McAfee graduate drives change through role as pastor
Carrie Veal’s call to ministry was a “mixture of Jesus and challenge,” accompanied by a strong desire to effect change.
The 2003 McAfee School of Theology graduate is now the Executive Minister of Community and Engagement at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she works to empower and engage the faithful and to help them form meaningful relationships.
Growing up, Veal always wanted to be a lawyer, so she began her graduate studies as a double major in History and English at Stetson University. But in the first year, she realized that ministry was the way for her and opted for religious studies.
Growing up in the South without seeing women in leadership positions in the church, she didn’t know what that job would look like for her. But as people started to challenge her and tell her that she couldn’t be a pastor because she was a woman, she felt the attraction of the ministry more and more.
“I entered seminary knowing that I wanted to minister to the local congregation, and then my desire increased because I knew I wanted to be an instrument of change,” she said. “I didn’t have the noble, sincere reasons for it. For me, that’s the only way to do it. I have always had this drive. I knew I was going to do it differently, and I knew I would do it from a gender perspective. For me it has been a really interesting journey. My calling to ministry has not changed, but the way I live is constantly changing.
At McAfee, Veal learned to work as a team, discovered the best ways to interact with devotees, and forged deep connections with people she still connects with today. She learned to connect spiritually with her peers, which paved the way for her to do so as a minister.
“(McAfee) had a huge impact on me,” she said. “For me, it was a lot more about community and classroom conversations than academic work. The academic work was amazing and great, but I think back more to how I watched professors engage with students and students engage with students. McAfee has been three of the most wonderful years of my life.
After graduation, Veal served as associate pastor in children’s ministry at First Baptist Gainesville, Georgia for five years, and then at Morningside Baptist Church in Spartanburg, SC, for four years. Sensing it was time for a change, she moved to Myers Park Baptist in May 2014. She started as a children’s minister and gradually took on more responsibility until she became the executive minister of community engagement. earlier this year.
“Over time, staff and lay leaders started asking me questions about my gifts, passions and interests, and my role expanded,” she said. “Nothing was taken off my plate. I just added more things. It’s been fun living in this new role in a place that understands me, and I understand them. It has been a good business.
Veal is Minister of Children and Minister of Community Life, where she works with guests, new members, small groups, deacons, leaders, and the ministry board. She focuses a lot on member engagement and creating an inviting environment. She has started to further develop staff leadership and hopes to expand this in the future.
“I like to empower volunteers to be the best they can be themselves,” she said. “Equipping them in whatever area they serve – hospitality, teaching, event planning – means that I am doing my part to give them a wonderful experience. I love teaching children and adults, helping them learn something new about God, the world and themselves. I am energized when I connect people with each other, helping to build new relationships. Working with staff and volunteers, I love hearing their stories, discovering what energizes them, and then finding ways to engage those passions.
The senior church minister does a lot of work around racial reconciliation and has designed a nine-week course, which Veal has helped spread to the world. So far, over 300 people across the country have participated in the training, primarily through Zoom, and Veal has helped organize the course’s first conference at the church in November. The program is expected to be published by Upper Room next year.
Veal no longer feels like she has to prove something as a female pastor, and she has focused on other things that she has become more aware of. Her job comes with its fair share of challenges, but those hardships can also bring some of the biggest rewards, she said.
“I realized how each part of the ministry really has an impact on the other,” she said. “I started to realize what really matters. People can come to church because they like the sermon or the music, but it’s the bonds that keep them going.
She strives to learn throughout her life and constantly strives to adapt her knowledge to her ministry and to help others apply these lessons to their own lives. She came to see that it is normal not always to know the answers, despite this expectation.
“I never want to stop learning. I never want to stop being curious, ”she said. “I never want to feel like I have the answers to everything because then where is the mystery?” Even with all the things we know, there are still some things that are mysterious. I never want to lose this.
The McAfee School of Theology was founded 25 years ago on the Mercer campus in Atlanta. The shared lair alumni profiles throughout the year to mark this milestone anniversary.