- Associate Pastor
- Church Administrator
- Minister of Music
- Minister with Youth and their Families
- Minister with Children and their Families
- Community Ministry Coordinator
- Communications Specialist
- Facilities Manager
Community Ministry Coordinator
“Pullen Church is a few blocks from where you are living, so why aren’t you going?” This poignant question was proposed by my good friend in 2008 when she learned I had moved to Raleigh. Although hesitant to enter a building with the signifier, “Baptist,” I walked though the door. The people were warm, the hymn singing was robust, and the excitement was palpable. Particularly, I was moved by the intellectual courage the minister brought to the story of David and Goliath. After rereading a portion of the passage, she stopped and asked, I don’t know about you, but each time I read this, I ask, “What is going on here?
I arrived on the Pullen staff after having a successful career as an educator and a business owner. My interest in the biblical text has always been keen, and this love has been fostered by my mentors at Furman University, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Vanderbilt University. At Vanderbilt, I was encouraged to translate my academic talents into a praxis that fostered justice, peace, and love in the community. This commitment allowed me to speak with various groups about sexuality and gender in the Hebrew Bible; teach and work with incarcerated women and men in high-security prisons; and work closely with LGBTQIA teens experiencing homelessness.
At Pullen Church, the synthesis of our best thoughts combines with the best work of our human hands, and this foundation of my faith has allowed me to work toward a more wholesome and humane world for all of creation. At Pullen, I organize opportunities for people to participate in the justice work needed to confront the systemic plagues of racism, sexism, greed, and gender inequity within our society. I daily embrace the prophetic words of poet Nikki Giovanni: “There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well.“ Pullen is a place where I can embrace keen intellectual rigor and social justice as tenets of faith.
The Divine Question is still being asked, “What is going on here?” As an answer, I participate in the collective story of faith that mandates the care for others and the building of a collective commonwealth. Although my work as a minister is critical, it is, in and of itself, not the mission of the community of faith. Our collective answer is the contemporaneous proclamation of the good news in support of the common creaturely good. Such good news is, in a traditional sense, our witness to the world. Yet, this is not a witness to insular and selfish piety, but a witness that celebrates solidarity with humanity in the cause of Divine Love for the world. In the ancient Near East, those outside the Hebrew community were oft in wonder of the community’s ability to nurture the stranger. In the modern world, the collective story of the community of faith will be the most effective when the greater world around us proclaims, “Look at how that church loves and cares for all people.”
I joined Pullen for good in 1987. I remember walking into the church holding Audrey’s hand (she was 18 months) saying that if we didn’t like it, we didn’t have to stay. When we got to the toddler’s area Donna Steely was waiting in the rocker. The decision was made.
Because I am a musician I have floated in and out of Pullen. I have “played around” at various churches in the area while still trying to be involved. Currently I am playing on Sunday evenings at Fairmont United Methodist. I have served as interim organist at Pullen and as a substitute before being hired in 2009. But music is not all I do. I work full-time at the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education as the Finance Manager. I have worked at Poe since 2005.
I have two children, Audrey and David, who are pretty much grown, and Oliver (the bird).
I was born in Chapel Hill, NC, but grew up in Fuquay-Varina where I graduated from high school. I have four children–two sons and two daughters—and I am a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Past work experiences include being a manager in a large commercial maintenance company, but I really enjoy working at Pullen where I am able to get to know the people I serve.
Nancy E. Petty
If we want to have all our bases covered before we act, nothing exciting will happen. But if we dare to take a few crazy risks, because God asks us to do so, many doors, which we didn’t even know existed, will be open to us.
I often think about this quote when I am asked to reflect on my life journey, especially my journey with Pullen Church. While the risks I have taken in life have not always been intentional, I have been fortunate that most of them have opened exciting doors for me.
When I arrived at Pullen in 1992 I was 28 years old—a young minister ready to change the church. Over time, I learned that that process would work the other way—Pullen church would change me. While my time as a youth minister, first at Greystone Baptist Church in Raleigh (1985-88) and then at St. John’s Baptist Church in Charlotte (1989-92), had somewhat prepared me for the challenges of ministry, nothing could have really prepared me for the exciting and meaningful journey I have had with the folks of Pullen church.
I started my ministry at Pullen as Minister of Christian Education, which gave me the opportunity to engage my love of learning and supporting others as they nurtured their spiritual life. My seminary training at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary prepared me well for this endeavor. As the needs of Pullen began to change in the mid-1990s the church decided to change my job title and responsibilities. I became the Associate Pastor with increased responsibilities in the areas of pastoral care and organizational/institutional support. Realizing that I could benefit from continuing education as I moved deeper into my new role, I began the Doctorate of Ministry program through McCormick Theological Seminary—a parish-based doctorate program. The work I did through that program opened new doors for my ministry. It was during that time that I realized that parish ministry was truly my calling and what gave my life meaning and purpose.
Now, after nineteen years and yet another change in my job title and responsibilities, I continue my journey with you as your senior pastor. I do so with excitement and hope that the risks we continue to take together will further God’s love and grace in the world.
I grew up in rural Eastern NC. There are many good things I attribute to my childhood years such as growing up outdoors and learning to appreciate the bounty the earth provides. We also learned the southern church hospitality that comes when people experience loss and sickness and how neighbors take care of neighbors. Walking across the street to borrow a cup of sugar or deliver some freshly caught fish was commonplace. These things have given me the heart that continues with me today.
It was at Campbell University that I began to see a God who was much bigger than the box I had placed God in my whole life, so my period of questioning began. I recall church history class and my professor, who loved Walter Rauschenbush, peaking my interest in matters of justice. Sadly, it seemed a thing of the past and we had moved to a different place in society. As my career in youth ministry and love of coffee progressed, I stumbled upon a coffee company seeking to help in reconciliation efforts in Rwanda following the genocide. My hope in the social gospel was restored and I began to pursue other areas in which we could bring about Shalom in the world.
It was this path that led me to see how the church had damaged so many lives through its words and actions. As my theological journey of finding a bigger, more inclusive God crossed with my path of seeking true justice for people of all walks of life, I experienced the greatest pain in my life. The death of my niece at 6 weeks old caused me to finally tear down the religion I had grown up with. After finding my freedom in a progressive faith, I was promptly forced to resign from the church I had served for 6 years.
I recall the day I was introduced to Pullen. Nancy was offering a prayer at a televised interfaith prayer service, shortly after the San Bernadino shootings. I thought to myself then, this seems like the kind of church I would love to be a part of. After my resignation, I ran from the idea of serving in the congregational context for about 5 months before realizing I knew where I belonged. Stumbling on the listing for Pullen’s Youth Ministry position, I recalled Nancy and her prayer. After doing some further research, I knew Pullen is where my family belonged and if they wouldn’t hire me, we would move to Raleigh and become members.
Serving teenagers and their families has been my passionate desire for more than a decade now and I can only imagine the places we’ll go together.
Larry E. Schultz
Minister of Music
In 1992, while sitting in my office at the church I served following seminary, I read an article about Pullen in my copy of Baptists Today – and I vividly remember thinking out loud: “I’d like to be a part of such a brave and autonomous congregation someday.” Nine years later I had the privilege of becoming Pullen’s Minister of Music!
Since 2001 I have enjoyed the opportunity of equipping Pullen for an expansive music ministry that seeks to engage all persons in the church’s worship and congregational life. It is fulfilling to discover ways in which Pullen’s distinctive identity can be explored and expressed through congregational, choral and instrumental music.
I developed an interest in music ministry at an early age, and was nurtured in that interest by the Baptist churches of my childhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After the happy surprise of winning the high school division of a choral anthem contest sponsored by Oklahoma Baptists, I decided to study music theory and composition for use in my ministry. I graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1986 from the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts at Oklahoma Baptist University.
In continued preparation for music ministry, I moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where on the first day I met Cindy Smith. Three years later, in 1989, we walked the aisle of the seminary chapel for two joyful occasions: to receive our Master of Church Music degrees and to marry!
After our time in Kentucky, Cindy and I served together in music ministry in South Carolina where our children, Ryan and Kelly, were born. The timing of our move to North Carolina provided us the meaningful opportunity to raise them from early childhood among the people of Pullen.
The new art installation that adorns the Pullen sanctuary exclaims our congregation as “ever embracing” and “ever becoming.” I have found these significant descriptions to certainly be true and find in them inspiration for my ongoing ministry in this place.
Who would’ve known in 1992 that my spontaneous, wishful prayer would come to be!
Minister with Children and their Families
Being in full-time church ministry is my third career. For nearly ten years, serving as staff to Pullen’s outreach ministries and adult education was my ideal job. My current role as Associate Pastor allows me to be involved in a wide range of ministries that I find both challenging and fulfilling.
In high school, I felt called to be a teacher and coach, so I earned two degrees in physical education, one from UNC-Greensboro and one from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Following that path, I came to Raleigh in 1978 to serve as assistant women’s volleyball coach at N.C. State. I enjoyed the work, but exposure to poverty while on a church work team in rural Appalachia sent me down another path.
After pursuing a law degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, I began my second career as a legal aid lawyer in downtown Raleigh in 1986, providing civil legal assistance to low income residents. I understood my flavor of lawyering to be ministry and stayed with it for eleven years. During that time, I was a student as my clients taught me what it’s like to be poor in our community. I also became a member of Pullen Church during this period because of its commitment to social justice and its willingness to wrestle with hard issues.
As the years passed, I felt increasingly drawn to full-time ministry where I could be explicit about the connection between my concern for the poor and my faith. So at the age of 44, my career path took another turn that led me to Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. I relished my seminary experience as I studied in a diverse environment, worked in an inner-city church, and experienced the nation’s capital in all its shame and glory.
I returned to Raleigh and Pullen after graduation from Wesley, and was hired by the church in 2001. Since then, I have loved being a part of this wonderful faith community and our gifted staff. Because Pullen people are deeply committed to worship, learning, and ministry beyond our walls, the job keeps me very busy. But I am inspired daily by the faithfulness of our staff and congregation as we try to join our efforts with what God is doing to bring justice and peace to our world.
I share my life with Felicia and our two cats, Brie the Magnificent and Annie the Bold. In my spare time, I like to garden, read, and return to the South Carolina beaches where my childhood heart is at home.