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Northampton Pastor Serves Community Alongside Special Sidekick

Having served in ministry for over four decades, Cornerstone Chapel's pastor is bringing joy and comfort to the community with the help of a unique assistant.

Northampton residents know Beowulf, the Morkie, as one of Cornerstone Chapel's most lovable members. Even those who are not regular church attenders are ministered to regularly by Pastor Margery R. Hale and her canine "assistant pastor."

Although she has only been ordained for a year, Margery R. Hale has been active in ministry service for decades. Called to ministry as a young child, Hale preached her first sermon at just 16 years old and recalls God affirming the importance of her ministry, even in behind-the-scenes roles for many years. Now, as she celebrates 54 years at Cornerstone Chapel in Northampton, Massachusetts, Hale is not only leading a church, but a community as well.

Hale and her late husband, Ron, began their pastoral service at Cornerstone Chapel in 1970. The two met in Bible college and pastored two churches before their time at Cornerstone Chapel. Although her husband served as the lead pastor, it was always understood that Hale would fill in for her husband when necessary or serve wherever was needed within the church.

While raising six children, the Hales faithfully served the church and the community for 25 years until, in the 1990s, Ron began to experience a bothersome sensation in his shoulder.

“He would just say that his shoulder bothered him, but described nothing else,” Hale states.

Yet when other symptoms began developing, such as trembling of the hand and a decline in the quality of his handwriting, Hale knew there was something bigger going on.

“Then, one day Ron walked in a half hour before an evening service and told me that he couldn’t preach. He didn’t say why, and he loved to preach, but he just couldn’t. So, I filled in,” she recalls.

Ron and Margery shared preaching responsibilities for almost eight years during those times. Ed Berkey, the superintendent for the district at the time, suggested that Hale apply for official credentials and was licensed in 1996.

Unable to give any more of a description as to the reason he couldn’t preach, it was later discovered that all of Ron’s physical symptoms and his loss of motivation were pointing to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

While caring for her dying brother and mother, Hale continued to lead in the Christian Education programs of the church as well as community ministry. Hale eventually said goodbye to her brother and mother in 2004.

Then, in 2006, Ron unexpectedly announced to Hale and the church that he needed to officially retire. Yet the investment of the Hales in the church and the community did not go unnoticed by the board and they approached Hale with the idea of her taking over as lead pastor.

“I had basically been assistant pastor for all of those years,” she states. “A pastor’s wife, one called of God, does whatever needs to be done and I had been serving where I was needed.”

Thinking she would only be pastoring for a few months, Hale agreed. Months turned into years and Hale continued to serve the church, her family, and her community with strength and grace.

Hale not only continued to preach the gospel each week but also kept up with a Bible study and Sunday service at an extended care facility that she and her husband had been part of for years.

Hale said goodbye to her life-long partner in ministry in 2021.

But despite the heartache, Hale continues to serve with the help of her sidekick, also known as her “assistant pastor,” a small Morkie named Beowulf.

“Every week, Beowulf and I go to the extended care facility to visit those who need us,” she says.

Beowulf has become an icon in the community and is often asked for by name, even by those in the facility who do not consider themselves religious.

“There was a gentleman not too long ago who had no family or friends to come be with him in his final hours,” states Hale. “And although he didn’t have or wouldn’t let them call anyone to come be with him, he wanted a visit from Beowulf.”

When the pair arrived in the room, the dog sat quietly beside the man on his bed while Hale prayed, read scripture, and talked to him about knowing Jesus. Before he fell into a deep sleep, Hale recalls seeing his mouth move in agreement as she prayed.

“Beowulf brings joy and comfort.” she says, “He opens doors by allowing residents to touch and love him,” she says, “and he goes wherever I go.”

Hale and Beowulf keep a busy weekly schedule which includes their Sunday morning service at Cornerstone Chapel, leading a Bible study during the week at the church, doing room visits and a Bible study for those at the extended care facility, and Hale also leads another Bible study at an apartment complex.

“I go to people when they need or desire us because I’ve learned that people aren’t going to go to church as fast as I can bring the gospel to them,” she says. “If you feel called to ministry,” she continues, “you go out and minister.”

Hale states that she believes in living every minute and thanks God for the experiences He has given her. Margery’s story, says Nick Fatato, network superintendent for the Southern New England Ministry Network, is wonderful.

Ashley B. Grant

Ashley B. Grant has a master's degree in Human Services Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University and is a credentialed Christian counselor through the American Association of Christian Counselors. Grant also holds certifications in crisis pregnancy counseling and advanced life coaching. Ashley is a fourth generation Assemblies of God preacher’s kid and has one daughter and three sons.