Shawn Jackson Moss is enthusiastic about her new position as pastor of Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“I love it. I love the people; I love ministering to the community,” said Moss, whose upbeat personality often includes bellows of laughter.
She particularly enjoys working with the children at the 80-member church on Avenue H in Greenwood as well as at a separate congregation she leads in Belzoni.
“I love the kids,” Moss said.
“It’s real easy to get jaded, but the little ones still get excited over things, so it’s fun to see the world through their eyes.”
Moss, 57, was sent to Shiloh by the South Central Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which rotates its pastors throughout Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama as well as parts of Florida.
She had previously pastored at churches in Greenville, Hollandale and Memphis.
Moss currently still lives in Greenville, commuting to Greenwood for work, but is planning to move to Greenwood at a house on Market Street by the beginning of April.
“The house I’m moving to is an older house. It just needs a little TLC,” Moss said.
Her husband, James, will accompany her, as well as Fred, their Pomeranian-poodle mix.
In preparation for the move, Moss is hoping to get a fuller feel for the town, including its history and possibly meeting some of the town’s leaders.
Additionally, she hopes to be of service to her new home by working with students in the area.
A native of Washington, D.C., Moss earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from Columbia Union College, now known as Washington Adventist University, in Maryland and a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan.
Compared to the nation’s capital, she’s noticed some differences in the Deep South.
“It was culture shock,” laughed Moss, recounting her move.
“It’s different because D.C. is a very urban city. The industry is different. You have more government, more white-collared jobs, more big companies, and definitely a faster pace,” Moss said. “Whereas the South is a little slower pace and everything tends to revolve around the community. There’s more community, more church. Your church is your hub versus the city.”
She’s also tickled by the lack of traffic compared to Washington and the fact that drivers will wave cordially to other drivers.
“Everybody waves. That never happens in D.C.,” Moss said.
She said that although the South appears to have more churches than where she was raised, it shares a common problem of declining attendance.
Indeed, Gallup News, a public polling firm, found that Americans’ attendance in church has slowly declined over the years, from 42 percent of adults attending services weekly in 2008 to 38 percent in 2017.
Pew Research Center found that adults under 40 years of age are less likely than older adults to consider religion important.
Given these changes in culture and attitude, how can Moss increase and maintain attendance at her churches?
For her, it’s less about preaching than it is helping out the community.
“At this point in time, the best way to convince people to come is really to try to meet the need ... just trying to be of service,” she said.
She said that by meeting people’s needs, she hopes that people will then decide to attend the church’s services.
There are a variety of ways Shiloh helps the community, she said. These include holding food backpack programs for students, giving out spare quarters to those doing laundry or dollar bills to those filling up their cars with gas, and hosting safety and financial seminars.
“Where’s the need? What can we do?” Moss asked.
By moving to Greenwood, she’s hoping to answer those questions.
•Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.