February 27 Update

With a sense of joy we announce that the Search Committee has successfully concluded their task and the Session has approved the contract for Bethany Benz-Whittington to serve as our Stated Supply Pastor pending the successful completion of examination and approval by the St. Augustine Presbytery.  Bethany is a 2015 graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA. While at CTS, she met her husband, Matthew Benz-Whittington, and the two married in April of 2015.

Before describing Bethany further, here is a little recap on the search leading up to this announcement. The Search Committee was appointed by the Session on September 22, 2014 and immediately began weekly meetings to create our MIF. The MIF went live on the internet on November 24, 2014 giving our position world-wide access. The response was wide and diverse (46 total potentials), so we had plenty of excellent choices for review. The applications came from as far away as Hong Kong and included states like CA, NY, NJ, SD, MT, IL, KY, KS, VA, SC and GA. Twelve were from Florida. With each step in our process we continued to listen to where we felt that God was leading us and we have no doubt that we have found the perfect person for our congregation.

Bethany was raised in Fayetteville, GA, just south of Atlanta, and grew up attending the Fayette Presbyterian Church, and then Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta. During her time at Central, she played in three different handbell choirs, sang in the Chancel Choir, served on the Commitment Committee, the Community Ministry Committee, the session and as a youth advisor for three years. In addition, she has served as a Youth Advisory Delegate to the General Assembly, which instilled in her a love of the larger church and a deep commitment to the PC(USA).

Before going to seminary, Bethany studied history at The University of Tennessee, and then returned to Atlanta to work in property management. During that time, she spent much of her free time either with her book club or her softball team, and hopes to find both of those things in Jacksonville as well.

During seminary, Bethany played Ultimate as both her sabbath and her time to connect with classmates. She developed a love of music as theology, and learned that teaching is an art form she hopes to continually improve at. She felt God moving her toward small church ministry that focuses on mission, and is thrilled to have been led to Peace. She is very excited to join the Peace family, and, along with Matthew, make it her family.

A couple of reference comments are provided below:

Bethany cares passionately about the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is deeply committed to working in and with it. Her strengths are especially evident in matters of outreach and social concern, including those having to do with environmental issues.

Bethany is an enthusiastic and passionate member of the PCUSA. I believe her decision to respond to her call after several years in another profession, and her commitment to learning, listening and responding to God’s call on her life has provided a foundation that allows her to bring authenticity and energy to her role.

There is so much more to share about Rev. Benz-Whittington so there will be an opportunity for the congregation to meet both Bethany & Matthew at a Meet & Greet on Saturday, April 9th from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

In addition, please make every effort to be with us for Bethany’s first sermon at Peace during the 11:00 AM worship service on Sunday, April 24th. Following that service, Bethany will be ordained and installed in a special service at 3:00 PM that same afternoon with a reception to follow.

The Search Committee express deep appreciation and gratitude for the patience and support of the congregation during the search process. We would also like to especially thank Guy and our entire session for their extraordinary ministerial leadership in guiding the church during this transition.

We can already feel the beginning of a new day at Peace Presbyterian!