First Family

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 13, 2009

Two heads are better than one so when First Presbyterian Church in Natchez was in need of a pastor, the church went looking for a pair of pastors to fill the pulpit.

First Presbyterian got just what it was looking for when the church called the Revs. Denny and Noelle Read to serve as pastors for the church.

The Reads came to Natchez from South Highland Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Ala. There they served together, but since the church was larger they each had specific ministries to lead.

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Denny served South Highland in the youth department and also led the contemporary worship service at the church.

Noelle served in the young adults ministry in the church.

The couple has a 4-year-old son, Ethan.

At First Presbyterian in Natchez the co-pastors will work together to fulfill the vision of the church.

“We are both full-time ministers here,” Noelle said. “Ministry isn’t something that can be split. We both have different strengths that compliment each other well and allow us to lead this congregation together.”

The Reads began leading First Presbyterian in early November with Noelle preaching the first sermon. In her previous churches, Noelle preached periodically throughout the year, but with her role as co-pastor Noelle and Denny will be alternating Sundays.

“We wanted to assert that we were both pastors here right from the start,” Denny said. “We don’t want to create any sort of divide in the church. We are both here to serve the Lord through this congregation and help the congregation and community serve the Lord.”

Denny will lead Christmas Eve services and Noelle will preach at Easter.

Though Denny is more accustom to delivering the sermon, Noelle said reaching outside your comfort zone is what allows you to grow in your faith.

“God wants us to stretch our limits,” she said. “This job offers me so many opportunities to do that.”

For Noelle being a woman in the ministry is a role she takes seriously because she knows she is a role model for young girls in the church.

She said it is important for young girls to have strong, faith-filled role models.

“At our old church the little girls would go home and play church and take turns being me,” Noelle said. “It is important that they know this, being in the ministry, is available to them.”

Noelle said when the couple first visited Natchez, they weren’t sure if they’d accept the position if it was offered to them.

“We came in at night and got lost and the next day it was dreary and rainy,” Noelle said. “But when we met with the (search) committee we just fell in love with the people.

“This congregation is so eager to serve the Lord and they have an enthusiasm we fell in love with.”

The congregation is about one-quarter of the size of their former congregation, and that, Denny said, has been a blessing in the first month.

“Where we came from I’d have 60 kids in the youth group and they’d be from 12 different high schools,” he said. “Here that is not the case at all. People are much more community oriented and minded here because the community is smaller and close-knit.”

That, Denny and Noelle, said will make their job of growing the vision of the church that much easier.

Before looking for a pastor, the church wrote a vision statement for the congregation that outlined what the church wanted to become.

The vision statement says the church wants to welcome, nurture and create a deep sense of community for the membership to be a Christian presence in Natchez.

“The church did the work to develop that and figure out what they want to become,” Denny said. “Now, it is our job to put the meat on the bones of that statement.”