Tracey Perry was 34 when she had what she characterizes as “a vision between wake and sleep state.”
Years later, she still remembers it vividly.
“I was on a large stage and preaching to a sea of people,” Perry said Friday. “I couldn’t count them all. I knew from that, there was a call. I said, ‘God, if this is what you want, you’ll open these doors.’”
It took a while, but they opened. And they are ajar.
Perry, now 53, was a successful website developer in the Baltimore area, doing much work as a contractor for the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security and at the Pentagon, before she became a minister nearly five years ago.
On Sunday, she will be officially installed as the senior minister at Faith United Church of Christ, 1020 Walnut St., in Windsor. It’s a formal step in the sense that she has been on the job since December 30.
The installation service will be at 3 p.m., and it will be followed by a dinner reception.
“Sunday signifies arrival for me,” Perry said. “That I have arrived into what God has called me to, to serve this church. It’s completion. I’ve learned that I’m serving a very compassionate church, that I’m serving a very family-oriented church. So many of the people are related. . . It’s a very blessed time. It’s wonderful. God called me here. The church is doing phenomenally well with membership. God’s moving.”
It’s the next chapter in an unlikely story.
Ten years after that vision, she said, she founded a women’s Bible study website involving instruction and frank discussion.
“We talked about everything, from marriage, to our faith, to difficulty in the workplace,” she said. “Nothing was off the table. Some were solid in their foundation of faith, some were struggling.”
She began studying for the ministry, eventually receiving a Master of Divinity degree from the Wesley Theological Seminary. She also has a master’s from the University of Baltimore, plus a bachelor’s from what now is Notre Dame University of Maryland.
Perry came to Faith United Church of Christ from Largo Community Church in Mitchellville, Md. She has seven grown children, and has been married to her husband, William, for 20 years.
In Windsor, she already has been innovative, including when she offered drive-through ashes in the parking lot on Ash Wednesday.
“She’s a very intelligent, passionate, God-loving woman and she has a lot of things she can teach us,” said Jeff Housden of Windsor, who served on the search committee. “I love her so far. She’s revitalized a lot of things that had fallen by the wayside over the years. She’s restarted a lot of groups and started a lot of groups we’ve never had before.”
Betty Wiederspon has been a Faith United Church of Christ member for 62 years, and she and Taylor Stephens also served on the search committee involved in Perry’s hiring.
“She fit in really well with what we were looking for,” Wiederspon said. “We had a long process before we even looked at any candidates to see what our church needed. . . We needed a lot of things. We needed fresh blood, maybe. Obviously, we needed her because everything’s going so well since she’s been here. Our attendance is way up. Everybody seems happy. It’s a joyful thing to come to worship.
“Very often, when you’re listening to a sermon, much later you try to remember what it was all about and you really have to search your mind to try to remember what that sermon was. Now, the difference is, we — the search committee and the congregation — have heard a lot of sermons from her now. And you know what? I could almost tell you about every single one and how it touched me.”
Housden said Perry’s sermons “sometimes have a surface message with deeper stuff to them that you can think about. I really appreciate that she speaks about the practicality of being a Christian and how you’re supposed to govern yourself in your life.”
Stephens, who is retired, also is a church trustee.
“She had sent us some audio tapes of two sermons,” Stephens said. “I think the whole committee, after hearing the two tapes, said, ‘We’ve got to get her out here.’”
Then when Perry traveled to the area for an interview, the committee watched and listened to a sermon in person. She was a guest preacher at another area church.
“I didn’t pay attention to the sermon,” Stephens admitted. “I watched the crowd. You could tell. They really, really liked her.”
He noticed the attendees were hanging on every word.
And soon, she was hired.
Perry’s habit is to offer virtually anyone she meets the choice between a hug or a handshake.
Said Housden, “Oh, I take the hug. Every time.”
— Terry Frei writes features and columns for
The Tribune. He’s the author of seven books, including “Third Down and a
War to Go.” He can be reached at (970) 392-4424 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His
website is http://www.terryfrei.com.
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