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Shayanna Jolly wasn’t always sure she wanted to be a pastor.
“I was originally a drama major,” said the Transylvania University graduate. “I didn’t really want to be an actor, but I loved the arts and I wanted to be involved in non-profits in someway. Then, about the third year during my college experience, I got very involved in a church in Lexington called Central Christian Church. I started leading youth group programs there and getting really involved in the ministry.”
Jolly then decided to attend Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., where she recently obtained a Masters of Divinity degree.
“I really wanted to serve the church,” Jolly said. “I’ve been wrestling with God ever since and finding people to pray with and journey with. That’s how I got married to the church, in a way.”
In June, the Pikeville native returned to Kentucky to take over pastoral duties from Pastor Jerry Zehr at Crittenden Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.)
“I’m a Kentucky girl, born and bred, and I bleed blue,” Jolly said. “The plan was to always somehow come back to Kentucky. This is my home and I wanted to be close to family. Northern Kentucky just seemed to be the right fit. My sister moved up here and this church was wonderful. They are a church family, through and through. We really wanted that community, family atmosphere.”
Jolly said her philosophy for ministering at Crittenden Christen grew out of her observations of the congregation and their love for service.
She said the church has experienced significant transitions in its history going from a student pastor-led church for a long time to a full-time minister.
“They started to grow,” Jolly said. “With some of the economic troubles, they’ve experienced some struggles there, but they are fighters. They really wanted to hold on to this mission that God is calling them to do good work. They have had an increase in their membership and because of that their youth group is growing. It seems like every time they face a challenge, they try to find some new and energetic way to overcome that.”
The church’s congregation currently stands at about 45 to 50 people on Sundays, including 10 in leadership.
The church, which is in the middle of a six-week program called “Revival,” is trying to “be a church that acts on its faith and not just talks about its faith,” said Jolly.
While she may have the title of pastor, Jolly said at Crittenden Christian, they have a goal of sharing ministry.
Everyone from youth to elder members of the congregation can take part of leadership, she said.
“It’s really about all of us coming together to celebrate one another and to celebrate the gifts that we have been given,” Jolly said.
Anyone interested is invited to come to the church and join the congregation.
“This church is a place where we really appreciate diversity,” Jolly said. “We don’t push a religious agenda on anyone. We appreciate people’s opinions. We are from all different walks of life and faith. We really value the whole person and not just what they believe and what they think. We think about it as a journey of faith where we’re all trying to discover. Everyone is welcome here. We have this family motto of ‘Everyone: No exceptions.’ We really like to cling to that.”