LAURINBURG — Taking a break from packing books and mementos from members of his congregation, Laurinburg Presbyterian Church pastor Neal Carter reflected on his 11 years keeping the church on the path of faith.
Sunday’s sermon was Carter’s last at Laurinburg Presbyterian before he moves to his native Concord to lead Rocky River Presbyterian Church.
Carter came to Laurinburg in June 2004 with divinity degrees from Duke and Princeton and a decade of experience leading congregations in Beulaville and Mocksville under his belt. With its connections to St. Andrews University and Scotia Village, Carter felt called to the “great history” of the Scotland County church — just as he now feels called to leave it.
“Like most denominations and faiths, we believe in the notion of call: that God calls us here and then God calls us other places as well, and different churches work that out in different ways,” he said.
Carter has embraced the opportunities for outreach abundant in a small community, opening the church to host meetings and fundraisers, teachers’ work sessions, a community garden, and a Boy Scout troop.
“You get to be involved in the larger community as opposed to just being involved in the church, and I think we’ve grown in faithfulness that way,” said Carter. “We hope we’ve done a good job of being involved in the community and keeping the church connected.”
Though he felt no compulsion to leave Laurinburg, the draw of family and the new challenge of serving a suburban church proved impossible to resist. But he will miss the closely-knit community and a congregation of individuals dedicated to practicing their faith through service.
“We have a lot of friends here and there is a real dedication in this community to one another, and to the community itself, that is amazing,” Carter said. “A lot of the people that I see in worship are also the same people that I see on hospice boards and counseling center boards and Rotary and Habitat and Helping Hand boards. These are the same people that are committed to keeping this community rolling.”
“It’s a tough place to be, when you’re really happy and energized by the faith and the ministry that you’re doing locally but also feel called to go somewhere else.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.