MOOERS — Not every pastor could live just five steps from their church.
But for the Rev. Sally Chase White and her husband, the Rev. Rodger White (retired), the recent call to pastor the Mooers United Methodist Church has proved the perfect fit.
White, known as “Pastor Sally,” has been leading the congregation since July 1, after the Rev. Al Johnson moved to a full-time charge at Schuylerville and Quaker Springs United Methodist churches near Saratoga.
A Saranac native, White grew up Methodist.
“It was an expectation,” she said of her upbringing. “The Methodist church is not perfect, but I’d still rather be inside than outside.
“Learning about who Jesus was has been a great strengthener of my faith because it makes so much sense. It’s not just a bandwagon.”
For 28 years, she taught middle-school English. One year after retirement, in 1999, she started her second career, entering a three-year master’s of divinity program at the Theological School of Drew University in Madison, N.J.
During her time in seminary, she traveled to South Korea for what she called a life-changing trip.
“I loved being there,” White said. “I loved the hustle-bustle of the city streets in Seoul. It’s a long way from Hardscrabble Road in Saranac.
“I was only there for a month, but I’d like to go back.”
While in seminary, she served a church in Long Branch, N.J.; and in 2001, White found herself pastoring Keeseville and Harkness United Methodist churches. In 2006, she was appointed to Ballston Spa United Methodist Church; and in 2010, she retired — briefly.
“That’s my second retirement,” White laughed. “I’m not good at it, and so I’m not going to do it again.”
This past spring, the Rev. William Mudge, Adirondack District superintendent, called and asked White if she would serve the Mooers church.
“I was so elated,” she said of the invitation. “It just feels right, and it feels like we’ve lived here forever.”
Her passions include leading worship and a new Northern Tier prayer-shawl ministry for quilters, knitters and crocheters that is in the works.
“I’d really like to have an ecumenical group where we share patterns … just the fellowship of doing something for others, it’s really life changing,” said White, who quilts and knits for relaxation.
“Needlepoint is important to me. It’s kind of a spiritual thing. It helps me sort of focus on who I am and what I’m about, and to share that with other people so we can pass things on to others is powerful. That’s a big piece of who I am as a pastor.”
In ministering to others, she said, she’s retained a lot of the teaching piece.
“Some of that means finding out what people’s needs are; a lot of that is focused on sharing what I’ve learned about the scriptures. Who was Jesus in the context of his world?”
The mother of four and grandmother of five is excited about having six teens in the church youth group.
“I think the Mooers United Methodist Church can be proud. This little tiny church (of about 30 members) has six active youth in their youth group,” she said.
White takes great care to nurture and encourage her congregation. Church community is also key.
“My style is very definitely not to go out and see how many people I can bring in right away. It’s to build that solid foundation, a comfortable place where people can nurture one another, nurture our youth and children and nurture themselves in faith,” she said.
White values honesty and believes in upholding the vows she has made.
And though she supports same-sex marriage, she would not break the vows of her ordination to marry a gay couple.
“I’ve got plenty of friends I can send people to if they wanted to (get married),” she said. “I wouldn’t do it because I vowed not to. It’s tricky. You have to take a stand.”
The issue, she said, hits close to home, as some of her family members are gay. The science is solid in her mind that people don’t choose to be gay or straight.
The Methodist Church names homosexuality as “the issue,” White said, but that’s not totally so.
“The real issue is a balance between, or a conflict between, a very strict adherence to scripture, to John Westley’s teachings; it’s fully interpretation. I come down on the left side of the middle.
“I have pretty much lost hope that this will be settled in my lifetime. I would be happy to be surprised, but it’s difficult.”
The journey to that position has taken White a long time, and she understands other people’s pain around it.
“I think the greater problem now is not just who we are as United Methodists; it’s how many unchurched folks are out there in the world who don’t embrace the value of worshiping together,” she said.
White sees loads of potential in her church community.
“I think this is one of those ‘sky’s the limit’ places.
“From here, we move forward; that’s important to me,” she said. “It’s a new day. Where will we move together? That’s my motto.”
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TO LEARN MORE The Mooers United Methodist Church is at 12 East St., Mooers. The Sunday service starts at 9:30 a.m. For questions or to get involved with the prayer shawl knitting group, call the Rev. Sally Chase White at 236-7129.