Starrsville’s first fe­male pas­tor

The Covington News - - Religion - NHI HO nho@cov­

Dr. Rev. Su­san Martin Tay­lor has so many names and ti­tles, I wasn’t sure how to prop­erly ad­dress her. Pas­tor Su­san as­sured me that she an­swers to just about any­thing.

As wel­com­ing as she was to me, she felt just as wel­comed by the mem­bers and con­gre­ga­tion of Starrsvilles United Methodist Church off 2786 Dixie Road in Cov­ing­ton.

Born at Emory and raised in At­lanta, Pas­tor Su­san is mak­ing his­tory at Starrsville Methodist which was es­tab­lished in the 1830s.

Pas­tor Su­san comes to the church from Simp­son­wood United Methodist Church in Peachtree Cor­ners. Aside from the hus­tle and bus­tle of city life in At­lanta and the sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the num­bers of the church mem­ber­ship, from 1,600 to 200 mem­bers, Pas­tor Su­san feels right at home in Cov­ing­ton and that this is her call­ing to lead Starrsville.

In 1956, when Pas­tor Su­san was born, coin­ci­den­tally women were al­lowed to go to sem­i­nary and be full elders in the Methodist church. In 2006, Pas­tor Su­san was of­fi­cially or­dained as a full elder on the 50th an­niver­sary of the (Methodist) con­fer­ence al­low­ing women pas­tors to min­is­ter as full elders.

Pas­tor Su­san came to

Be­com­ing an athe­ist is a lot like run­ning away from home. I have talked to many athe­ists who have left the church or be­lief in God and the idea of run­ning away from home is what they com­mu­ni­cate. Now they may not say this overtly, but in ev­ery athe­ist I know, there is a cer­tain fear or lack of peace sim­i­lar to the fear in ev­ery run­away child. When I was a child, I tried to “run away” from home on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, both were short-lived and lasted no more than an af­ter­noon. The first was more of a “run out” than a “run away.” I was prob­a­bly about 6 years old and had got­ten in trou­ble and rather than face the sure pu­n­ish­ment I was about to get, I de­cided to run away. About 10 min­utes into my “run out” though, a huge rain­storm struck my street, An­ti­etam Drive in Huntsville, Ala. Wet, cold and with­out shel­ter, I was forced to hang my head and re­turn home. The sec­ond run away was an­other de­ci­sion of pas­sion. I had again got­ten into trou­ble and again de­cided that it would be bet­ter to run out than to face the pu­n­ish­ment that was com­ing my way. But that time, be­ing a cou­ple of years older, I was a lit­tle wiser and I im­me­di­ately sought shel­ter. My plan was to move in with my best friend Chris Brown and the plan worked bril­liantly for about four hours un­til my par­ents called the Brown house and Chris’ dad told me I needed to go home. A lot of kids get frus­trated with their par­ents and in that frus­tra­tion they de­cide to move out to go and make Starrsville in June, and Dr. Brad Ja­coby, chair­per­son of the staff parish re­la­tions com­mit­tee and lo­cal oph­thal­mol­o­gist in Cov­ing­ton, in­tro­duced Pas­tor Su­san to his home church say­ing, “To­day, in this church, we are see­ing his­tory be­fore us. There has never been a fe­male pas­tor in this church to preach and teach the word of God. But to­day, that is chang­ing. And now, we will get to hear a woman’s voice do this. It’s a new day.”

“The church was very happy to have a fe­male pas­tor,” she said. “They wanted one. I don’t know how to de­scribe it, but be­ing a fe­male pas­tor is not re­ally that dif­fer­ent from be­ing a male pas­tor ex­cept it’s very sur­pris­ing some­times; of course as a min­is­ter you are there in some of the most sa­cred and in­tim­i­date times of peo­ple’s lives, and so that makes sense in many ways, it on their own. These plans usu­ally never work and it is an em­bar­rass­ing mo­ment when you have told your par­ents that you were run­ning away only to re­turn home a few hours later.

Most of the athe­ists I know have a story a lot like a child who ran away from home. They got frus­trated with God, they didn’t like his rules, they didn’t like his way, and so they de­cided to “run away.” “If I don’t be­lieve in God, I won’t have to obey him, I won’t have to lis­ten to him, or do what he says.” Some athe­ists may have been hurt by God. “God didn’t come through for them,” so they de­cided, “he must not ex­ist.” But when the frus­tra­tion wears off, these athe- be­cause women do any­way.”

Pas­tor Su­san said that in her ex­pe­ri­ence, the men will come and talk with her when they won’t talk with any­one else be­cause “they feel safe.”

Pas­tor Su­san has de­grees from Emory, West Florida and Univer­sity of Hawaii and re­ceived her doc­tor­ate de­gree from Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia and her sem­i­nary de­gree from Emory.

“I started at Emory and ended up at Emory,” she said laugh­ing.

Of ev­ery­thing she’s done in her life, she refers to her­self as a teacher more than any­thing. Pas­tor Su­san spoke pas­sion­ately about her teach­ing and jobs as a teacher.

“I have been in min­istry all my life,” she said. “My min­istry, my gift has al­ways been teach­ing. And ad­min­is­tra­tion — I al­ways

that ists have to de­cide whether or not they will re­turn to God. By God’s grace, some do and the Lord loves to see some­one who was lost re­turn home. But some can­not face the em­bar­rass­ment of hum­bling them­selves to say, “I was wrong,” and trag­i­cally they are will­ing to re­main in the lonely place of athe­ism.

Athe­ism is a lonely, scary and de­press­ing place. If you re­ally are an athe­ist, it is up to you to de­cide your own moral­ity, which is re­ally not a moral­ity but a list of your own pref­er­ences. As an athe­ist, you have to ac­cept that there is no pur­pose for the uni­verse and there­fore no pur­pose for your life. As an athe­ist, you have no con­trol of the world around you and no ally who is in con­trol of the world around you. As an athe­ist, you have no con­trol over your own eter­nal fate af­ter death. This is a fright­en­ing re­al­ity to be in, like a 6 year old try­ing to man­age in the world with no par­ents.

Ul­ti­mately, there re­ally are no true athe­ists. We were cre­ated by God to tell peo­ple I bring or­der to chaos. I think if you have the gift of teach­ing, it’s in min­istry. And Christ was a teacher... What­ever po­si­tion I’ve been in, I’ve been a teacher.”

Pas­tor Su­san grew up in the church as a South­ern Bap­tist and ref­er­enced her “un­cle” Jack who was a Methodist elder. Of her call­ing, she said like all other min­is­ters, she ini­tially ran from it.

Too busy with fam­ily and life and ad­vice from fam­ily not to pur­sue the min­istry, Pas­tor Su­san wasn’t or­dained un­til much later in her life. Her fa­ther, whom she de­scribes as a solid Chris­tian man, told her, “You don’t want to do this. It’s very hard. It’s very dif­fi­cult.”

Her hus­band and oth­ers said, “Oh, sure, you’d be great at it, but why would you want to?”

“I don’t know what God has planned for this con­gre­ga­tion, but Starrsville is work­ing with God, each day, to cre­ate a thing,” she said. “And peo­ple can fill in the blank as to what the ‘thing’ is.”

Pas­tor Su­san has been mar­ried to her hus­band for 24 years, Larry Tay­lor and they have five grown chil­dren be­tween them.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Starrsville United Methodist Church, visit or call (770) 786-4293 or email revdr­tay­lor@bel­ rec­og­nize that there is a God in the uni­verse. There are how­ever peo­ple who have sup­pressed this truth be­cause they got frus­trated with God and have been un­will­ing to re­turn to him.

To that man or woman I say this: God loves you. He loves you so much and wants more than any­thing for you to re­turn to him. He will for­give your sin through the work of Christ and de­sires to give you pur­pose, mean­ing and peace in this life.

Quit run­ning from him. Don’t be em­bar­rassed to re­turn to him. God and his church are call­ing for you to re­turn.

Ja­son Dees is a grate­ful fol­lower of Je­sus Christ, the hus­band of Paige and the fa­ther of Emery Anna. He is also the se­nior pas­tor of First Bap­tist Church in Cov­ing­ton.

This day will be a day of re­mem­ber­ing for you. You will ob­serve it as a fes­ti­val to the Lord. You will ob­serve it in ev­ery gen­er­a­tion as a reg­u­la­tion for all time.

Ex­o­dus 12:14 (Com­mon English


Happy An­niver­sary! In June, my hus­band and I cel­e­brated our 15th wed­ding an­niver­sary. We have friends who have cel­e­brated 40, 50 and even 60 or more years to­gether as mar­ried cou­ples. Wed­ding an­niver­saries are cer­tainly de­light­ful oc­ca­sions to gather and cel­e­brate hav­ing made mile­stones to­gether as a cou­ple. We have other an­niver­saries, too. In June, I cel­e­brated my one year an­niver­sary of be­ing ap­pointed as as­so­ciate pas­tor at Cov­ing­ton First United Methodist Church. It hardly seems like it has been a year since my fam­ily moved to Cov­ing­ton, and in some won­der­ful ways, it feels as if we have al­ways been here. Birth­days are an­niver­saries of the day we were born. In French, peo­ple say “Happy Birthday” by say­ing “Joyeux An­niver­saire” — or “Happy An­niver­sary.”

And then, we have sad an­niver­saries — days when we re­mem­ber los­ing those spe­cial peo­ple in our lives. For me, Au­gust is filled with happy and sad an­niver­saries. We cel­e­brate birth­days for me, my mom, my grand­mother, my aunt and my best friend from high school. We also re­mem­ber my grand­mother, who passed away in Au­gust just af­ter her birthday, as well as other sad an­niver­saries. So Au­gust, for me, is a month of mixed emo­tions. It’s a time to re­mem­ber the won­der­ful peo­ple in my life and to be thank­ful for them, and time to re­mem­ber those whose faces I no longer see, and to be thank­ful for their in­flu­ences on my life.

In our so­ci­ety and cul- ture, fes­ti­vals are a way of re­mem­ber­ing. Soon, we will cel­e­brate La­bor Day, and we will re­mem­ber the great strides in in­dus­try and growth that our coun­try has ex­pe­ri­enced over its his­tory. This hol­i­day has been cel­e­brated since 1882, and we continue to stop once a year to re­mem­ber those who have la­bored in many ways to build this coun­try into the land it is to­day.

In the Chris­tian faith, we cel­e­brate Easter as “Res­ur­rec­tion Day,” and each Sun­day of the year is a re­mem­brance that Christ rose from the dead on a Sun­day morn­ing al­most 2,000 years ago. As we go to church each Sun­day, we cel­e­brate that death did not have the last word for our Lord Je­sus, that he de­feated death and sin, and that, thanks be to God, death no longer has the last word for us. We miss those who have gone be­fore us, and while those an­niver­saries can bring a tear to our eye be­cause we feel the twinge of loss, we can cel­e­brate that be­cause Christ lives for­ever, we have hope.

Do you cel­e­brate an­niver­saries? How about cel­e­brat­ing Christ’s an­niver­sary on Sun­day as you join a community of faith? We’ll see you in church on Sun­day.

Rev. Jan McCoy is the as­so­ciate pas­tor of Cov­ing­ton First United Methodist Church in down­town Cov­ing­ton. She may be reached at

Nhi Ho /The Cov­ing­ton News

Pas­tor Su­san shows off her red stole given to fe­male pas­tors in the Methodist church.

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