Three of the top membership churches in the Chattanooga District of the United Methodist Church's Holston Annual Conference received new senior pastors at this week's regional denominational gathering at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Dr. Douglas Fairbanks, a native of Chattanooga, was appointed to lead 2,535-member First-Centenary UMC. He becomes the first area native to lead the merged church, which was formed in 1967 by combining the downtown First and Centenary congregations.
The Rev. Rowland Buck, who served as associate pastor of Christ UMC from 1990 to 1995, was appointed to serve 1,558-member Burks UMC.
The Rev. Reed Shell, who had been serving as senior pastor of Broad Street UMC in Cleveland, and the Rev. Randy Martin, who had been serving at Hixson UMC, meanwhile, swapped pulpits. Shell will now lead the 1,528-member Hixson congregation. Martin moves to the Cleveland District, where he will served the 1,267-member Cleveland congregation.
Fairbanks previously served as senior pastor at Signal Crest UMC on Signal Mountain from 2001 to 2006. Most recently, he was superintendent of the denomination's Knoxville District.
"I'm just delighted to be coming back, to be back in the pulpit," he said. "First-Centenary is a wonderful church and has set the pace [for Methodism in Chattanooga] for many years in many ways."
Fairbanks said his first interview to talk about his call to ministry was at the old First Methodist Church. Now, he said, he'll pass a photo of that forerunner of First-Centenary each time he enters his new office.
He replaces Dr. Dwight Kilbourne, who was appointed to lead First UMC in Alcoa, Tenn.
Buck comes to the church after seven years at Kodak in the Knoxville District. He replaces Nathan Malone, who previously was announced as the new superintendent of the Knoxville District.
Shell, who has served churches in the Holston Conference since 1978, had been at Broad Street since 2008.
Martin, an area native, had served Hixson UMC since 2000. In the Chattanooga District, he previously served at Wesley and Lou's Chapel (1972), Flintstone (1974-1975), Dunlap (1983-1987), Ooltewah (1987-1994) and St. John (1994-1999).
Burks (associate): Amy Nutt, who had been associate pastor at Ooltewah since 2006. She replaces Leon Fraley, who retired.
Holston Gap Parish (associate): Tommy Messer, who had joined the church staff since the 2011 Holston Conference.
Lookout Mountain: Ambrose Havey, who had been on leave from the conference since 2009. He previously served in the Cleveland District as associate pastor at Keith Memorial UMC in Athens, Tenn. (1997-2001), at Ducktown and Croft Chapel (2001-2003), and at Evensville and New Bethel (2003-2004).
Randolph: Charles Smelley. He replaces Barbara Doyle, who was appointed to Anderson Street UMC in Bristol.
St. John: Kenneth LaDuke, who comes to the church after two years at Trinity UMC in Big Stone Gap, Va. This is his first appointment in the Chattanooga District. In the Cleveland District, he previously served Riceville and Piney Grove (1982-1987) and First UMC, Dayton (2003-2005). He replaces Sherry Boles, who will become senior pastor of Abingdon UMC in Abingdon, Va.
St. Luke: Braxton Cotton, who has been at First UMC in Madisonville, Tenn., since 2007. He previously served in the district at Simpson UMC (2003-2007) and at Grace UMC. He replaces Cynthia Thompson, who was appointed to First UMC in White Pine, Tenn.
Signal Crest (associate): Barry Kidwell, who also will continue to serve as head of the district's Mustard Seed Ministry. In the Chattanooga District, he previously served as associate at St. John (1998-2004) and Forrest Avenue (2004-2010). In the Cleveland District, he served Charleston and Valley Head (1989-1992) and Soddy (1992-1998).
Signal Crest (associate): Elizabeth Sullivan, who is a recent graduate of Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
Tyner (associate): Jacob Reedy, who has been a student at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.
Wells Chapel: Fredrick Norman: He replaces Barbara Doyle.
District retirees, in addition to Fraley, are Dr. Steve Byrum, who has served as dean for the Institute for Spiritual Leadership for 13 years; Mark Davis, who has been director of New Decree Inc. for four years; and Craig Paul, who has been serving in the North Georgia Conference.
In the Cleveland District, it was earlier announced that the Rev. Joe Green is the new district superintendent. He comes to the position after 17 years at First UMC, Alcoa. He also served the Chattanooga District at Fort Oglethorpe (1980-1991).
Apison: Debbie Stokes, who had served as associate pastor at Broad Street UMC in Cleveland since 2001. She replaces Todd Chancey, who was appointed to serve Kingston.
Broad Street, Cleveland (associate): William "Skip" White, who comes to the church after four years at Friendsville in the Maryville District.
Keith Memorial, Athens (associate): Will Shelton, who has been a student at Asbury Theological Seminary and served the Ceres Circuit of five churches in the Tazewell (Va.) District for the past six years.
Mount Olive-Vine Grove: Natalie Smart, who comes to the two churches after a year as associate pastor at Tyner. She previously served in the Chattanooga District as associate at Red Bank (1997-1998), Wesley and Lou's Chapel (1998-2002), associate at Signal Crest (2002-2007) and Simpson (2007-2011).
Mount Zion-Savannah: J. Glenn Moseley, who previously served in the Cleveland District on the Sweetwater Circuit (1998-2000), Graysville (2000-2004), Graysville and New Bethel (2004-2006), and Trinity and Vine Grove (2006-2008). In the Chattanooga District, he served as associate at Tyner (2008-2011).
Ooltewah (associate): Will Conner, a former member of Apison UMC who has been a student at Candler School of Theology.
Riceville-Piney Grove: L. Gayle Crabtree, who is a local pastor and serving her first appointment.
Riverstone: Timothy Paul, who previously served in the district as associate at First, Cleveland (2002-2006) and at Asbury (2006-2012). Riverstone was previously known as Asbury.
Tasso-Charleston: Richard Hayes, who comes to the two churches after six years at Reynolds Memorial in Bristol, Va.