FCC senior pastor says happy to be back home
Becoming the Senior Minister of First Christian Church was a kind of homecoming for Reverend Beth Thomason, as well as the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
âWhen I was in high school I said I was going to be a pastor,â Thomason said. “I had a wonderful youth minister the whole time I was in the youth group and felt like that was the call I had.”
Thomason grew up in Homewood and graduated from Homewood High School in 1984. She attended the University of Montevallo and earned a degree in theater. Her first career was as a teacher at Parker High School where she taught public speaking and theater for five years.
The summer between high school and college, Thomason worked at Hargis Christian Retreat and met her future husband, Tim. They got married while she was in Montevallo. Tim had grown up attending First Christian Church and Beth had previously served as a volunteer youth minister there. They worked together at Hargis Christian Retreat and later got married.
âI was a member of this church and my husband is a life member of this church,â Thomason said. âWhen we got married, I transferred my members to this congregation. I was a teacher and I was the youth godfather at the time.
While in her role as volunteer youth minister, Thomason casually mentioned to the associate minister that if she had no other job, she could be in church working with youth all the time.
âHe turned around and handed me a catalog of the seminar,â she said. âWithin a year, I had resigned my teaching position and the congregation assigned me to attend seminary.
She quit her teaching job and began to explore her call to ministry, attending Lexington Theological Seminary, where she received her MA in Divinity and was ordained to the FCC in 1999.
For the next 20 years, Thomason served in churches in the Huntsville and Madison areas. In 2020, the family returned to Birmingham after she became the new FCC Chief Minister.
âFCC ordained me to ministry, but I immediately went to serve at FCC Huntsville and served there for 12 years as minister of youth,â she said. “I then served for nine years as a solo pastor at Madison Christian Church before coming home.”
âI feel like teaching really prepared me for the ministry. I love teens and spent my first 12 years of youth ministry, âshe said. âTeaching was really part of this ministry journey. Not as a side trip, but an integral part of their trip.
FCC has ministered to the Birmingham community for over 147 years and now has two women ministers: Thomason and Associate Minister Reverend Robin Blakemore. Thomason said being called back to the ministry at FCC was a homecoming for her and her family.
“It is not something that many ministers have the opportunity to experience,” she said. “It is the church that nurtured and helped shape my faith, so it is a sacred privilege to be able to lead them in ministry.”
When Thomas started as senior minister on May 1, 2020, she was unable to present her sermons to the congregation in person due to the pandemic lockdown.
âI couldn’t really meet my congregation face to face,â she said. âIt was the hardest thing that ever happened to me in the ministry, to start a ministry in a church where it was almost a year before I met people. “
The church had to adapt to the circumstances and raised funds for equipment so they could broadcast live services. In the beginning, the services were filmed on iPhones and compiled into a computer program. Then the shrine was revamped to include monitors and technology to live streaming services.
Thomason said they did not record the service in the shrine because it looked so empty and large, but instead filmed in the church library, filmed communion at the table in the garden of prayer and during prayer time they would create voiceovers and show visual effects.
âWe wanted to be able to broadcast live until we could come back and do live services in the shrine,â Thomas said. “We started broadcasting live from the shrine at Christmas, so it’s been over a year, and we continue to do so now.”
As a theater and public speaking graduate, Thomason said she used to speak to an audience or a congregation of people, so she had to change the way she presented her sermons.
Looking for a silver lining to the pandemic, Thomason said: âIf you can call it a gift that came from not being able to be together, people started to understand that we had to move forward so that we can be together. The church is still the church if we can be physically inside the building.
FCC had its first in-person service on Easter Sunday 2021. It’s the church’s highest holy day and it was even more emotional for everyone to come together.
The Thomasons found a home in Irondale which they renovated and hoped to move in during the holidays. The couple have two daughters: Celia, who lives with her husband and daughter in Mineral Wells, Texas; and Sami, 20, who is part of the FAC audiovisual team.
In her spare time Thomason enjoys hiking and has said this is where she feels closest to God. She also enjoys the theater and looks forward to seeing performances in community theaters around Birmingham.