January 19, 2023
The 1980’s at St. John’s was a decade of staff changes, mission opportunities and issues with decisions made by the Southern Baptist Convention.
This week- the staff changes:
In January 1980, Valerie Hardy came to St. John’s as Minister to Youth, succeeding Tom Stallworth. Summer youth mission trips became a yearly event after her arrival. Initially funds were raised by rent-a-youth days with the youth providing services such as babysitting and yard work. The first auction on June 5,1983 followed a lunch in what is now Lasater Hall. There were 12 items sold including golf at MPCC, beach house weekends, paintings, a plane ride over Charlotte, the use of a popcorn machine, a butler and maid for an evening, an evening of music by the church organist, cakes, and cookies made by Harriet Lasater with the stipulation that bidding could only be done by children 12 and under. The silent auction was begun in 1988.
Valerie also started a puppet team which performed on mission trips, at church events such as Family Night, and other events such as the yearly Miss Anita Christmas Party.
Valerie left in the fall of 1986 to work with the Home Mission Board in Atlanta. Following Valerie’s departure, Ken Owen served as a youth minister intern for a year. In early 1988, Ginger Barfield became the Minister to Youth. She was a graduate of Winthrop University and had received a Master of Divinity degree from Southeastern Seminary. Unfortunately, in August, it was announced that Ginger had Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome and she was only able to work on a limited basis until she had to cease work in August of 1989.
Bill Johnson, the Minister of Education, left in April 1982 to become the Senior Minister at Crescent Hill Baptist in Louisville, Ky. Bob Lasater retired as the Associate Minister at the end of 1982. In January 1983, Welton Seal became the Minister of Education. He had served as an instructor in Old and New Testament studies at Baylor and as a teaching assistant at Union Theological Seminary. He left in April 1986 to become the Senior Minister of First Baptist Church, Wilkesboro, NC. Tommy McDearis was called as Associate Minister in May 1988. He held a Master of Divinity degree and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Southeastern Theological Seminary.
Ruth Rodgers retired as Children’s Director at the end of 1982. Rev. Nancy Morris came to St. John’s as both Minster of Children and Family Life in May 1982.
Al McClanahan served as Minister of Music for the entire decade. In July 1985, he also became the Business Manager of the church. Several individuals served as organists. Hulene McLean left In June 1982. She was followed by Ron Ballard and Vance Ziglar. Andre Lash began the organist in May 1986.
Perhaps the biggest staff change in the 1980’s came in May, 1986 when Julian Cave resigned as the Senior Minister, due in part to the changes taking place within the Southern Baptist Convention. In spite of his long family history with the Baptist church, he left to study for ministry in the Episcopal Church. His resignation letter stated: “I am convinced that ministry as I wish to practice can be done more effectively by identifying with a different member of Christ’s body.”
Rev. Dewey Hobbs served as interim minister for several years during which there were numerous guest ministers on Sunday morning.
In December 1987, Dr. Thomas Graves began his ministry as the Senior Minister at St. John’s. He had been a professor at Southeastern Seminary. He was formally installed as the Senior Minister January 10, 1988, in a service which included Dr. Randall Lolly of Southeastern, Rev. Dewey Hobbs, Dr. Claude Broach, and Father Oscar Burnett of the Ecumenical Institute.