The Reverend Doctor Nancy Petty is widely known as pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church and for her leadership on social justice issues in the community. But if you ask the Rev. Petty what makes her the most proud about her work at Pullen, her answer might surprise you. She said she is most proud of her “…work with the congregation, especially the children, providing them a place of safety and belonging where they’re recognized and called by name and given something important to do.”
She went on to say, “I like getting to know each child, visiting their homes, learning what’s important to them.”
That commitment to seeing children and teens as individuals with something important to contribute sets the Reverend Petty apart. This commitment has been put into practice in many ways. When her daughter was a student at Wiley Elementary, the Rev. Petty was co-president of the PTA. After seeing the needs that many Wiley students had, she led Pullen to create an after-school tutoring program for the school. That was 15 years ago, and today, the program is still strong at the church.
Her commitment to creating a level playing field for children and youth led her to speak and protest in support of Wake County Public Schools’ diversity plan and against re-segregation. That activism resulted in her arrest at a Wake County School Board meeting and also led to greater awareness among the public as to the needs of the children in the system and even after their public schooling is over.
During Nancy’s tenure at Pullen, the congregation founded The Hope Center at Pullen, a non-profit organization that provides mentoring and services to youth and young adults aging out of the foster care system. Her commitment to children, teens, and young people has also led to her involvement in immigration issues through the NC Dream Team and to leadership in the Moral Monday movement in the state. “I can’t just work for my child. I have to work for all of them,” Dr. Petty says.
Nancy has made learning a life-long commitment in her own life, and she credits teachers with nurturing that interest, starting with her second-grade teacher who, as she puts it, “bragged on my penmanship and gave me confidence.” To ensure that she made the most of college following graduation from the public schools of Shelby, Nancy declined a basketball scholarship in order to focus on her studies at Gardner-Webb University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Religion. She went on to earn a Master of Divinity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate at McCormick Theological Seminary. She’s also done further study at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education and Princeton Theological Seminary. She has won numerous awards for her work as a leader in peace and justice issues and for her service to her community and state. She lives the motto of her church: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.
The Reverend Doctor Petty began her career as a minister of education and youth and has never forgotten that early commitment to children and education. “When I look at a child, I see all the potential,” she says. She’s lived her life and focused her ministry on helping all members of the Pullen congregation and the wider community — regardless of age — to reach their potential. Nancy Petty has earned the distinction of Champion for Children.