The Mothers

by

Brit Bennett

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The Pastor (John Sheppard) Character Analysis

Luke Sheppard’s father, Latrice Sheppard’s husband, and the pastor of Upper Room. Unsurprisingly, the pastor is a deeply religious man, though he doesn’t stop his wife from paying for Nadia’s abortion when his son reveals that she is pregnant with his child. Still, Mr. Sheppard feels a strong sense of remorse for having helped Nadia get an abortion and thinks that the family “owes” the young woman for having put her in a sinful position. In an attempt to help Nadia, the pastor insists that his wife hire Nadia as a secretary—a proposition the first lady resists. Despite his wife’s hesitancy, Mr. Sheppard goes to Robert Turner’s house and tells him they’d like to hire Nadia for the summer. During this visit, Nadia momentarily senses that the pastor can sense the fact that she got an abortion. Years later, when Robert finally learns that the Sheppards paid for Nadia’s procedure, he storms into Upper Room and yells at John, calling him a “son of a bitch.” Mother Betty overhears this conversation and spreads the news throughout the church, effectively disgracing the pastor and forcing the church to close because the congregants start leaving one by one.

The Pastor (John Sheppard) Quotes in The Mothers

The The Mothers quotes below are all either spoken by The Pastor (John Sheppard) or refer to The Pastor (John Sheppard). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead edition of The Mothers published in 2016.
Chapter Three Quotes

At her mother’s funeral, in the front pew, she’d felt pity radiating toward her, along with a quiet anger that everyone was too polite to express, though she’d felt its heat tickling the back of her neck. “Who is in a position to condemn? Only God,” the pastor had said, opening his eulogy. But the fact that he’d led with that scripture only meant that the congregation had already condemned her mother, or worse, that he felt her mother had done something deserving of condemnation. […]

How dare anyone at the church judge her mother? No one knew why she’d wanted to die. The worst part was that Upper Room’s judgment had made Nadia start to judge her mother too.

Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Fourteen Quotes

“You did this thing?” he said. “You did this thing behind my back?”

He’d refused to name her sin, which shamed her even more. So she’d told him the truth. How she’d secretly dated Luke, and discovered that she was pregnant, and how the Sheppards had given her the money for the abortion. Her father had listened silently, head bowed, wringing his hands, and when she finished, he sat there a moment longer before standing up and walking out of her room. He was in shock, and she didn’t understand why. Didn’t he know by now that you could never truly know another person? Hadn’t her mother taught them both that?

Related Symbols: The Golden Baby Feet
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Mothers LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Mothers PDF

The Pastor (John Sheppard) Character Timeline in The Mothers

The timeline below shows where the character The Pastor (John Sheppard) appears in The Mothers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter One 
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...secrets quickly get out of control in their community, referencing the time that Betty, the pastor’s secretary, witnessed the church’s head usher having brunch with an unknown young woman. Betty quickly... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...secret, a secret that [begins] in the spring Nadia Turner [gets] knocked up by the pastor’s son and [goes] to the abortion clinic downtown to take care of it.” They explain... (full context)
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
...to Fat Charlie’s seafood restaurant, where she encounters Luke Sheppard, the son of Upper Room’s pastor. Luke waits tables at Fat Charlie’s now, though Nadia still remembers him from her days... (full context)
Chapter Three
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...her father is lifting weights. As she leaves the two men alone, she sees the pastor turn to watch her, and she momentarily wonders if he can somehow tell what has... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
...and crouches by a window that opens onto the yard, where her father and the pastor are talking. She hears the pastor say he heard about what happened with Nadia and... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...used to do. As she runs the clippers along his head, he says that the pastor’s wife—the first lady—needs an assistant for the summer. “I can’t work there,” Nadia responds, but... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
...Because the jobs the first lady assigns her are so small, Nadia wonders why the pastor hired her in the first place. She understands, of course, that he and Mrs. Sheppard... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...she doesn’t need “some fast-tailed, know-nothing girl” hanging out in the church all summer, but Mr. Sheppard refutes her point, simply stating, “We owe her.” (full context)
Chapter Four
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Internalization vs. Externalization Theme Icon
...one afternoon, Aubrey asks her what happened to Elise Turner. She asks this because the pastor never mentioned a cause of death, a fact that caused “lurid speculation” from the congregation.... (full context)
Chapter Six
Identity Theme Icon
...moved out of the house and into his own small apartment. “Get a job, Luke,” Mr. Sheppard says upon hearing about the Cobras. “Listen,” his mother adds, shaking her head, “I know... (full context)
Chapter Seven
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...becoming a physical therapist. To help him save money for a degree in this field, Mr. Sheppard gives Luke a job at Upper Room once he’s left rehab. Meanwhile, Luke continues to... (full context)
Chapter Ten
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...the time she’s been away, she has reviewed “everything about that summer before college: the pastor’s tentative visit, […] Mrs. Sheppard’s coldness at work, how surprisingly kind she’d seemed right before... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...recently been promoted at his rehab job and has also started spending his time helping his father at Upper Room, so Aubrey often finds herself alone. When she asks Luke to accompany... (full context)
Chapter Twelve
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
Nadia has been spending so much time at Upper Room that the pastor asks her to chaperone the children’s Halloween party, where she runs into Luke in a... (full context)
Chapter Fourteen
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...golden baby feet, he bursts into Upper Room with Nadia and goes straight for the pastor’s office. The night before, Nadia found him sitting on her bed with the medallion in... (full context)
Caretaking and Responsibility Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...again without her, though he’ll have to find a new church after the situation with Mr. Sheppard , and “what other church would have a need for a lonely man and his... (full context)
Secrecy, Gossip, and Storytelling Theme Icon
Religion and Judgment Theme Icon
...of Nadia’s abortion spreads through the church. First, Mother Betty overhears Robert yelling at the pastor for financing the abortion. Betty then whispers to the other Mothers during bingo that Robert... (full context)