OUR PAST (1980-2002)
Written for the 25th Anniversary of the founding of Good Shepherd (2005)
Twenty-six years ago, Bill and Ann Katibah stood in an open field at the corner of Rea and Swan Run roads and could only imagine with anticipation and excitement at what God had in store for them and for the Presbyterian Church that they had been called to organize. In the late fall of 1979, a group of dedicated church members from 10 sister Presbyterian churches canvassed the neighboring communities and the Katibahs set out to visit prospective members in their homes. On January 6, 1980 a group of about 115 people gathered in a little white house on Rea Road to worship and have fellowship with one another. There was an immediate sense of unification and purpose among those that were present. A congregational bonding of care and concern for one another was established that has lasted throughout all of these years. In April 1980, Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church was formally established as a Presbyterian congregation with the Rev. Dr. William G. Katibah, Jr. called as pastor and the rest is… HISTORY.
The first challenge for this newly formed congregation was space. In March 1980, with a small investment of around $20,000 and a great amount of hard work by church members of all ages, a metal storage building located on the property was renovated. In June 1980, it was dedicated and named Norton Hall in honor of a faithful supporter, Ran Norton, Moderator of New Church Development and Elder from Sardis Church. The multi-purpose facility was used for worship, Sunday school, and fellowship events. The white house and small garage located on the property continued to be used for additional Sunday school classrooms, Vacation Bible School, and a pastor’s study. In 1981, the white house also provided space for a newly formed Child Development Program under the direction of Judy Plough.
In 1982, a growth in membership and expansion of church programs and activities led the Good Shepherd congregation to undertake its first building program. A building campaign was established, an interest free loan in the amount of $365,000 was secured from Mecklenburg Presbytery, and construction began. Through the unshaken faith and energy of the congregation, pastor, and church leaders, the main worship facility was dedicated in September 1983.
The new worship facility offered the opportunity for church ministries and programs to move to a new level. The music program was enhanced by the gift of a new organ by Sardis Church and church gifts including hymnbooks, choir robes and handbells. The music ministry has grown to be one of the most diversified and vital ministries at GSPC.
The education ministry expanded with additional classroom space, weekly congregational Bible study, youth ministry and women’s bible study groups. In 1986, the congregation purchased the land and house adjacent to the Good Shepherd property for the purpose of strengthening the youth ministry. In 1987, Mark Stanley came to GSPC as the first Youth Ministry intern. Under successive long-term youth directors, youth ministry has thrived as youth are actively involved in local mission projects, regular Bible study and fellowship, leadership in worship through music and drama, and summer mission trips.
In the midst of all the growing ministries and outreach, space again became a challenge. In 1989, a second building program began to construct the education wing and worship expansion area. The beloved white house was sold and moved to another site in order to provide land for the new facility.
As the GSPC congregation continued to grow in ministry and facilities, it also grew in spirit and fellowship. The organization of share groups, congregational socials, Wednesday night suppers, Primetimers older adult group, and church retreats contributed to building close relationships with one another. Men and women’s softball teams offered recreation and fellowship with fellow Christians from other congregations. Today the congregation is still marked by its “family feel,” love of fellowship, and warm welcome of newcomers.
Over the years the care and concern for others has grown into the community and the world. Good Shepherd has had the opportunity locally to sponsor a refugee family, participate in the Red Cross blood drive, support Loaves and Fishes, Crisis Assistance, Two Cents A Meal, White Gift and many more ministries of compassion. Our global outreach has included several mission projects in Guatemala and Kikuyu (Africa), support of missionaries, youth mission trips, Samaritan’s Purse and hurricane relief programs.
In Nov of 2000, Dr. William G. Katibah, Jr. retired as minister after 20 years of faithful service. The Session and congregation and Interim Pastors carried on the ministry of GSPC during the time of transition.
It is because the congregation of GSPC set high goals, took steps in faith, and followed the Lord’s leading that two building programs have been completed successfully while continuing to enhance the Sessional ministries and providing outreach to the community. As GSPC celebrates its 25th Anniversary (2005), it is a time to reflect upon and give thanks for where we have come from and follow the Lord in faith as He leads and holds our future.
Charter member of Good Shepherd Presbyterian
OUR PRESENT (2002– )
The Rev. Robert M. Austell, Jr. accepted a call to Good Shepherd, preached his first sermon on Palm Sunday, March 24, 2002, and was installed as the second pastor of GSPC on April 7, 2002. Pastor Robert describes three distinct phases of church life so far in his time at Good Shepherd:
Worship and Congregational Care: 2002 —
An early focus on worship included hiring Cathy Youngblood (again!) as the first full-time music director and development of the blended/thematic approach to worship and music style that still is a notable characteristic of Good Shepherd worship. The church also hired Melissa Baker (Lancaster) as director of the Good Shepherd Preschool and first part-time director of children’s ministry at the church. Out of a desire to expand care of congregation and community, the board of Deacons was formed in 2004 for ministries of compassion and mercy to those in need inside and outside the church. In 2005 the church committed to a “Year of the Bible” with members challenged to read the Bible in a year and with preaching and Christian education working through a Bible book a week for a wonderful overview of Biblical themes. While our commitment to worship and congregational care has not waned, the focus on God’s character and mission led us into a new phase of life together…
Mission: a Lighthouse-Searchlight Church: 2006 —
Coming to see God’s heart for the world He loves, Pastor Robert, elders, and the congregation were stretched “beyond the walls” in a number of ways. The youth ministry had long been involved in short-term mission trips, but in 2006 about 25 adults and children (as young as 5!) took part in our first “family mission trip” to the Gulf Coast to help in post-Katrina repair and clean-up. The following year, a defining vision emerged of being a “Lighthouse-Searchlight Church” (read more). That metaphor envisions inviting people into the safe harbor of the Gospel and Light of the World AND going out beyond the church walls into a world needing the hope and compassion of Jesus Christ. Leadership re-evaluated every ministry and mission of the church in light of that vision, leading to music and dramatic programs being held at the local elementary school, nearby park, VBS at the housing project down the street, and much more. Even Wednesday night Bible study turned into the “Wednesday Night Experiment” (read more) out in local coffee shops and bookstores, with God showing up in ways we never could have expected.
Building on a strong youth ministry program of mission and discipleship, Joanie Fedor (Castles) was hired in 2008 and went on to develop a relational youth ministry that not only ministered to church kids, but also drew non-member church kids from the surrounding neighborhood. Kathy Larson moved from an effective youth ministry to adult Christian education and continued to develop a vibrant drama ministry that engaged actors of all ages from the surrounding community for original plays (and a few musicals) to share stories at the intersection of real life and real faith. In addition, musical performances, songwriting, and even recording by members and community connections have marked a rich and missional music ministry at Good Shepherd.
Good Shepherd has always been an active supporter of local and global missions, but in this time period we were also blessed to see the fruit of being a teaching and sending church. Several “GSPC kids” have grown up and been called to ministry and the mission field. Jason Hinton, Pratt and Ashley Butler, and J.H. all have become part of our extended missions and mission support. Other GSPC kids entered ministry: Carter Robinson, Nadene Ellsworth, Courtney Butler, Wes Butler, Karen Katibah, and others. Several pastoral interns have gone on to plant and pastor churches: Paul Hamilton, Greg Joines, Jeremiah Caughran, Mark Ashbaugh, and others. We maintain strong support of ministries like InterVarsity, Young Life, Wycliffe, Crisis Pregnancy Care, Charlotte Rescue Mission, and more.
Stewardship and Renovation: 2011 —
In 2011-2012, elders realized that the facilities were in need of repair (HVAC, roof, etc.). Our famously burnt-orange colored sanctuary, originally designed in the 80s as a multi-purpose space also seemed dated and in need of some renovation and updating. So the congregation undertook a capital campaign in 2013 that resulted in needed repairs, a modest but wonderful renovation to worship space, youth building, and the adjoining church house (manse). The campaign and renovation was an “all hands on deck” kind of undertaking with some notable experiences along the way, like the “airplane worship” of several weeks of worship in the welcome area and narrow hallways of the education wing (2×2 with center aisle… thus “airplane”)
Several staff transitions led to the hiring of Eric VanderHeide as music director (2015) and Zach Drummond as director of ministries to youth and children (2018). Eric has brought a love for choral and worship team led music as well as a broad range of styles from classical and sacred to more contemporary. His leadership in worship, musically and otherwise, has enhanced the worship of the church and we continue to enjoy strong, vibrant, and multi-generational choral and worship team ministries.
Zach has brought new life and energy to the youth and children’s ministry and is developing volunteer leadership as well as thriving ministries focused on welcoming friends, being rooted in a relationship with Jesus, and reaching out into the world with the Good News of Christ.
Since the repairs and renovations of 2013-2014, Pastor Robert has re-emphasized our need to get beyond the walls of our church, both with the general theme of “loving our neighbors” and more specific themes of racial reconciliation and relationship. Heading into 2019 he has led a series entitled, “Here I Am,” which has challenged the church to be “listening, available, and ready to go” for where God is leading us in the future. On that note…
What is in our future? Only the Lord knows for sure. But we are determined to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, our spirits attuned to the Holy Spirit, our ears and hearts open to God’s Word, and our prayers grounded in the humility of “Thy will be done.” We trust that the Lord has wonderful plans for us, for blessing and for a future. We sense that the Lord is using us to be the compassionate arm of Christ in our nearby neighborhood and the proclaimers of the Good News to all within range of our voices. We believe that God calls us together for worship and sends us out for evangelism and mission. We desire to be faithful and obedient disciples – followers whose hearts beat in time with God’s. We envision growth among our young families and 20-somethings, nurturing faith in our children and youth, vitality in our older adults, increasing numbers of visitors who are new to the faith and the Church, and a thriving ministry of worship and music. What is in our future? Only the Lord knows for sure – but we are determined to follow Him wherever He leads, with His help and His blessing. We are listening, available, and ready to go!