Serving and seeking Christ
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?From the Baptismal Covenant, Page 305 BCP
Response: I will, with God’s help.
In thanksgiving for the ministry of the Reverend Jacqueline “Jackie” Whitfield
I first met Jackie on July 25, 2010. She was Junior Warden at All Saints’, and the vestry was searching for a new rector. She and Tom Jones were assigned to meet with me and start off the interview process. I had no idea that she would one day join me at the altar as a colleague, but I did know that I was in the presence of an insightful and faithful woman. She was in process of retiring from Cabarrus County Schools, where she had served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent. Her work in the schools has given her a front row seat to the ways inequality manifests itself. Wherever God places her, she always seeks to be a voice for the voiceless, to make the “system” work for those who are often left out and to focus the attention of those in the halls of government on the needs of children.
Soon after I arrived, her beloved friend and sister-in-law died unexpectedly, and we walked the path of grief together. She rotated off the vestry and her work as an educational consultant kept her in Charlotte for many hours. In the summer of 2013, the board of All Saints’ Preschool made the difficult decision to close after more than 30 years, and the Education Wing went silent. In 2014, Jackie took on the leadership of a collaborative effort between Cabarrus County Schools, the Cabarrus Partnership for Children and All Saints’ to open a public preschool for children in poverty. There were upfits needed in the Education Wing, many inspections, and detailed requirements to meet, but Jackie’s persistence saw the Lockhart Preschool open in fall of 2014, the founding of the Early Childhood Foundation of Cabarrus County to support literacy, music, and arts education for children in poverty and the relandscaping of the Bell Tower Garden. The noise of children’s laughter once again rang through the halls. Jackie’s advocacy work expanded beyond the state of North Carolina to federal agencies and the wider church. In 2015, she addressed the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. She also received local recognition as the 2015 recipient of Anne Laukaitis Champion for Children Award.
At the same time, she was working through a call to ordained ministry that God had laid on her heart as a young child, long before the Episcopal Church was ready to ordain women. She entered into the discernment process for the diaconate in the Diocese of North Carolina and was ordained deacon in May of 2018. Recognizing the depth of her involvement in Cabarrus County, the bishop assigned her as Deacon Missioner to Cabarrus County so that she could continue and even expand her work on behalf of children, especially children living in poverty. Jackie chaired the task force on the needs of children for the Cabarrus County Commissioners, making a report which led, among other initiatives, to the evolution the Lockhart Preschool to the Lockhart Child Development Center (serving children 12 weeks to five years) as a joint partnership between All Saints’ and Cabarrus County. She continued her advocacy at the local, state, and national level as well as preaching, reading the gospel, and ministering at the altar of All Saints’. When the building closed during COVID, Jackie worked tirelessly to create connections. She and her husband Dick hosted a neighborhood church meeting that brought people face to face for prayer and worship.
Jackie is now discerning where God is calling her next. While she is retiring as Deacon Missioner for Cabarrus County, she will always be a deacon of the church. She will continue to seek and serve Christ in each person. Please pray for her in this time of transition and give thanks for the many, many ways she has blessed this church and this community.