Calling Andrew Whaley as Pastor
Henry Schaefer, Chairman
Ann Muir Moomaw
Phase 1. Committee & their training
Pastoral Nominating Committee (PNC) elected
Their training: Steve Earle (from Presbytery) + Carl Utley & Bart Smith
Mission Study – a Presbytery requirement
Highlight the community, strengths of church, building, organ (etc. - sell the church)
Phase 2. Search: information posted online, but did not rely on that
Set up procedures: how to ask questions of applicants, etc
"practice” & learn to ask ‘tighter’ questions
Listen to MANY SERMONS;
Interviews on web
Relied on personal connections – Craig Favor
Visits with applicants
Phase 3. Called Andrew as pastor
Installation as pastor September 14, 2015
The Rev. Andrew C. Whaley began his tenure as our fourth senior pastor on August 17, 2015. Andrew and his wife Rebecca, a paraplanning specialist with Ameriprise Financial, and their two children, Simon (3) and Joanna (6 months) moved to Roanoke from Jefferson City, Tennessee where Andrew had served as pastor at the First Presbyterian Church. A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Andrew double majored in Theatre and Religious Studies at Rhodes College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary and was ordained in 2011.
Andrew’s was a unique beginning, as even before his first day, RCPC member Dick Smith, father of Leslie Baldwin of the Pastor Nominating Committee who called Andrew, died. Andrew’s first day, therefore, was a day when he conducted his first funeral in the chapel of RCPC, laying Mr. Smith’s ashes to rest in the columbarium.
Andrew embraced the history and story of the Raleigh Court Church, drawn to the founding poem “The Church of the Open Door.” In his early days he preached a sermon series on Open Doors throughout the Bible. Later, he drew out the stained-glass windows in the sanctuary in a “Worship Through the Windows” series, preaching through the stories depicted in each window from Christmas until Easter of 2016. This emphasis on the windows would prove helpful when he led a campaign to raise money for window restoration in 2018.
The beginning of Andrew’s tenure coincided with the departure of the First Presbyterian Church of Roanoke from the PC(USA), which meant that in his first months, thirty new members joined RCPC from that congregation, making for a wonderful beginning to a new ministry.
In his first year, Andrew worked with the Stewardship and Finance Committee to restore financial stability to the congregation and move us once again toward hiring an associate pastor. He worked with the Personnel and Administration Committee to hire Anne Currin as a new administrative assistant, and with members of the congregation was part of the committee that called Mitch Weisiger to Roanoke as our Director of Music Ministries and Organist.
In the fall of 2016, Andrew organized a hymnal dedication event, as RCPC adopted the Glory to God Hymnal of the Presbyterian Church to replace the 1991 Songs and Hymns and Spiritual Songs. For the event, the Rev. Dr. Eric Myers, a member of the committee that assembled the hymnal, came to Roanoke to educate the congregation on the new worship resource and to preach on Sunday morning. Many hymns from the new hymnal were introduced that morning and in subsequent months.
Using his musical gifts, Andrew introduced our congregation to the Themba Amen, a tune from South Africa that he learned from Scottish minister John Bell at the Montreat Worship and Music Conference when he was a teenager. Over multiple Sundays, he introduced the congregation to the four parts, and through repetition and continued use, it has become an identity piece for many members of the congregation. Some members have even requested it to be sung at the conclusion of their funeral services.
Working with our Endowment Board, Andrew appointed a group of the session to work on increasing the generosity of the endowment into the community. This committee ultimately created an annual percentage of the endowment that must be used each year mission within Roanoke and abroad. This prevented the withholding of funds for the purpose of growing the endowment but instead sought a balance between maintaining the fund and making an impact for God’s work in the present.
Andrew observed early on that an area for growth in our congregation was in finding spaces for people to grow in relationship with each other. He was instrumental in helping our congregation engage for three seasons in church-league softball (2017-2019), developing a congregational retreat at Massanetta Springs (2019 and 2023), and encouraging the Fellowship Committee to offer family movie nights and an annual Church Variety Show Talent Show event. Andrew also wanted to stay connected with our young adult members who had gone to college, so in 2018 he organized a group to attend the Montreat College Conference in January, a trip which he was dedicated to chaperoning as a way of keeping these young adults connected to God and to their church community.
Recognizing the Mission Study Report’s desire that the church engage more fully in the study of the Bible, Andrew put together a Year of the Bible Reading guide and worship series for the year of 2018 and 2019. Beginning with Genesis 1 on Rally Day in September, congregants were encouraged to read through the Bible in the year. To aid them, Andrew and our associate pastor Matthew Aldas made short video introductions to each book of the Bible, posted on YouTube for our members to watch. Our weekly devotionals, our Wednesday Communion services, and even our Bible studies for the year corresponded with this event. Many members read through the Bible in that year, and some have kept their reading guides to continue the practice.
During the midst of that program year, Andrew and Rebecca welcomed their third child, Ruth, in October.
In addition to engagement within the congregation, Andrew sought to strengthen the ties of RCPC to the Roanoke Community. He joined the Board of Directors of the Presbyterian Community Center in 2017 and worked with the board in the development of a new facility in southeast Roanoke. He also joined the board of Roanoke Area Ministries, working in the hiring of a new director for the organization and in other personnel and hiring matters. In 2018, Andrew was invited by the Chamber of Commerce to be part of Leadership Roanoke Valley, learning more about government, tourism, non-profits, and education within the region as well as developing ties to other influential leaders in the community.
Another goal for the Mission Study conducted in the interim between Tupper Garden and Andrew’s tenure was to develop a comprehensive building plan for the church. In 2018, with financial assistance from the Endowment Board, RCPC contracted with Hughes and Associates Architects and Engineers for a total building assessment. From the report made in March of 2019, the beginnings of a renovation plan were coming into place. Andrew guided the session through this review process. A committee was assembled to do the work and with input from the congregation and officers, worked out a new Master Plan which was unveiled in the Fall of 2019. Plans were in place for the first major construction project at RCPC since the addition of the Fellowship Hall in 1997 to begin in the summer of 2020!
On March 15, 2020, however, something happened that had never before occurred at the Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church. Worship was cancelled. The Novel Coronavirus known as COVID-19 had reach the United States and was spreading rapidly in the country, threatening the lives of millions of people. Andrew made the decision to cancel worship but gathered with the Director of Christian Education Leigh Sackett, director of Music Ministries Mitch Weisiger, and dedicated tech volunteer Fred Hoffman to livestream an announcement and a prayer and music of hope.
Andrew spoke of his hope that we would be together again by Easter. No one knew that it would not be until June of 2020 that anyone would enter the sanctuary again, and then in every third row and masked.
In the coming weeks, however, Andrew believed it essential that when everything else in life falls apart, we must turn to God, and the rhythms and structures of worship would be what would ground us in our faith and nurture hope in a time of wild uncertainty. With a few tech volunteers and other ministry staff, Andrew mounted the pulpit in his robe each week to preach to an empty sanctuary and into a camera as congregants engaged in live online worship, singing hymns, praying together, and passing the peace in the comments section. Worship would not be pre-recorded. It would be live. We would be as much “together” as we could even while apart.
Immediately Andrew led the staff to reinvent our congregational life, holding at the forefront that Christian faith is incarnational, living in our bodies and not on screens. Using the best medical knowledge we had at the time, the church worked together to bear witness to the Gospel in a time when an apocalypse was upon us.
Andrew organized the congregation into care groups by neighborhoods, inviting members to call and check on each other. He worked to develop outdoor meals on Wednesdays where people could gather at a distance. He taught Bible studies on Zoom for those who had minimal contact outside their homes. He made sure all of our benevolence dollars were immediately distributed to mission partners who would be serving the most vulnerable members of our city, and we saw our giving reach new levels of generosity.
For Easter of 2020, Andrew had the tech crew put speakers out on Grandin Road so that when the organ played the Hallelujah Chorus at the end of worship the entire neighborhood could hear. God would not be stopped by this virus. Grace reigned supreme. This was our call.
Small groups met outdoors. The Children’s Ministry took to the mountains on hikes. We held an outdoor Christmas pageant. We welcomed new members who joined over Zoom. We called an associate pastor, the Rev. Isabella Fagiani, risking some indoor meetings in the late spring to introduce her to Roanoke and our congregation. We held an ordination service for her that featured her mentor pastor in Scotland, her childhood pastor in New York, friends from across the country, all present virtually, while people of RCPC gathered in person and left “handprints” of blessing for her since not all could come forward for the laying on of hands.
And in the midst of online meetings, the renovation plans for the building reengaged, so that we would be prepared to finalize the work and commit to the fundraising in the winter and spring of 2022.
With each shift in the pandemic, and with vaccinations, Andrew worked with the Session to maximize ministry while maintaining caution and safety. Finally, in April of 2022, worshipers were able to gather at normal distance and without masks, as the COVID virus moved from pandemic fear to integrated part of American life.
That “return to normal” came just before we began the delayed renovation of the church building in the summer of 2022 and before Andrew’s sabbatical. His sabbatical in the summer of 2022 explored the influence of Swiss theologian Karl Barth on the life and ministry of American Presbyterian pastor Eugene Peterson. Andrew invited the Rev. Dr. George Stroup and the Rev. John Rogers to come to Roanoke as Theologians in Residence in his absence to allow the congregation to explore these two thinkers as well. Andrew initially presented this project as a grant through the Lily Foundation, but it was not accepted and funded. With great support and faith, the Session, however, chose to fund the experience and set up a Sabbatical Support Fund for all ministry level staff to help them to devise special experiences during their sabbatical time.
The years of 2022 and 2023 saw many changes. The building underwent extensive renovation. The church transitioned from Mitch Weisiger as the Director of Music Ministries to Dillon Swanson filling that role. Lois Morgan retired as the Financial Administrator and Lori Tosoni replaced her in that position. Anne Currin also retired, and Communications Coordinator Julie Satterwhite added those duties to her role.
Now as we approach the centennial of RCPC, Andrew is working with a Centennial Committee to put together a celebration weekend over Pentecost to honor the life and witness of Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church, the Church of the Open Door.