Couple to co-pastor at Harrisburg church

As Methodist pastors all over North Carolina moved last week to their new churches, Harrisburg United Methodist welcomed two pastors into its parsonage.

The church has taken the unusual step of appointing a husband and wife as co-pastors. The Revs. Wesley and Toni Ruth Smith, who moved from High Point, will preach their first sermon Sunday.

The Smiths, who have two children, had been pastors at separate churches: Toni Ruth at Hopewell United Methodist in Trinity, N.C., and Wes at Johnsontown United Methodist in Thomasville.

The couple met and married when they worked at First United Methodist in High Point, and they have been praying for an opportunity to work together again, Toni Ruth said. They have been at separate churches for six years.

"We had always felt like our call to marriage was a call to ministry together," Toni Ruth, 35, said. "We have very complementary gifts."

Harrisburg United Methodist's former pastor, the Rev. Dan Hester, has moved to St. Andrew's United Methodist in Charlotte. The Harrisburg church also had not filled its opening for a director of Christian education. The Smiths fill both jobs.

Dave Bilbro, chairman of the church's staff parish committee, said the church was looking forward to the stability and energy the Smiths will bring.

"We're tremendously excited about both of them," he said.

Wes Smith, 33, said working at the same church will allow his family to be involved together in ministry.

"When we were at two different churches, many times we were being pulled in different directions," he said. "With us together at the same church, it frees us up to give a lot more attention and energy to our family and to the church itself."

The Smiths will divide pastoral responsibilities according to their talents and experience. Wes, for example, will handle youth ministry, and Toni Ruth will focus on pastoral care. Both will have pastoral authority.

For now, they will share the two offices vacated by the former pastor and director of Christian education. They have planned how they will share preaching duties through Christmas.

Having two pastors allows for more creativity in worship, Toni Ruth said. Some Sundays they will share the sermon, including their first Sunday. Wes will explain what the biblical text means, and Toni Ruth will talk about how the text can apply to people's lives.

"We have been planning very intentionally about the rules for this (appointment)," Toni Ruth said.

For more information about Harrisburg United Methodist Church, visit The church is at 4560 N.C. 49 S. in Harrisburg.