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A Mountain Valentine

I never can remember what year I joined Ginter Park; it was either 1999 or 2000. The exact date doesn’t matter, of course. I do remember that sensation, particular to one’s early 20’s, of being in rather desperate need of a place to belong.

Ever since I first moved to Richmond, my mother had been telling me to visit GPPC. She had seen David McCormick leading a Music and Worship Conference at Montreat, and kept telling me, “You need to sing in his choir.” It only took me 2-3 years to finally listen to her. She was right, of course. (Hi, Mom.)

I had no idea that this church would impact my life so profoundly.

The Session met with me when I became a member. Everyone was friendly; there was a lot of laughter. Having grown up in a Presbyterian church, this was familiar turf. These were my kind of people.

What I wasn’t expecting were the words that tumbled out of my mouth when it was time to introduce myself. Unprompted, I heard myself sharing my spiritual path with this room of strangers. I said that I felt strongly led to this church, that I wanted to be in this place where people were listening for God’s voice. I remember Jeff Lloyd’s eyes shining as he nodded understandingly.

After the meeting, I shook myself and thought, “What just happened?” In hindsight, GPPC was simply doing what it has done for countless others: creating a welcoming space in which someone can express a spiritual yearning, and crafting the tools for that yearning to be answered.

Of course, before the month had passed, Mark Hinds asked me to help lead the youth group with Jeff Lloyd and Glenna Finnicum. And then Jamie Dale started bugging me to apply to Union PSCE. And then I finally decided to go to seminary while listening to Michelle Junkin preach. And then I was your intern. And then I blinked (aka “years of discernment” yada yada yada), and found myself as the pastor of a wonderful small church in the mountains of North Carolina…exactly where I belong.

The one constant through this journey has been GPPC. You are my home, my safe place, my training ground, my constructive criticism, my encouragement, and my friends. You have been the place where I heard God speaking clearly, and where I found the courage to listen and let myself be transformed.

My prayer for GPPC is that, in whatever shape your ministry takes, you continue to be such a welcoming, nurturing, and transformative place…such a holy place. May God bless you, always.

Esta found her way to Ginter Park while a young professional working in Richmond and made herself right at home!  From the adults who were impressed with her intellect and wit to the young people she guided in significant ways on Pilgrimage in South Dakota, we were happy to call her friend and watch her find her calling in ministry.   A Virginia girl at heart, she has found a new home in the mountains of North Carolina where the people of the Canton Presbyterian Church are fortunate to call her pastor.

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