I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Pastor Jeromey Howard

Drawing inspiration from parenting

Pastor Jeromey Howard of First Presbyterian Church of Montgomery often looks to his five-year-old daughter when writing his weekly sermons.

"They tend to grow from the lessons I've learned from her," he says. "In children we can all get a glimpse of how humanity should be."

Finding a home in Orange County and within the ministry
The congregation at First  Presbyterian Church, which dates back to 1831, is Pastor Jeromey's first since being ordained after seminary in Georgia three years ago. He spent several years in the Air Force before that, including stints in Missouri, Montana and Wyoming.  

Jeromey Howard grew up in a southern Baptist family back in Oklahoma. He speaks of being in the lower class, having two sisters and parents who left their church when they had differences with it.

He says, "I reached a point where when I left home, I fully left home."
He found himself called towards the ministry early, while first studying for his bachelor's degree in Oklahoma.

"I went to many denominations but always found myself pushing back against what was hierarchical in them," he says, noting a lifelong push he's had against the barriers we tend to set up around ourselves, even in religion. "Why should the ministry be made up of only men, or only white men? These are things I've struggled with and what led me to the
Presbyterian Church."

Pastor Jeromey, his wife Kirsten and daughter Zoe have been in Montgomery for a little over a year. The Howards live in First Presbyterian Church's manse right in the heart of the village of Montgomery. Pastor Jeromey loves walking around his new community and has joined the local fire department as a volunteer. His daughter is in full-time kindergarten, so Kirsten is looking for ways to get more involved in all the aspects of their new home, as well.

Connect all the elements of your life
He's a proponent, in his sermons and all aspects of his life and sense of calling, of the necessary interconnectedness of all elements in one's life.

The pastor speaks about how important it is to see his congregation through different lenses. Many of the members of the church are parents, with priorities based on nap times, dinner times and bed times. Others are children, caring for aging parents. Others are community members who need the support of their community and find it within the walls of the church.

"As a parent, I think of social justice. My daughter picks up from me a sense of how faith and a sense of service works," Howard notes. "She goes with me on hospital visits, or to the food pantry, and even though she's only five years old, she's learning to understand life and death. She knows we need to take care of people.

She loves everybody, although she wonders why some people don't go to Sunday school the way she does."

Pastor Jeromey Howard notes, "I realize that our day to day lives may not change as much as our politics seem to change, but they can drastically change other lives. Which is why it is so important that we always strive to show more compassion and love."

He says he recognizes how this has taken hold with Zoe, his daughter.

Family is the gift that keeps giving
Still, he finds the elements of his sermons in all aspects of his life.

"I tell every parent that your child is watching and learning from everything you do, even the simplest things," Pastor Jeromey says. "You're responsible for teaching your child what is important."

We speak about the ways in which modern society has pushed gratification principles, the idea of pleasure from winning at sports or politics, over deeper lessons.

"We have to model the ideal of service," he says. "We've lost the fact that service is so important, that it's what our politics should be based upon."

He pauses and considers yet again all he learns from his daughter.

"The joy and excitement of family," he says. "That's always a gift."

And one that, in the right hands, keeps giving.

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley.

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