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 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, because women do that 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.