If Faye Herbin played football, she'd be famous.
Answering the call to minister in the United Methodist Church has pretty well guaranteed her a degree of anonymity, but she graces the front page of Rutherford Weekly because her gifts for preaching and ministry put her in the endzone of many who know her and love her. She hopes those she serves will notice God in the endzone of their hearts.
"It's all God, letting ourselves be used by God," she said of her 20 years in the pulpits of four different United Methodist Churches. Raised by a United Methodist Minister who served as an associate to senior ministers at New Goshen United Methodist in Greensboro. Her father, Houston Herbin, served "minister after minister," in that associate role. He lived to be 98.
When was she called to preach?
"I can't remember if it was high school or college, but I know I was in school. Daddy served New Goshen, but our family attended Celia Phelps, both Methodist Churches. We were part of two different communities. Daddy came to preach at Celia Phelps and I heard the voice of God clearly say one of Daddy's children would follow in his footsteps. I knew exactly who it was. My sister," she recalled and laughed. "But when it turned out to be me, several people asked me, 'Do you even talk?' I've always been real quiet."
And she is. Her manner on the telephone and in her office is very soft spoken. But when she gets behind the pulpit, her willingness to be used by God hooks her up to those cosmic jumper cables.
She both prays and preaches with a passion that rattles the window panes.
When she led a memorial service for the late Francis Hawk, she wove family stories into repeated references to the eighth chapter of Romans where the Apostle Paul assures his readers, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God." With a voice like a mountain stream flowing over rocks, she captured the hearts and imaginations of her listeners.
She had high praise for the staff at First United Methodist in Forest City where she has served since July 2018. They include: Felicia Beaver, Aubrey Calton, Jane Hill, Sarah Gooch, Jill Green, Pam Blice, Jill Smith and Kristen Holmstrom.
One of the members of the church, Mike Gavin, said of her, "Faye's great. She's so passionate in her faith and in the way she shares that in every interaction. It's contagious."
"In this church God put together tremendous resources. If we only do what a smaller church does, we will be convicted in the sins we have woven in being satisfied. We have not yet done what God has called us to do," she said both in praise of and in challenge to the congregation she serves.
In terms of physical plant, First United Methodist is among the largest and most beautiful in these parts. Community groups often use its fellowship hall and it serves as a voting precinct on election days.
How has Rev. Herbin been affirmed in her call? How has she known she was on the right path?
"When somebody says something in a sermon really touched them. I know I didn't say those words, but God put those words in that person's heart. I called a woman at three in the morning; and she said it stopped her from killing herself. We have since become lifelong friends," she said from her study in the church house at 641 East Main Street, Forest City.
She believes in the power of prayer and told of her minister father holding a young niece who was experiencing extreme pain. A doctor heard the little girl screaming over the telephone and prescribed a powerful pain killer, but the minister held his granddaughter and said, "You're gonna be all right." Before her mother could return from a nearby drug store with the pain killer, the little girl was fine.
It has not all been a crystal staircase. Resistance to women in the ministry is still a factor.
"I understand that has been a change in tradition; and God has made it clear to me that is not my fight. He says, 'That is his fight,'" she said and smiled.
Race, of course, is a factor in the ministry of an African-American pastor who has served three predominantly white churches: Trinity Memorial in Trinity and Abernathy Memorial in Newton, as well as her post now in Forest City.
"One of the hardest things for me is when people say, 'I don't see color.' My color is part of my identity. What if I were to say to an Indian man, 'I don't see your Indian identity?' That would diminish his identity," she said.
She also expressed a willingness to meet with and talk with community leaders who want to discuss the continuing tensions around race in our communities and beyond, adding "It is freeing to talk about these things."
Another confirmation of her call is to simply sit at the bedside of the sick, her presence offering something of Jesus. Again she added, "Never underestimate God."
When she struggles, she remembers advice she received early on, "Just love them."
In answering her call more than 20 years ago, she prayed, "I will go if you will go with me." She heard very clearly, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Her local public school was desegregated when she was an elementary student. She was a lone black child in a white classroom. "That was hard. That was when I learned we were poor, but it could not destroy the fact that we were loved."
Her minister father, Houston, was thrilled when he heard of his daughter's call to preach. Her mother, Emma, asked her several times, "Are you sure?" but eventually her mother caught the bug and began telling everybody, "My daughter is gonna be a pastor," until finally she had to ask her mother to stop.
She graduated from N.C. A&T and spent 16 years with the Greensboro National Bank before graduating from Duke Divinity School. She became an ordained elder, the highest rank among Methodist clergy, in 2001.
She is in her Forest City pulpit at 8:30 and 11 on most Sunday mornings and invites all who will to come hear the Holy Spirit and her rattle the window panes. She writes in her personal biography that her vision is to build and develop a kingdom of empowered people for God.
Contact Pat Jobe at email@example.com.