From the Law to Grace: Village Chapel's New Senior Pastor Transitions Again
BY MARCE MUSSER
Special to The Pilot
It may not seem a "natural" progression, attorney to pastor, even to the Rev. John Jacobs.
Growing up in Chattanooga, Tenn., Jacobs decided to pursue a career in law after graduating from The Baylor School. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of the South (Sewanee, Tenn.), then attended the University of Memphis to acquire his juris doctorate. It was while specializing in administrative law and church negligence law that Dr. Jacobs was "called" into the ministry.
"It wasn't an immediate shift," Jacobs says. "My bio says I had a period of discernment. That's an understatement! This was a huge change, not just for me, but for my family as well."
Jacobs' wife of 31 years, Betsy, confirms the decision wasn't an easy one.
"I knew he was called, but I also knew it was going to be a big change for our family," she says. "It was especially difficult in moving our family to attend seminary for three years."
Their children, Brouck, presently an assistant district attorney in St. Louis, Mo., and Elizabeth, a teacher in a Christian school in the Durham-Chapel Hill area, were 14 and 10 at the time.
Returning to the University of the South for his Master's of Divinity, then relocating to Florida, where Jacobs served in three churches, held numerous diocesan offices, and was involved in civic leadership in the communities in which they lived, meant a whole new lifestyle for the Jacobs family.
"I think the biggest change wasn't going back to school or moving, or even giving up a legal career," he says. "The biggest change for me, personally, was getting in touch with grace as opposed to the law ... literally.
"When I was contacted by The Village Chapel, I was so intrigued with the Chapel's history," he adds. "I had heard of nondenominational churches, but interdenominational? It's extraordinary to have a church that has overcome the many differences in theology and practice, stayed in close fellowship with its members, remained vital to the community, and been able to minister to all who attend there."
The Village Chapel is an outgrowth of the Pinehurst Religious Association, dating back to the beginning of Pinehurst. The first interdenominational worship service was held in 1898.
James Walker Tufts invited personal friend Everett Hale of Boston to be the first minister. Both Hale and Tufts envisioned a community where people of all backgrounds could live and worship in Christian love.
The original board of directors of the Pinehurst Religious Association had seven members, each representing a different denomination. During the Chapel's history, 11 ministers have served as senior pastor, representing five denominations.
"We are grateful to be part of a church with a vision of Christian fellowship, that transcends human distinctions and denominations, and says to all, that regardless of our various traditions, here is a church for everyone to come and worship the one God who creates us, the one God who saves us, and the one God who inspires us," says Jacobs. "It is a privilege for Betsy and me to be a part of that vision.
"I must also say how grateful we are to serve with the dynamic ministry team of Ashley and Vickie Smith. For the entire time I've been an ordained minister, I've hoped and prayed to be placed with such a gifted minister as Ashley is, to complement my ministry; and I pray my ministry will complement his. Betsy and I are looking forward to a blessed relationship with Ashley and Vickie Smith in our service together for The Village Chapel."
The Jacobses are settling into the community while the excitement builds leading up to his "official" first Sunday, May 20, where he will preach at all three morning worship services (8:15, 9:30 and 11 a.m.).
The Village Chapel is located at the corner of Azalea Road and Village Green in the village of Pinehurst.
Marce Musser is a staff associate at The Village Chapel.
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