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Normandy Presbyterian welcomes new pastor

By DAWN HANKINS - dhankins@t-g.com
Posted 4/24/21

Normandy Presbyterian Pastor Tom Bagley believes his current calling is to use the benefit of experiences he has with people outside of church to help established congregations connect with the growing numbers of people in the nation who are disconnected from church and faith...

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Normandy Presbyterian welcomes new pastor

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Normandy Presbyterian Pastor Tom Bagley believes his current calling is to use the benefit of experiences he has with people outside of church to help established congregations connect with the growing numbers of people in the nation who are disconnected from church and faith.

Bagley is currently serving as pastor of Normandy Presbyterian Church. He said he's looking forward to serving as an area pastor.

The new pastor is a life-long Presbyterian, having grown up in the mainline church and with the influence of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church as well. He says he was blessed with a strong Christian family; he grew up in what he considers an "exciting" congregation, learning to love God at an early age.

He's a graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville and holds a doctorate in ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga. After 37 years in ministry, his resume includes serving as a pastor and church planter in Atlanta, Ga., an evangelist with people outside of church in Chattanooga, and most recently accepting his new position in Normandy.

He likes research. He shares recent demographics which demonstrate a lot about church life in the South-the Bible Belt.

Bagley said 6 out of 10 people are uninvolved in church in any significant and meaningful way. In the nation, the demographics for church attendance holds closer to 8 out of 10, he says.

"I am passionate about helping the church as a whole be more effective in connecting with people who have given up on church, God, and faith. My work with people outside of church in Chattanooga taught me that we have a lot to learn to connect authentically with them?.as well as with new and younger generations. So, I am doing everything I can to learn about church revitalization. I am working with our denomination, coaching pastors and leaders. Most recently, I have served on a team writing new evangelism curriculum for our denomination. It's a busy and exciting time in my life, and I am grateful to God for it."

The pastor is married to Lynn Holladay Bagley, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist. The couple have three grown/married children; they especially enjoy spending time with their three "delightful" grandchildren.

Some folks might wonder how he was drawn to such a small community, given his resume from larger cities. "Normandy Presbyterian Church is a smaller congregation with a big heart for God and I was drawn to members right away. Unlike many smaller congregations, this church has had an openness to new people and new types of music for many years. Before the pandemic, the church held a once-a-month music night on Friday evenings, inviting people from all over the community to participate. The group has played a variety of musical styles: from Celtic music to country gospel and rock and everything in-between. These evenings, I understand, have even been a time of encouraging new, young musicians to play and sing."

Bagley is impressed with how the Normandy Music Night has influenced the congregation's own weekly worship. While many churches take advantage only of organ or piano, he says the NPC congregation enjoys a variety of instruments and styles.

(Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put a halt on those music nights right now. But the community is hoping to start again soon.)

"On the first Sunday I was there, we featured a trumpet on a traditional hymn and a gospel group playing banjo, guitar, base on a special piece. It was fantastic! And musicians, some with faith and some growing in faith, have found Normandy to be a welcoming environment."

He said there's so much more to Normandy. "That's another thing about Normandy Church: you are accepted and welcomed no matter who you are. You can have honest doubts and questions about faith and you will be welcomed. So, I was immediately attracted."

Over the years, he explains, the church has grown older, with fewer younger people and newer folks involved. Bagley says perhaps he can join with members of the congregation to build on such an amazing past and open up a new chapter in ministry.

"I grew up in Fayetteville, Tenn., and my mother and father still live there. So coming to Normandy allows me to see them more often than I have in the past. That's a wonderful additional benefit."

While at Vanderbilt, he was involved with a number of Christian groups on campus and reveals how he began to sense a call to serve as a pastor in professional ministry. "My dad was an attorney, so I was curious about the law and I was also interested in journalism."

From time to time, he worked with his dad in the law office to try that out career; one summer he worked as newspaper reporter. That same summer, he preached three times in various Presbyterian congregations.

"In that way, I narrowed the choices to two: law and ministry. In school I prepared for both careers and even considered a joint law-ministry graduate degree. I applied to both seminaries and law schools, but when I received a full scholarship to Columbia Theological Seminary, I decided that I had nothing to lose to give ministry a try. After a year in seminary, I knew that this was the path God had for me."

He explains that God has given him the spiritual gift of encouragement (Reference 1 Corinthians 12 in the Bible.) "I love to help people who have questions, doubts, and struggles with faith. I enjoy preaching, teaching and leading . . . love to see people outside of church and inside the church come together."

One of the exciting things happening in the Normandy community right now is that God has stirred up Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians to once again come together, according to the new pastor. "Apparently, these three congregations once worked together on several activities and now there is a desire to do that again. This year, we held joint Holy Week services and the three pastors are meeting and talking together about works we may share in common."

As for his talents, he notes that would include drama and music; he also likes to run, hike and travel. "I'm a big lake enthusiast . . . love to boat, swim and water-ski. I'm 63 and can still barefoot ski. I sometimes joke that any preacher worth anything has got to walk on water! Who knows if any of this will be useful to the church."

The pastor laughs.

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