Sunday, January 8, 2017, at a Special Business Meeting following worship by unanimous vote Rev. Maria Swearingen and Rev. Sally Sarratt were called to serve as Senior Ministers and Co-Pastors. They are scheduled to begin their service at Calvary Sunday, February 26.
Rev. Maria Swearingen
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. Maria graduated summa cum laude from Baylor University with a B.A. in psychology and religion. She then earned her M.Div. at Duke Divinity School in 2010, graduating magna cum laude, and was awarded the Jameson Jones Excellence in Preaching Award in 2010. In the summer of 2009, Maria did field education placement teaching New Testament classes in Spanish in Peru at Seminario Andino in Huancayo and also in La Merced.
Since graduating, Maria has worked in the chaplaincy program at Furman University, serving as the Associate University Chaplain, supporting 23 religious organizations, 13 affiliated Campus Ministers, and a host of university committees. She was appointed by the university president to co-chair Furman’s Diversity Committee, focusing on policy, campus climate, education, and assessment. In addition to supporting students and faculty, Maria co-led and coordinated a pre-professional internship program called Exploration of Vocation and Ministry where students consider the ways that their faith and career intersect.
As a chaplain, Maria has preached and crafted worship experiences following the liturgical calendar and as part of interfaith gatherings and university-wide events. She has a particular passion for the pulpit and is excited about the opportunity to preach more regularly. Her preaching style is “compassionately feisty” – striking a balance between challenge and care.
Active in her church and neighborhood community, Maria worked with a cohort of clergy to develop a year-long intensive training experience for religious leaders focused on dismantling white supremacy and racism. Additionally, growing up in a bilingual household and being in a same-sex marriage has fostered particular justice commitments to the LGBTQ+ and Latino/a communities. Along with Sally, Maria led retreats and taught multi-week Sunday School series as a lay leader in her home church. She has also served in leadership roles in the Alliance of Baptists and is co-chairing their 2017 annual gathering.
Rev. Sally Sarratt
Despite majoring in religion as an undergraduate at Carson-Newman College, Sally’s path to ministry was meandering. After completing a two-year Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) Global Service Corps missionary placement in New York City, where she launched and directed six summer sports camps for children from low-income neighborhoods and taught ESL to immigrants, Sally earned her MBA from the University of Virginia in 2002. She worked for several years as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble, then transitioned to Chief Operating Officer at an architectural firm. In this position, she led a merger, managed personnel from numerous disciplines, and implemented procedural improvements. Sally’s facility with budgeting, personnel management, and strategic planning is a wonderful and uncommon asset among ministry candidates.
Ultimately, Sally could not ignore her call to ministry and decided to return to school, attending Emory University, where she earned her Master of Theological Studies in 2014 and the MTS Award for Excellence (an award for achieving the highest GPA in the degree program). She used her time in seminary to hone her interests in religion and public life, focusing her research on the Moral Mondays movement and Proposition 8. After graduating, she began work as a chaplain resident, completing the Clinical Pastoral Education [CPE].
For the past couple of years, Sally split her time as an Associate Chaplain for Behavioral Health in the Greenville Health System and as Associate Minister at the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (GUUC). As a chaplain, providing grief support and rituals of healing and forgiveness for patients as needed, participating with a treatment team for an adult inpatient behavioral health program, and facilitating a weekly outpatient spirituality group. As Sabbatical Minister at GUUC, preaching twice a month and collaborating with staff to plan weekly service, coordinating pastoral care, and presiding over funerals, weddings, and other rites of passage. Working with a diverse Unitarian congregation afforded her space to think outside the box in helping to connect folks to the richness of the Christian story. Sally also volunteered as the ARCUS Grant Project Facilitator for the Alliance of Baptists, and serves on the Alliance’s Baptist Identity Discernment Team.