Starrsville’s first female pastor
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 starrsvilleumc.org or call (770) 786-4293 or email email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pastor Susan shows off her red stole given to female pastors in the Methodist church.