Searching for the pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church? Try looking outside the church.
For the Rev. Beverly White, church is more than just a building or plot of land. Church is serving others, finding ways to help people beyond the church walls. So while she preaches and serves the congregation each week, she also volunteers in the community at large.
This month will find her pulling together the final details for Expanding Experiences, a Liberty High School fundraiser hosted each fall by the Rotary Club of Benicia and Arts Benicia. She and former police chief Jim Trimble founded that event in 2003 and have co-chaired it ever since. They also launched a mentoring program at Liberty, and he convinced her to serve as a voluntary police chaplain. She chaired the local Rotary Club’s community service committee for eight years until this spring, and continues to volunteer with the Every 15 Minutes program at Benicia High School.
“Because I don’t live here, I feel I have to be connected to the community. My husband belongs to Rotary, so I knew it was a good organization and a good way to get connected,” says the Martinez resident. “I’m not doing it to gain new members, but to be a presence of Jesus and to serve others in the community.”
Others in the congregation take a similar approach, she says. “We have church members on the boards for the CAC (Community Action Council) and the library and other organizations in town. We’re not making a big splash about it, but we’re out doing it,” she says. The church also provides land for a community garden and space for AA to meet five times a week, plus works closely with the CAC and Families in Transition. In addition, church members serve dinner once a month at the weekly free meal program at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Beverly, 64, became the pastor at Heritage Presbyterian in 1994. She left banking to enter Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, graduating in 1987. Her husband is a retired Presbyterian pastor, and they have two grown children and four grandchildren.
How did you decide to change gears and enter seminary? I never dreamt I’d be a pastor. I didn’t even think my husband would be a pastor. If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have married him (laughs). …
One day, someone from our church in Whittier said, “Beverly, you need to go to seminary.” A month later, someone from the bank said, “I don’t know why, but I’m supposed to tell you that you’re supposed to go to seminary.” About a month after that, a person from another part of my life said, “I don’t know why, but I’m supposed to tell you that you should go to seminary.”
When you have that kind of experience, you have to listen. So I went to seminary, kicking and screaming.
How did seminary change you? I went from being Bev to being Beverly, so I guess I grew up there. I realized I had a brain in my head. I was in my late 30s and going back to school with these kids in their 20s. … I realized I had a certain amount of wisdom and experience, that I could put things together. The kids in their 20s could stay up all night and study and remember everything, and I couldn’t do that so I had to put everything together and I could.
What led you to reach out to the wider community? If you’re part of a church, you have to be out in the community and know people out in the community. I spiritually feed my people, I teach them, I help them discover their gifts and find ways to use those gifts in the community. We are to be Christ’s arms, legs, hands and voice wherever needed in the world. We have an incredible community here with incredible people who are out there helping and having a good time.
It’s who I am. I love doing community service –it energizes me, which is interesting because I’m an introvert so I need time alone. I love crosswords, love playing this game on my phone, Gardens of Time. I need a certain amount of solitude to do what I do.
How has Expanding Experiences helped Liberty High? We raise $10,000 to $15,000 a year, and the funds help pay for field trips like trips to museums, the music program, art supplies, motivational speakers and Career Week. …
It’s a great event. We have 20-some wineries from Green Valley, Sonoma, and Napa, and the artists have open studios. Two weeks before, Allied Waste brings out a dumpster and the artists can clean up their space and kids from Liberty clean up the area. Businesses donate for an opportunity drawing, and we have a couple of large auction items. Restaurants donate finger foods, and the Liberty kids are waiters and waitresses. It just pulls all parts of the community together.
We usually have 200 to 300 people there, and every year these kids just awe people. They’re really good kids and they get a bad rap. They have so much going against them.
What do you enjoy doing in your time off? We like to travel and visit our family, but often my days off are spent doing laundry, doing the grocery shopping. We recently took a day and drove over to Point Reyes, took the dog. I love being outside. We’re hoping to get back to riding bikes.
What’s next for you? I don’t know. I know I’m not going to become an interim minister. I want to keep learning things. There’s lots of life to explore. I might go sing in a choir—I do love music.
What message would you like to share with the whole community? Remember you are a community. It’s not about individuals, and we live in a very individualistic society. We are a community. Life is hard and if we work together, it helps everyone.
Expanding Experiences: A benefit for Liberty High School, sponsored by Rotary Club of Benicia and Arts Benicia
When: Wednesday, Sept. 12, 6-8:30pm
Where: Tyler & Jackson Streets
Tickets: $35 per person; call 707.745.6650 (Heritage Presbyterian Church)
What to expect: Wine tasting, finger foods, opportunity drawing, auction of larger items in a tented venue in the historic Benicia Arsenal