My name is Mary Elizabeth Hanchey and I joined the staff of the NC Council of Churches as Program Associate for Legislative Advocacy and Interfaith Outreach on November 1. I have long been committed to the work of the Council and the spirit with which it is accomplished. Soon after I graduated from law school in 2003, I served on the Governing Board for several years. I was grateful for this opportunity to plan, and dream, and work with such a diverse group of concerned Christians.
I grew up in NC, the daughter of two ministers. As a child I lived in Mars Hill, Winston-Salem, Elizabeth City, Kinston, and Durham. Though I love the mountains and the beach with equal devotion, I do take a stand on behalf of Eastern BBQ and I believe cornbread should be sweet.
I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1999 with a double major in English Literature and Political Science and a minor in Music, and from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2003. In May 2017, I graduated from Duke Divinity School. This storyline always yields questions about basketball loyalty, so let me be clear: I am a Tarheel. Nevertheless, because my husband and son are Duke fans, I have been known to root for the Blue Devils against certain non-ACC teams.
I have now lived in Durham for nearly 30 years, and I am proud to call the Bull City “home.” I have been a member at Watts Street Baptist Church for most of that time, and have served as the Director of Children’s Music Ministries since 2012. We appreciate the opportunity to raise our children in this city where I spent so much of my childhood, and to support their education in the Durham Public Schools from which I also graduated.
My life in communities across NC, my education in public schools and public universities, my life as a Baptist, my law degree, my life in the church, and my involvement in my children’s public school education all ground the work I will be doing for the Council.
In my new role at the Council, I will be taking on work that has long been important to the Council as well as program areas into which the Council is expanding. My job title is long, but it describes two significant aspects of my work. Advocacy and Interfaith Outreach will sometimes coincide as the Council joins with other faith groups to advocate for conditions and outcomes in our state that are more just and more equitable. But each will sometimes stand alone, ministries to which I am called as a follower of Jesus. I look forward to serving as an additional presence for the Council at the Legislature and in policy discussions; to learning about the work that our constituent congregations are already doing and to dreaming with them and our devoted team about the ministries that await; and to participating pastorally in discussions about religious liberty and interfaith dialogue.
I am particularly excited about bolstering the Council’s already robust efforts to impact the conversation happening in this state about religious liberty. I have been formed by Baptist history and by my long relationship with the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. I have long worked, studied, and written about religious liberty in legal and theological arenas. I also know the important connection between religious liberty for all and interfaith dialogue and interfaith relationship-building. The Council has a long history of advocating for the separation of church and state, and I appreciate the opportunity to carry this conversation forward.
As I find myself at the beginning of this invigorating new opportunity, I am grateful, once again, for this opportunity to plan, and dream, and work with such a diverse group of concerned Christians.