A husband and wife are the new pastors at the Gloucester and Rockport United Methodist churches.
The Revs. Valerie and Printice Roberts-Toler have taken over duties from the Rev. David Myers, who retired last month. The Roberts-Toler were also retired, having moved to Gloucester two years ago after decades of preaching. While Valerie said she welcomed the break, Printice wasn't ready to stop work.
"I had a real hunger," said Printice. "I wanted to be back teaching and doing the things I've been doing all my life."
Both said they are happy to be back in the saddle, so to speak.
"This is where God wants us to be," said Valerie with a smile.
Valerie, a 30-year ordained minister, is from Western Massachusetts while Printice hails from Los Angeles. Printice was originally ordained in the Congregational Church 50 years ago, but began focusing on Methodist teachings while serving as the pastor at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, Connecticut. Around this time, he met Valerie, who was studying Methodism in Gloucester.
"I was drawn to (Methodism) because I was seeking ordination, and other denominations are not welcoming to women," Valerie explained. "It grieves me, however, that this denomination has not been welcoming to the gay community. I want to make it clear that (the Gloucester and Rockport United Methodist churches) are welcoming to all. I'm not afraid to break the rules if it comes to it."
The two have three children together. Late last year, they welcomed their first grandchild. They had just finished babysitting the 10-month old on Monday evening when the Times spoke to them for this article.
Since July 1, Valerie and Printice have been trading off between the two churches every week. When one is preaching the 9:15 a.m. service at the Gloucester church, 436 Washington St., the other handles the 11 a.m. service at the Rockport church, 36 Broadway.
The couple is living at the Gloucester United Methodist Church parsonage at 6 Holly St.
At this time, they said their focus is on getting to know the Cape Ann Methodist community. Down the road, Valerie said she hopes to work more with Gloucester and Rockport's youth. She is already involved with Cape Ann's Interfaith Commission. Printice said he's looking to organize a bible study group with members of the church.
"We have dedicated people in these churches and we want to confirm that," continued Printice. "They've welcomed us graciously, and we've loved every minute of being here. (Cape Ann) is an incredible place."
"The challenges facing the churches are not new to us," Valerie followed up. "Despite these challenges, especially those caused by COVID, it is our duty to spread the good news in a bad-news world. I think it's really what people need now more than ever.
Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or firstname.lastname@example.org.