The Rev. Peter Wherry, 53, came to Charlotte from Norfolk in March 2007 as pastor of Mayfield Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, which had about 200 members.
Wherry calls Mayfield “the most remarkable group of people I’ve ever seen.” Among other ministries, members own and operate a HUD apartment complex for the elderly, and the church has been instrumental in North Carolina’s social-justice Moral Monday protest movement.
And they provide a Sunday music series, “Music at Mayfield,” in which Wherry, his wife, Wanda, and their son and daughter – both music conservatory graduates – gave a concert together.
Wherry grew up attending Catholic schools in the diocese of Buffalo, N.Y. In 1978, he enrolled at the Indiana University school of music in Bloomington, where he met his wife – “a prodigious lyric soprano” – while they worked together on a video about African-American composer Undine Smith Moore. The next year, they moved to Virginia, where both earned doctorate of ministry degrees from Virginia Union University.
Wherry paid his way through school as a performer in Broadway shows, including an international tour of “The Wiz,” where he played Tin Man.
He was ordained by the Tidewater Metro Baptist Ministers’ Conference in 1983. His pastoral assignments included a country church in Southampton County, Va., where he “pastored all the descendants of Nat Turner” (who led a famous 1831 slave rebellion in the county), and almost 17 years at Queen Street Baptist Church in Norfolk.
Q. When did you know you wanted to be in the clergy?
A. When I was about 3, I used to set up a TV tray at family gatherings, and the phone book would be my Bible, and an empty bottle of mouthwash would be my microphone. At career day when all the little kids got to dress up like what they wanted to be, I was a Jesuit priest. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a spiritual sense.
Q. When you’re not in the pulpit, where do you like to be?
A. Although I haven’t done lots of it here, I love to fish. More than anything else, I’m a bibliophile. I’m reading all the time.
Q. On your nightstand?
A. A recent biography of Winston Churchill. I love biography, learning how people dealt with adversity and success.
Q. When it comes to ministry, what is your passion?
A. My passion is seeing lives change. I don’t know that there’s any substitute for that.
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SOURCE: The Charlotte Observer