“They asked me to preach because I was the only one there that wasn’t terrified of public speaking,” Jennifer joked.
It was 2016, and her home church, the First Presbyterian Church of Whitesville, was looking for someone to do pulpit supply because their preacher, Michael Lykens, was unable to preach the next Sunday. So Jennifer preached and found that she enjoyed preaching and leading worship. Michael was not able to return, so Jennifer kept on doing pulpit supply for them.
All joking aside, Jennifer had been sensing that God was calling her to ministry for many years. She kept resisting, and God kept persisting. Jennifer grew up in the Whitesville church. Her mother took her to church as a baby, and she was active in the church growing up. Because of her public speaking ability and clear voice, she was asked to be the narrator for the kids’ Christmas program for several years. Even then her church was recognizing God’s call on her life.
Jennifer felt the call to ministry as early as her junior year of high school, but she chose to study law instead. Her father, a police officer, often told her, “You can be a lawyer or a doctor or anything you want.” Jennifer took him seriously and chose to be a lawyer. She graduated from high school and went to college and law school at WVU. She took a job with the Public Defender’s office in Charleston and worked there for six and a half years. Later, she joined the Boone County Prosecutor’s office. Currently, she has her own law practice.
At several points in her life, Jennifer felt God calling her again to ministry. She even did some research into different seminaries. But she was just getting started in her law career and did not want to change.
Jennifer had stopped attending the Whitesville church after college. She looked for a church in the Charleston area and was beginning to attend Highlawn Presbyterian in St. Albans. Then she went home one weekend to celebrate her birthday. She went to church with her parents. The congregation sang happy birthday to her, and she was overwhelmed by their warmth and acceptance. Just like that, she was back to attending church in Whitesville.
Jennifer was elected Deacon in 2016, and she was also singing in the choir. Later, in 2018, the board of Deacons was merged with the Session, and Jennifer was ordained an elder. She was working diligently in her preaching and worship leadership, yet she felt unprepared and in need of more education. She talked to Susan Sharp Campbell, and as soon as the next Presby Prep classes were offered, she enrolled.
The church was closed for a year during the Covid pandemic, and Jennifer started doing short worship services for the church in their Facebook group. In time, she started doing these live-streamed, and they were well accepted. Some people beyond the church also started participating in these live-streams.
Jennifer finished the necessary classes to become a Commissioned Pastor in 2021, and that November the Committee on Ministry approved the contract between her and First/Whitesville. In May 2022, Jennifer was officially commissioned as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Whitesville.
The Whitesville church is very small, with an average Sunday attendance of about nine people. Yet, Jennifer sees many great things about the church. She loves the family feel of the church community. They genuinely love each other. They are committed to the ministry and what God is calling them to do. In spite of their small numbers, they still have a four-member choir that is dedicated to offering their best in music to God. They have been distributing food baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas to needy family; loving care is taken to ensure that these are really abundant and good baskets. There is also a thrift store run by members of the church as an outreach mission.
One of the things that Jennifer loves about the church building is its stained glass windows. The windows are truly beautiful and inspiring!
Currently, Jennifer is continuing her law practice as well as her duties as a commissioned pastor. She is single and has never been married. She owns three cats, or maybe that’s the other way around. Jennifer jokes that she qualifies for the title “crazy cat lady.” Sadly, her father passed away a few years ago. Her mother is still alive and still attends church at Whitesville.
Jennifer says that throughout the process of becoming a commission pastor, the church has been very supportive both spiritually and financially.
May God continue to bless the ministry of Jennifer Anderson and the First Presbyterian Church of Whitesville!