“You Lifted Me Up”

May 17, 2018

Pastor Matt Sergent chuckles when asked what he’s accomplished at Galilee. That’s because to this soon-to-be senior pastor, what’s important is not what he’s done—it’s what Galilee has done for him.

“You lifted me up,” he says.

When Matt and Barbara Sergent arrived at Galilee in 1996, they didn’t come as pastor and wife. They were what we like to call “ordinary people.” Matt was in law enforcement and Barbara worked in the medical field. They weren’t looking for their lives to be transformed. They were simply church shopping.

Pastor Matt points to one of his favorite passages in the Psalms.

Back then, our current  sanctuary was under construction. Worship was in the Fellowship Hall, a much smaller space. Even with dust and debris around, the Sergents were blown away by the hospitality they received as new arrivals. Matt remembers meeting Pastor Wayne Snead and being invited to dinner by Galilee members.

“The first group that I got involved with was the choir,” says Matt. Oh yes! This departing pastor has quite the singing voice, if you’ve never heard it.

“At the same time, Barbara and I joined a discipleship class. We had been disconnected from our faith for a while (even though I was a preacher’s kid) but found real connection in that small group.”

“This connection was vital. You see, we needed it. We had begun to think about starting a family. For us, as for many couples, it was not easy. This was a painful time in our lives, except for the friends and faith we found at Galilee. These folks became dear to us. They surrounded us with love and prayed for us when Barbara and I were looking for a way. They stood by us in the adoption of our daughters.”

The Sergent family (Emily, Barbara, Erica, and Matt) at Galilee’s annual Fall Fest.

It was the prayers and love of “ordinary people” at Galilee that rekindled something in Matt’s heart: the call to ministry.

“I first heard that call as a young man, but ran from it. I became a police officer and did quite well, keeping the idea of ministry firmly at the back of my mind…someday, maybe, when I have the time.”

As often happens, it wasn’t time that Matt found. Rather, it was a need.

Galilee’s associate pastor, Sarah Calvert, heard about an older adult community in the area that had no church services. She went there to see what she could do, but she didn’t go alone. Matt, who had presented himself to Galilee’s SPRC as a possible candidate for ministry, followed. They found a neighborhood of people full of life experiences, talents, and wisdom. They found fertile ground for Galilee’s second worship site, the Chapel at Lansdowne Woods. 

“One thing that you have to understand about Lansdowne Woods,” says Matt, “Is that it is a teaching congregation. I don’t mean that they study all the time, although these are some intelligent people. I mean that they have a heart for raising up ministers.”

“They did it for me, but think about it: Sarah Calvert was just an associate when she arrived here. The Chapel raised her up. Tom Tipton was a ministry intern; he took what he learned at the Chapel and became a pastor in the Virginia Beach area. Peter Borhauer was next; he’s now in Ohio. Josh Davinsizer is pastor of a church in Troy, PA. All these young pastors came through Lansdowne Woods. And Lansdowne Woods did the same thing for me. They lifted me up.”

Pastor Matt welcomes Geitra Mickelson to the Chapel team.

“The Chapel members are my dear friends who remain vital in their faith, like it says in Psalm 92: 

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green.”

Pastor Matt at a party in his honor, taking time to honor others.

Pastor Matt will be ordained as full elder in the Methodist church on June 16 at Annual Conference. He will serve as senior pastor at Andrew Chapel UMC in Vienna beginning July 1, having been an associate pastor at Galilee for 11 years.

As Matt says goodbye, he also wants to say thank you for the love we have shown his family and he wants to remind us that the work at Galilee’s main campus and at the Chapel goes on.

“I hope the congregations at Galilee continue to pray for one another and to lift up those in need. The Chapel is in good hands with Pastor Geitra, and just as importantly, she’s in good hands at the Chapel.”

Pastor Matt’s last Sunday at Galilee’s main campus will be June 3. There will be a reception to honor him and say farewell to the Sergent family at noon. His last Sunday at the Chapel will be June 10. There will be a going-away potluck at 4pm in the Monroe Auditorium.