The position is a role reversal for the 33-year-old, who grew up in New Orleans attending his father’s church. His father, Bishop Larry Abernathy, has since retired, moving the family to Cobb County when the younger Abernathy was 12. Now the father sits in the pew while the son preaches from the pulpit.
“It’s a very serious, solemn role that I play in being a pastor and leading and directing people’s hearts in a week-to-week fashion according to how God guides me,” Abernathy said.
A member of the McEachern High School Class of 1997, Abernathy, 33, played football at Morehouse College before earning a law degree from Loyola University. He practices family law and estate planning with The Manely Firm, located off the Square.
Abernathy spoke of the similarities between the roles of pastor and attorney.
“If I had to list a priority, everything in my life would start with responsibility to God,” he said. “And I find that practicing law and also being a pastor are actually very similar in that on Sundays I make an argument or an appeal to the congregation, which is regarding salvation, which I find to be the greatest argument one can make.”
Abernathy said he was called to the ministry a few years ago, obtaining a ministry license before becoming ordained this year.
“What I say is you have to move where God calls you, so this is part of my heart’s passion, and it’s the vision that God gave me, and the doors just began to open,” he said.
Noonday Church’s members called him in November, offering him the position of pastor, a call he accepted. He began preaching as pastor-elect on Nov. 16.
“As of Sunday, I will be installed,” he said Friday. “Several different people from the community come out, and several different pastors come out, and they read an official charge to the pastor, a charge to the membership, and after I respond to that charge, and I’m presented as the pastor.”
The Rev. George Hill of Acworth, who served as the church’s interim pastor, said Abernathy was selected because he was the most qualified of the candidates.
“His education is impeccable, his family life’s together, his spirituality is in tune, a young man, bright future,” Hill said. “You know, the Bible says, ‘old men dream dreams and young men have vision,’ so we’re looking at his vision to lead us into a new millennium. During these times which we’re living in — older members, kids gone away, no kids — it’s going to take someone like Jeremy to bring the church back to its former glory days.”
The church, located in a one-story brick building near the intersection of Barrett Parkway and I-75 in unincorporated Cobb, has a membership on any given Sunday of about 30 people and has remained in the same location since its founding.
“It’s always been located there,” Abernathy said. “Actually, some of the older African Americans attended school on the property where the church is right now prior to attending Lemon Street (the all-black school in Marietta where students attended before integration). You can see some of the remnants from the old one-room school on the property still.”
Abernathy emphasized that the church welcomed believers of all races to come and worship.
Reflecting on the 18 pastors who served before him, Abernathy said, “I think about how things are preserved prior to the moment and all the work and effort that they put into sustaining the church. I think about the periods of time that they had to sustain the church through the Civil Rights era, I think about how they had to sustain the church through integration, that whole period and how great their efforts had to be to do that.”
Abernathy and his wife, Tiffany, have three children, ages 4, 5 and 10. They live in Marietta.