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 Charge to the congregation

This is the Rev. Dr. Eugenia Gamble’s charge to the Swift Presbyterian Church congregation upon the Installation of the Rev. Alexandra Hutson as pastor on May 19, 2024.

Thank you so much for welcoming me into your sanctuary and into this joyous time even from a distance across the bay. Alexandra is one of my favorite people on the planet and it is a great joy to share this time with all of you. Alexandra has been a friend and pastor to me since she first came to Mobile and it is my honor to offer a charge to you on the occasion of her installation as your pastor.

I have several reflections to share.

First, I am sure you know this already, but Alexandra is all heart. Her capacity to love and accept others is truly amazing, so I charge you to welcome her heart with your heart. In doing so, you will meet Jesus in each other in ways that change and transform you all. It is always love that changes us after all. It is only love that sees things clearly in this rag tag bobtailed world we live in. It is what God does in us, because it is who God is in us. Love is where miracles arise.

Second, remember that even though she is young and seems to bubble with energy, Alexandra will get tired, need breaks and time away to refuel. You may need to help her recognize this as her enthusiasm may blind her to her own needs, especially at first. It is not uncommon for pastors to begin a new call with no boundaries at all, and then set up expectations that cannot be sustained long term. I charge you to keep your eyes open and care for her as she cares for you.

Several years ago I was leading a family retreat in the redwoods of California. The retreat concluded with lunch together before we went our separate ways. I was seated with a young father who was so excited about the things he had learned that he could hardly contain himself, thoughts and questions just spilled out of him. While I was trying to keep up, and without missing a breath, he noticed a young boy across the table trying to reach the fruit punch. The young man reached across and gave the boy some punch. “Always looking for feet to wash,” he said and went back to his questions. So take the young man’s lead and look every day for ways to wash Alexandra, Jacob and Elsie’s feet. As you do this you will find yourself blessed as you care for them.

Third, do not expect Alexandra to know everything. Expect her to know Jesus, who will, over a lifetime, teach her, and you, everything you need to know. Remember that it is not Alexandra’s job to do your ministry for you. You have not hired out your own discipleship. It is your job to grow and deepen in Christ every day of your life. There is no expiration date on that and Alexandra cannot, will not and should not do that for you. Who knows, you may wind up with Abraham and Sarah in the maternity ward at age 100 with God bringing truly unexpected promises to term in your life. You cannot hire that out. What you have called Alexandra to do is walk alongside you and sweep the path of stones upon which you might trip when she sees them. I charge you to remember whose job your spiritual growth is and to accept Alexandra’s insights and help along the way.

Fourth, Some feel these days that the era of the church and the relevance of it is behind us, that we will just continue to hemorrhage members until we are like ghosts whispering through abandoned sanctuaries. I am not one of those people. Years ago I read a powerful book called Man’s Search for Meaning. It was written by Victor Frankel, a psychiatrist and survivor of the holocaust in Auschwitz. In the book, he describes the horror of the camps and the struggle to survive there. At one point, he realizes that the only way he can survive is to be who he is, a psychiatrist. So he starts to observe the people in the camp with him. He wondered why some died so quickly and others, against all odds, found a way to survive. What he discovered has stuck with me for more than 30 years. He found that what made the difference between those who survived and those who did not was not their physical strength or cunning. He discovered that those who survived had one thing in common, they all believed that there was something meaningful yet for them to do. So I charge you — in these days of change when it would be easy to give up or put on blinders and refuse to see reality, or resort to the ease of habit — I charge you every day as individuals and as a congregation to search for the truly meaningful thing that is yet for you to do. My hunch is, it will surprise you and may very well take you out of your comfort zone.

Finally, there is a term we use a lot in seminary and in ministry. It is exegete. It means to look deeply and carefully into the context and meaning, particularly of a biblical text, so that we do not twist the Bible to serve a goal for which it was not intended, or read our own need, or prejudice, back into it. Using that word, I charge you as a congregation to carefully exegete the community and the times in which we live and allow the Spirit to lead you into deeper and wider love. Many of us are not living in a world that even faintly resembles the world in which we grew up. Things change. It is inevitable and willed. God, after all, is in the transformation business and that is just another word for change. Exegete the times, sisters and brothers in Christ. Don’t expect Alexandra to do the heavy lifting of change by herself, or the bear the blows of the inevitable discomfort that comes from change that flows from the grace of God. Commit to the truth of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, be careful what you hate because the line between what and who is thin and easily crossed, release all preconceived notions about church itself and put yourselves out there in love, kindness, compassion and truth. If you daily commit to the practice of love, the sweet freedom of forgiveness, the power of community, the mutual support of the body, then, with Alexandra by your side, you will be indeed the most sacred of all things in this world, the body of Christ. And that is more than enough.

I will pray for you all daily and eagerly look forward to what God will do with all of you on this new and exciting leg of the journey. Thanks be to God!

   Find us on


• Presbytery of S. Alabama
• Synod of Living Waters


to bring

God joy


23208 Swift Church Road
Foley, AL 36535
Phone: (251) 943-8367


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