The Gifts of a Teaching and Learning Church

| May 9th, 2024

Dear Beloved Community,

One August Sunday some three years ago, I met a winsome pair of brand-new students on the precipice of beginning a three-year journey through Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity. They introduced themselves to me this way: “I’m Zack from Georgia.” “And I’m Georgia from Texas!”

That was my first introduction to Zack Jackson (and our friend, Georgia McKee!), who started attending worship at First on Fifth before classes ever started and found his place among us from the very start. Zack began to learn about First on Fifth in those early months before joining: worshiping with us each week, getting to know us, and even sharing in our work on the Confession of Identity by watching Zoom recordings later because he was in class when we met! 

Zack served as a pastoral intern in the 2022-2023 school year, offering a particular share of his gifts and ministerial energies with our youth group and even garnering a nickname from them along the way. (“Theo” if you’re wondering – short, of course, for “theology.”) He began his path of ordination that same year, articulating for the Deacons and Ordination Council his particular call to ministry amidst a lifetime in the church and its pains and graces along the way. Back in November, we laid our hands upon Zack, ordaining and blessing him for the work God had long ago begun in his life.

Over this school year that Zack has served as our first-ever Pastoral Resident, his experience in pastoral ministry has deepened and broadened. He’s visited you in the hospital, served you communion and offered you his faithful prayers, proclaimed good news for all God’s children and hopeful belonging to Jesus Christ. He’s shepherded our flourishing ministries with newcomers and young adults, both of which have found vibrant space under his leadership. He has led us all with his thoughtful articulation of faith and his commitment to Christian community in its truest and most beautiful form.

This Sunday, Zack will be presented to the beloved community of University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi as their first-ever Pastoral Resident too! This new role will invite Zack’s gifts for ministry to bear fruit in shared pastoral ministries of preaching, teaching, and pastoral care, along with a particular focus in ministry with children. In an act of the Spirit’s timing, Zack’s final Sunday with us will be May 19 – the Sunday he’ll be affirmed by a congregational vote at UBC, and the Sunday we mark the coming of the Spirit to infuse the church with energies to be sent forth into the world. We are so proud of Zack, and always grateful for the gift to accompany him, and him, us, over these three years of life and ministry. 

One of the great gifts of “being a teaching and learning church,” as our missional priority states, is the opportunity to invest in and prioritize our work with students in their season of life in Winston-Salem. I am particularly grateful that we have the opportunity to do so with so many students from Wake Divinity, surely learning from them more than we might teach. That has been my experience serving with Zack, and I will treasure it – and him! – for all the years ahead. 

In the coming days, please extend your gratitude to Zack for his ministry among us and your blessings for him as he prepares to go serve the good folks in Mississippi! 

Together in God’s work of Love,Pastor Emily