An Important Message from Rev. Alan Dyer - January 30, 2022
Dear Friends in Christ,
I remember wondering during my final year of seminary how I would know where God was calling me to serve after graduation. It was a bridge that I had never had to cross before, and I wasn’t quite sure how it all worked. Would there be some burning bush – a sign so obvious I could not miss it? Or maybe God would just speak to me from on high and tell me exactly what to do? Was I supposed to walk through the first door that opened or was God calling me to be patient and wait for a different door to open?
My answer ultimately came in a small alcove of the Harrington Center on the campus of Columbia Theological Seminary when I sat down with a special group of people from St. Simons Island who were searching for a new associate pastor. There was no booming voice from above, there was no burning bush, and I don’t even remember if the space had a door. Instead, there was an overwhelming sense of peace, a gradual quickening in my chest, and a slow awakening to the fact that God was beginning to weave the strands of my own heart with the heartstrings of this congregation. It was God’s Spirit calling.
Today, I am writing to share with you that I am now feeling led in the same ways to follow God’s call to serve a new congregation. This new sense of call is not the result of some change in my feelings about St. Simons Presbyterian Church. There simply are not words to adequately describe how much my family and I love this congregation, this community, and each of you. The knot in my stomach as I write this note bears witness to that fact. What it does have to do with is my belief in a living God who calls us to serve where we are led. And after a long season of prayerful discernment, I have become convinced that God is now calling me to serve First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg, SC.
This morning the congregation of First Presbyterian voted to call me as their next senior pastor. First Presbyterian Spartanburg is a downtown church in the upstate of South Carolina that fills a prominent leadership role in their own community and within our larger Presbyterian denomination. This is not a call that I pursued or expected and yet after much prayer, conversation, and more than a little sadness it is now abundantly clear to me that it is precisely where God’s Spirit is weaving my heartstrings anew for this next chapter. My final Sunday at St. Simons Presbyterian will be February 27.
I am aware that this news will come as a surprise to many of you. This is another one of those bridges that we have not had to cross before. In the coming days and weeks, you will be hearing from the session and Presbytery leaders as we begin this time of transition. In the meantime, I would cherish the opportunity to visit with you and to begin saying goodbye. Please do not hesitate to call, email, or come by the church anytime to talk. Here today though, as we stand at the foot of this bridge, I mainly just want to say thank you.
When Erin and I arrived here over 8.5 years ago it was just us and Gordy the dog. Over that time, you have loved and supported us in innumerable ways as our family has grown to include Sam and Jack. Our church family has truly been just that… family. But your love has not stopped there – you have also nurtured me personally both as a pastor and a person. From baptisms and funerals to weddings and talent shows to Wednesday night dinners and Easter potlucks to building campaigns and mission trips to Sunday school classes and Sunday morning worship you have modeled for me and my family what God’s beloved community looks like. You have shown us the love and welcome of Jesus Christ and we are forever changed and grateful as a result.
So thank you…
But most of all, thank you for revealing to me what is possible when a body of believers ties their heartstrings to the loving heart of our living God. You are an extraordinary church and it has truly been the greatest privilege of my life to be a pastor in your midst.
Before closing, I want to briefly point to the fact that SSPC is in an incredibly good and healthy place right now. We have grown both in size and activity during a period when many churches have experienced the opposite. We have a beautifully renovated campus, no debt, and are looked upon as a leadership congregation here in Glynn County. Additionally, we have just completed one of the strongest stewardship campaigns in recent memory with 100% of the 2022 mission budget pledged. That is nothing short of amazing! And, on top of all of that, you are led by a dedicated and faithful group of church officers as well as the most gifted and loving staff team I know.
And so even as my family and I feel led to say “Yes” to this new call, my prayer is that you will continue saying “Yes” to the beautiful and impactful Gospel ministry that God is up to here at St. Simons Presbyterian Church. God has faithfully led SSPC across its first seventy-five years and God will continue leading you boldly into the future. This may not be a bridge that we have had to cross before but the good news is that God has. That is the truth upon which I find my footing and ground my faith this day – I pray it may be so for you as well.
With deep gratitude and love,
Rev. Alan Dyer
Transition update from the session - February 3, 2022
I am writing today on behalf of the session to keep you informed of our progress following Rev. Dyer’s announcement that he has felt God’s call to serve another congregation. We were all saddened by Rev. Dyer’s news but it is important to recognize that the depth of our sadness (and it is deep) is a reflection of the depth of our love for Alan and his family. As difficult as it is to have him leave our church, what a joy it is to know that he is following God’s call to do God’s work in a new place.* Likewise, we are now preparing to do the same as we enter this transition time trusting and believing that God not only has good things in store for Alan but also for our congregation.
This past Sunday, January 30, Alan met with the session to inform them of his new call. Also present to answer initial questions about policies and procedures concerning the departure of a pastor was the Rev. Dr. Alan Baroody, who serves as Transitional General Presbyter of the Savannah Presbytery. At the conclusion of that meeting, the session voted to call a congregational meeting to happen at the end of the 10:30A worship service on Sunday, February 27. The purpose of that meeting will be to act on Alan’s request that the Savannah Presbytery dissolve the call between us so that he may pursue this new call. Please plan to be present on that day.
The session also took initial steps to establish a leadership transition plan. The first step in this plan will be to identify and hire a temporary interim pastor. This individual will ideally step in to serve during the 3-4 months immediately following Alan’s departure and provide primary leadership for worship, staff, and moderating session. Having a temporary interim pastor in place will also allow us time to do a more comprehensive search for a longer-term interim pastor who would be in place throughout the process of searching for and calling a new senior pastor. A subcommittee of the session has been formed and has already begun meeting to fill the temporary interim pastor role. We will keep the congregation informed each step of the way as we continue through this process.
As one who has attended session meetings for the past decade in my role as clerk, I am always amazed how God calls elders, each with unique skills, to come together to lead God’s church. That is true of the current session. God has called these elders together because they have the skills to help guide our church during this time. But the truth is we all have a role to play in this new season. And so I ask three things of each of you. First, continue to pray for the Dyers, the elders, the deacons, and for our church. Second, continue to reach out to new people coming to our church and welcome them to our church family. And lastly, be attentive to your neighbor. Let us all comfort and support one another as we go through the process of discerning God’s will for what is next in our life together as St. Simons Presbyterian Church.
In Christ’s name,
Dr. Leslie McCracken, Clerk of Session
The Potter's wheel Reflection - February 3, 2022
The pottery studio is a two-story mountain home with cobbled stone walls. It has a wrap-around porch and the air smells like Crayola mixed with rhododendron. The cool Montreat air and friendly faces greet you. You are given a worn apron with layers of caked clay and a wad of wet, brown goop.
This is hands-on spirituality if there ever was. “Centering” the clay starts when you place your pile of clay on the turning wheel. Seated beside the wheel, you use your foot to control a pedal that makes the wheel spin, a (fairly fast!) whirling force, and you brace your elbows into your knees and recruit your legs to ground your arms into stillness and steadiness. You put both hands on the clay, providing a steady scaffold to the spinning clay until it feels like…nothing. Throughout, you add water to keep the clay malleable and supple.
The scene of God sculpting and breathing into clay to form us in Genesis marries beautifully with this vision of God as potter in Isaiah. God is committed to holding us in the messy. And even creating through it. God patiently, but firmly, shapes us despite and (even because of) the whirring force that is essential to creation.
Our hearts are sore from the news of our Alan leaving. We feel angst at the unknown, an ache of deep love, a nostalgia for the “life” moments we shared with the Dyers as Alan and Erin welcomed the boys into their lives and into ours. And yet, our hearts also hold joy and gratitude for the clarity that they feel in this next chapter of their journey.
Change is kinda like the gooey and steady work of centering a pot on a potter’s wheel. As St. Simons Presbyterian enters this moment of newness, I want to encourage you to imagine our God’s hands scaffolding the clay pot that is our church. Holding us steadily and shaping us; and dousing us with baptismal waters every now and again to keep us ready to accept our new shape. God has done beautiful things during the Dyers’ ministry here, God is doing beautiful things in the heavy, sad, and unmoored feeling time of transition, and God will do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine in the days, weeks, and months to come. God is doing all the necessary messy work so that we can be a functional, serving vessel for others.
Rev. Kate Buckley
Transition update from the session - February 16, 2022
As we enter this season of transition, we are blessed that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a well-established process for moving forward that the session is carefully following. The first step in this process is to identify a temporary interim senior pastor who will step in to serve during the three months immediately following Alan’s departure. I am writing today on behalf of the session to inform you of our progress in identifying an individual to serve in that role.
After considering several candidates, the session reached out to someone already well known to our church: Reverend Dr. Joanna M. Adams. In addition to regularly worshipping at St. Simons Presbyterian for many years, Rev. Adams has also preached and taught at our church numerous times. After interviewing Rev. Adams and reviewing her biography and resume, the session realized that she is not only an outstanding preacher, pastor, and leader but also someone who has a heart for SSPC who would be a tremendous asset to our congregation as we begin this new chapter in our history.
Rev. Dr. Adams graduated with honors from Columbia Theological Seminary and is a Pastor Emerita at Morningside Presbyterian Church, Atlanta. She has served in pastoral positions at Central Presbyterian Church (Atlanta), North Decatur Presbyterian Church (Decatur), Trinity Presbyterian Church (Atlanta), Fourth Presbyterian Church (Chicago) and Morningside Presbyterian Church. Most recently she served as interim senior pastor for First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta (2013-2014). Her husband, Al, is a retired Atlanta attorney and together they have a home here on St. Simons.
The session is being guided in this process by the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order as well as by a denominational resource called On Calling A Pastor. While the congregation will eventually elect a Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) to search for our next senior pastor, it is the session which is responsible for the hiring of an interim pastor. At their February meeting last evening, the session joyfully approved the hiring of the Rev. Dr. Joanna Adams to serve as our temporary interim senior pastor. Joanna will begin her role starting March 1.
Through His grace, God has given us the gift of time. Joanna will serve in the temporary interim senior pastor through the end of May. During that time the session will conduct a more intensive search for a long-term Interim Senior Pastor who will come in June and serve until our next senior pastor is called. The session will continue to keep the congregation informed each step of the way and asks for your continued support as we lead our church in this season. The Bible tells us to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18). We ask for your prayers for the session and for our congregation as we seek to discern God’s will together.
In Christ’s name,
Transition Update from Rev. joanna adams - Apr 7, 2022
Dear Friends at SSPC,
This afternoon, I write to you with disappointment in my heart. A few weeks ago, I had a bad fall at our home here that injured my back. As the days have passed I have prayed for improvement, but the situation has not improved. After a visit with my physician earlier this week, I learned that my two fractured vertebrae would take two or more months to heal. Right now, they are causing a good deal of pain. I also had to spend the better part of a week in the hospital, dealing with a surprise digestive problem.
Our plan was that I would serve as "Interim-Interim" through the end of May, but my health situation has made that no longer possible. I know your interim search committee is hard at work and will have good news for you before long. Thank you for embracing us so warmly and for allowing us to be in your midst. Al and I have loved our month at the church, and I do so regret my early departure. We are so grateful for your loving care.
Blessings as Holy Week begins,
TRANSITION UPDATE FROM interim search committee - APR 7, 2022
Having Reverend Adams as our interim pastor since March 1st, gave our committee the valuable time needed to search for a long-term interim. We have been hard at work vetting and interviewing candidates. Now, as we are reaching the end of our search, we want to thank Joanna for her leadership and support of our staff as well as the care of our congregation.
Joanna and Al have always been valued members of our church family and never more than during this season of transition. We pray for Joanna’s continued healing and her return to good health.
With assurance that God is leading us,
Chair of Interim Pastor Search Committee
Transition update from the interim search committee - Apr 15, 2022
Steve is currently living in Jacksonville, Florida. He most recently served as the interim pastor at Independent Presbyterian Church (1800 members) in Birmingham, Alabama. Prior to serving Independent Presbyterian Church Birmingham, Steve was the Senior Pastor at Riverside Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida (1,200 members) for 14 years and the Senior Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia for 15 years.
Steve and his wife Anita have two grown daughters (Meghan and Amanda) and two grandchildren. Following graduation from the University of North Carolina, Steve attended Union Seminary in Virginia where he earned a doctoral degree in Ministry Theology with an emphasis on preaching and church administration. He specializes in spiritual and grief counseling, compassion coaching, and family counseling. Steve wrote, “God is ineffable, transcendent, and way beyond our pay grade to understand. Spiritual growth comes from practicing gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning, and forgiveness.”
The Session is grateful to Rev. Annie Franklin Arvin and Rev. Kate Buckley for their leadership during this period of transition. This Sunday Annie will preach the sunrise service at the pier and Kate will lead both Easter worship services at the church and welcome new members to our church family. While Rev. Goyer meets our immediate needs for an interim pastor, the search committee will continue to search for our long-term interim pastor.
Today, Good Friday, as we look forward to remembering with awe and wonder our risen Lord, we ask our congregation to continue to pray for our church and our committee as we work hard to discern God’s will. We also ask that you pray for the person God has already chosen for us. We all have the assurance that this is God’s church and He is leading us.
In Christ’s name,
Chair of Interim Pastor Search Committee
Meet our new interim pastor, rev. dr. steve goyer - April 21, 2022
Dear SSPC friends,
I can understand how you must be reeling from Alan’s leaving… and then Joanna’s accidental fall prompting her to give up her temporary interim position.
To be honest, Anita and I are sort of reeling to find ourselves serving you as the third-string choice. By some mystifying God happening, SSPC and the Goyers are now entwined as I serve you as interim - hopefully for the long term if things work out with the logistics. Depending on finding a place to perch, I’ll be spending 3-4 nights each week on St. Simons and work from home the rest of the time.
We’ll get to know each other more personally, interacting in the ordinary relational way of “being the church” but if you need me sooner, please call at 904-718-7777 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, thanks to Ada Owens, there’s a video she wrote, produced, directed, filmed, edited, and even starred in attached. There’s also a link to my recent CV to help you know my history.
Anita will be with me at church on many Sundays including this week where we hope to meet more of you in worship and at our “lemonade on the lawn” gathering after the 10:30 service.
One more thing: you have a great church as far as I can tell, with amazing congregational involvement, material resources, sound and solid leadership, and a staff that is second to none. It is a blessing to help you on your journey along the way as you continue to be the particular body of Christ called St. Simons Presbyterian Church.
Transition Update from SSPC - May 9, 2022
Dear Members of SSPC,
As the Chairperson for the Congregational Nominating Committee, I am writing you to encourage you to nominate a person or persons (including yourself) you believe would serve as a cooperative and productive member of the Search Committee (Pastor Nominating Committee). Also, please include your rationale for their nomination.
The Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) will work behind the scenes managing the process, meeting the candidates and finally recommending a candidate for SSPC to, hopefully, approve. Serving on the Committee will take time, probably close to a year, and will usually meet weekly, so keep this in mind when nominating someone.
It is important to remember that the Pastor Nominating Committee should be representative of our congregation. Differences in age, gender, gifts and interests are important to consider in your recommendations. Please prayerfully consider those you know in the church and submit your nomination(s) to us by filling out the form above.
Since this process takes time, it is important that the Congregational Nominating Committee begin the process of taking nominations to be considered for the PNC as soon as possible. Please send in your nominations by Sunday, May 22nd.
If you have any questions, please contact me at email@example.com. Put PNC in the subject line.
Leslie Carlton, Chair
TRANSITION UPDATE FROM SSPC - August 8, 2022
As a church family, we have experienced some unexpected events during our season of transition. Despite this, our church continues to grow and thrive. Church attendance is strong, our church members remain generous giving both their time and resources, and our children’s ministry continues to share the love of the Holy Spirit with our “littlest“ church members and visitors.
With Rev. Steve Goyer committed to serve as our interim pastor throughout this season of transition, we now begin the process of searching for the next senior pastor of St. Simons Presbyterian Church.
On July 31, 2022, you elected and installed the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC), tasked with searching for and finding our next senior pastor.
As nominees, we have already been hard at work meeting weekly for the last month. We completed the process of receiving the approval of both our session and the Committee on Ministry of the Savannah Presbytery.
Our first task is to oversee and conduct a self-study (Mission Study) to help define “who we are” and “where we are going.” A self-study is not only required of all presbyterian churches before they begin the search process, it is an important step to help the church and the PNC identify the gifts and attributes we need in our next senior pastor.
While not rushing this important process, we will begin, implement and complete the self-study as soon as possible, and will retain the services of a private company to administer a church survey and help interpret the results.
You, our congregation, are the most important part of our mission study. St. Simons Presbyterian Church is your church and the new pastor will be your pastor. Thus, we need your assistance. You will be asked to complete a survey and may be asked to attend a focus group or give your opinion. You are strongly encouraged to become a part of the conversation to determine our strengths and where we can grow. Please participate when asked. Once we complete our mission study, our pastoral search will begin immediately.
When the congregation was asked for nominees for the Pastoral Nominating Committee, over 90 nominations were received. The nine members chosen for this committee are honored to serve you and humbled by the faith and trust you have bestowed on us. We begin and end each meeting with prayer. We not only thank God for his guidance and pray he leads us to our next pastor, but we are in constant prayer for the person God is preparing for us. In a way, this person is already part of our church family. We need your unceasing prayers! (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We are blessed with the assurance that God is leading all of us.
In Christ’s name,
Jeff Shiver & Brenda Jones
Transition Update from SSPC - September 16, 2022
As your Pastor Nominating Committee, we meet in person weekly, and members work daily as we gather information necessary to complete the church self-study. This exercise is helpful and necessary to discern where we have been, where we are, and where God is calling us as a church. Answering these questions informs our search for the next senior pastor.
On September 9, we completed a congregational-wide survey and are pleased to report that over 350 of our members participated. A big THANK YOU for helping with this significant first step. We will gather over the coming weekend to hear the results of the survey with the officers and staff meeting this Saturday, September 17, and the congregation this Sunday, September 18, at 9:30 am in the social hall during the Sunday School hour.
It is crucial that each member has an opportunity to be heard and share their perspective on our church and this search. Therefore, after completion of the survey and largely directed by the results of the survey, we will soon be conducting focus groups. These meetings with our members will allow us to take a deeper dive into what we are doing well and where we have opportunities for improvement. Look for more information to come your way, soon!
As always, we are available to you for any questions or concerns and remain at your service.
The Pastor Nominating Committee
Andrew is a risk management advisor at Turner & Associates Insurance. For the past year Andrew has served the St. Simons Presbyterian Church congregation as a deacon. He is involved with our youth and co-led the Confirmation Class of 2021. Andrew is married to Rebecca and they have 3 daughters: Mary West, Millie and Drew. Fun Fact: Andrew’s grandfather, Don Fehr, was pastor of the Jekyll Presbyterian Church for over 30 years.
Ben is assistant director for the local public library system. Since joining the church in 2016, he has served as a deacon, a youth Sunday School leader, an usher team leader, and a member of several committees including Community Missions, Renovation Transition Team, and Building & Grounds. Ben’s family includes his wife Mary and their daughter Gussie, who are also active in the church.
Lee is a retired healthcare administrator and retail manager. She is currently an elder on the session. For several years, Lee was a PW circle leader and was elected an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Presbyterian Women. She has been a member of the Membership Ministry Team, the Usher Team and is a team leader for the Hospitality Ministry Team.
Meg is a 2nd grade teacher at Oglethorpe Point Elementary School (OPES). Having grown up in this church, she has been involved in the children and youth ministries as a participant, college intern, and adult volunteer. Meg worked as the part-time Youth Ministry Coordinator from 2016 to 2018 and is currently serving as an elder on the session. Meg is married to Tyler, who is a 5th grade teacher at OPES, and loves sharing her church family with several members of her extended family!
“Church” has always been a part of Molly’s life. She is an elder, recent moderator of our diaconate, served as a Stephen Ministry leader and minister and worked at the PCUSA General Assembly. She is an Honorary Life Member of PW, served on committees (Worship & Music, Mission & Outreach) and is part of our Pastoral Care Coordinating Team. Molly is married to Bob, who she met at a church retreat, and they are raising their granddaughter, Amelia (age 10).
Nancy is a retired clinical pharmacologist, who moved to St. Simons 17 years ago. In addition to being an elder, she served as a deacon, Stephen Minister leader, Sunday School leader and on several committees (Worship & Music, Building & Grounds). Currently Nancy is on the stewardship task force, sings in our choir and is enrolled in the School of the Laity. Nancy and her husband, John, have 3 grandchildren, ages 13 and 10 (twins).
Philip will retire at the end of this year from Marsh and McLennan after 30 years in commercial insurance. He has been an elder and trustee previously in the First Presbyterian Church of Waycross and is a graduate of the School of the Laity. He is currently serving on the Session in the Class of 2025 and as a part of the Membership council. Philip and his wife, Tracy, have 2 children: George (New York, NY) and Henry (Denver, CO).