, and she has spent the last year working with a cohort of clergy in South Carolina to develop deeper conversational space for religious leaders striving to dismantle white supremacy and institutional racism.

Sarratt and Swearingen are scheduled to begin their service at Calvary Baptist Church February 26.