On the Other Side of the Split

I want to tell you a story about a small church in Northwest Georgia. About this time a year ago, they were a congregation of around 100 persons. Then, after a long and painful struggle, they split. Halfway through a week in May of last year, the pastor, session, and over half the congregation left to begin another church in another Presbyterian denomination.

Ironically, the first Sunday after the split was Pentecost and the pastor that led the charge to leave the church was quoted in a newspaper speaking of the "delight" of a new church being born on Pentecost.

Of course, nothing was said about the fractured community that they left behind in order to do so.

However, the people who decided to stay did so because they didn't believe that certain issues were worth splitting over.

So they stuck with it.

They decided to come together and continue preaching the Gospel and doing the ministry they have been embodying for well over 100 years.

And so, they called a young seminarian and invited him to preach and lead worship with them in October, November, and December. These three months continued into January and February.

Throughout this time, this community ministered to me (the young seminarian) by giving him a space to preach, teach, speak and listen, and grow as a pastor. In my time with them, they ministered to me by giving me an opportunity to preach weekly, teach Sunday school, write liturgy, organize worship, preside at a funeral service, do pastoral care, and stretch my wings as one preparing to serve as teaching elder in the PC(USA).

Yesterday, I said goodbye to them for the next chapter of our lives as I begin a new position at another church. Yet I will always hold them in my heart as a community that loved me and encouraged me to keep the faith and fight the good fight.

To the people who are Silver Creek Presbyterian Church: thank you, thank you, thank you! Your strength has given me strength and your endurance has given me endurance. May the light of Christ continue to shine through y'all and the ministry to which y'all have been called!

And to my readers: remember that there is life on the other side of the split. For the ministry of Christ does not depend on our size or our glamour; it depends only on our faithfulness.

And Silver Creek Presbyterian Church has plenty!

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Stephen Fearing

Stephen was born in 1988 in Cookeville, TN, where his parents met whilst attending Tennessee Tech. Shortly after, they moved to Dalton, Georgia where they put down roots and joined First Presbyterian Church, the faith family that taught Stephen that he was first and foremost a beloved child of God. It was this community that taught Stephen that it was OK to have questions and doubts and that nothing he could do could every possibly separate him from the love of God. In 1995, his sister, Sarah Kate, joined the family and Stephen began his journey as a life-long musician. Since then, he has found a love of music and has found this gift particularly fitting for his call to ministry. Among the instruments that he enjoys are piano, trumpet, guitar, and handbells. Stephen has always had a love of singing and congregation song. An avid member of the marching band, Stephen was the drum major of his high school's marching band. In 2006, Stephen began his tenure at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC where he majored in Religion and minored in History. While attending PC, Stephen continued to explore his love of music by participating in the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Trio, as well as playing in the PC Handbell ensemble and playing mandolin and banjo PC's very own bluegrass/rock group, Hosegrass, of which Stephen was a founding member (Hosegrass even released their own CD!). In 2010, Stephen moved from Clinton to Atlanta to attend Columbia Theological Seminary to pursue God's call on his life to be a pastor in the PC(USA). During this time, Stephen worked at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, Central Presbyterian Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. For three years, Stephen served as the Choir Director of Columbia Theological Seminary's choir and also served as the Interim Music Director at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 2014, Stephen graduated from Columbia with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology with an emphasis in liturgy, music, and worship. In July of 2014, Stephen was installed an ordained as Teaching Elder at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church in Shelter Island, NY. Later that year, Stephen married the love of his life, Tricia, and they share their home on Shelter Island with their Golden Doodle, Elsie, and their calico cat, Audrey. In addition to his work with the people who are Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, Stephen currently serves as a commission from Long Island Presbytery to the Synod of the Northeast and, beginning in January of 2016, will moderate the Synod's missions team.