On Sunday afternoon, October 15, the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia installed the Rev. Julie Anna Sterling as pastor of Suffolk Presbyterian Church. The long-awaited ceremony marked not a beginning but a joyous continuation of Sterling’s ministry in Suffolk. She and her husband, Eric Sterling, had immersed themselves in the congregation and community in May, after she accepted the call to become our church’s pastor. After PEVA welcomed Sterling at its quarterly meeting in July, a presbytery commission began planning her formal installation. She opted to wait until fall when her parents, Ron and Mary Ann Sterling, who live in Iowa, were planning to visit.
During the installation service, The Rev. Bill Lamont, PEVA moderator, asked her the constitutional questions of whether she was willing to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love. Elder Don White asked the congregation members if we would support and respect her, share in her ministry and agree to pay her fairly. The Rev. Leigh Gillis, interim pastor at St. Andrew Presbyterian, presented the charge to the pastor, reminding her to take care of herself so she can care for others. The Rev. Lou Ventura, pastor of Franklin Presbyterian, gave an emotional charge to the members of her home church, urging us to love and support our new pastor. Other members of the installation commission taking part in the service were Commissioned Pastor Billy Ricketts and the Rev. Skip Irby.
The choir sang a beautiful rendition of “One Step” as an anthem, the Rev. Larry Ugarte preached the sermon, and the congregation celebrated Communion by intinction. The Presbyterian Women provided a lovely reception of finger foods and punch. On behalf of the congregation, the Pastor Nominating Committee presented Rev. Julie with a bright blue stole from Guatemala, noting that she shares our dedication to missions. Susie Stoughton, PNC chair, said that Rev. Julie embraces SPC’s values – being accepting, caring, outreaching, spirit-led and willing to serve. “The congregation asked us to find a pastor who would love us,” she said, “who would care for us and others, who would lead us in serving others, a pastor who would inspire us from the pulpit and share with us in fellowship.” The PNC felt that God had brought the congregation and Rev. Julie together. “It was like God was saying, ‘this is a good fit,’” she said. “‘You all would work well together.’”