The Rev. Jay Hogewood once led a Baptist congregation of 600 members until he resigned amid personal and marital struggles that would lead to separation and divorce.
After leaving Baton Rouge’s University Baptist Church, Hogewood went to work as an insurance salesman, joined a Methodist church as a parishioner and began his journey of spiritual restoration.
Now “by grace,” as he tells it, Hogewood is a church pastor again.
He was recently appointed by Bishop William Hutchinson to serve Ingleside United Methodist Church, a mid-city congregation of about 110 people that has in some ways mirrored the journey of its new pastor: Both are poised at the crossroads, each on a mission to seek new direction, renewal and redemption following periods of difficulty.
Hogewood, 42, described his journey using a quotation from the medieval Christian mystic Julian of Norwich. “First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall; both are the mercy of God.”
A fire in 2007 destroyed the Ingleside sanctuary, leaving older parishioners dispirited over its loss and wondering whether they would live to see it rebuilt.
Member Inez King, who joined the church in the 1950s, watched the church being rebuilt and has through the church’s prayer chain ministry worked alongside Hogewood for the past few weeks helping Hogewood tend to sick and shut-in members and families of members who have recently died. “I feel like I’ve gotten to know him well,” she said following Sunday’s service, Hogewood’s second as Ingleside pastor.
Between 2004 and 2009, Hogewood, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., led University Baptist, where what he describes as challenging periods arose near the end of his ministry there.
“I was a young minister,” he said. “I experienced some degree of burnout before resigning, and I was struggling with my marriage.”
Those darker moments both before and following his resignation from the Baptist ministry left him feeling “unworthy” and shut down emotionally, he said. “Leaving the Baptist ministry was hard.”
Following his resignation in 2009 and his marriage separation in February 2010, he worked in insurance sales and became a parishioner at University United Methodist.
In 2010, that same year he began worshipping with University United Methodist, Ingleside United Methodist was recovering, with the church’s sanctuary being rebuilt and reopened.
Hogewood, father to 13-year-old Mariah and Beck, 15, said he and his children’s fellowship with the Methodist church proved to be a turning point.
“There were difficult challenges in my life, but other people were opening doors with me at University Methodist,” he said. “They welcomed us. I was nurtured and restored at University Methodist and that was important.”
He became a part-time associate of congregational care at University Methodist on July 1, 2011, and a full-time associate pastor of congregational care on Jan. 1.
University Methodist member Ruth Patrick described Hogewood’s contributions toward her church. “He is the most loving, caring and warm human being I’ve ever known,” she said. “He’s been a ray of sunshine for us.”
Meanwhile, he has maintained communication with his former wife, who also still lives in Baton Rouge. Their divorce was final in April after a year of separation.
“I can’t understate the blessing their mom was,” he said. “We’ve worked through our anger and sadness.”
The church has also helped him to move forward and seek redemption, he said. “Though I struggled, God held me close through God’s people.”
In June of this year, Hogewood was appointed to serve Ingleside and delivered his first sermon as the congregation’s pastor on July 1. The church’s last pastor, the Rev. David L. Bricker is now pastor for the Loranger-Cooper’s Chapel United Methodist churches.
Because Hogewood is an ordained Baptist minister, the Methodist church will not re-ordain him but will honor his ordination from his previous denomination, said Ralph Ford, district superintendent of the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.
There are a few more requirements as well. “With someone coming in from another denomination, they have to take more courses and then they have to be approved by the board of ordained ministry,” Ford said.
Some of the courses that Hogewood would be required to complete include the history, doctrine and polity of the Methodist church, Ford said. “The bishop will move him into ‘full connection’ status (with the Methodist church) when he completes his requirements.”
The appointment put Hogewood back into the very position he believed God had called him for.
“I am one beggar telling other beggars where the bread is,” Hogewood said.
The Ingleside congregation welcomed him, and Hogewood said some of those past feelings of unworthiness were replaced with “having people affirm you in your work.”
His church office also paints a clear picture of Hogewood’s personal background. His bookshelf is packed with theological books, an old copy of a Hebrew Bible, devotional writings and a book by a historical minister for whom he models some of his preaching, Charles Jefferson’s “The Building of the Church.”
His educational background is extensive, including a bachelor’s degree from Samford University in Birmingham, a master’s degree in divinity from Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, and a doctorate from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.
He also studied at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnatti, Ohio, where he learned Hebrew.
Hogewood said he received God’s call to preach in 1994 and in 1997 became an ordained Baptist minister, never imagining that he would later leave the Baptist church.
After resigning, he felt some degree of bitterness with the Baptist church, but those feelings have since changed, he said. “That was misplaced and I no longer feel any bitterness.”
Rather, he is focusing on the present opportunities.
Ingleside is primed to carry on God’s gospel, he said. To show it, he has encouraged his congregation to practice “radical hospitality” in the Midcity ,where such issues as poverty, HIV, AIDS and homelessness must be addressed.
He hopes to partner with other churches along the Midcity corridor including Shiloh Missionary Baptist. His sermons promote themes of peace, love and unity, tied in with current events that are both local and national in scope.
Occasionally, he sings a bit of Hebrew, and “I try to preach half my sermons from the Old and New Testaments,” he said.
In a recent Sunday sermon, the first of a five-part series called, “The Work of the Church: Being Loved Ones in a Hate-Filled World,“ Hogewood urged his congregation to reject false teachings of hate. A metal globe stood centered on the middle of the church altar along with a copy of The Advocate from which he meshed headlines into his sermon.
He cited the actions of the Rev. Mel Lewis in Alabama who is holding a Christian conference for white people only.
“Some are choosing to preach hate, and that is not the mission of Jesus Christ,” Hogewood said.
“We hope that the church universal and our church would offer something counterculture,” he said. “How can Ingleside work as a counterculture in the movement?
“We are a church with a heart in the heart of the city. This shapes us with the work we have…Good news overtakes bad…a place where love transforms hate.”
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