The Years of Raleigh Court under F. Tupper Garden
With thanks to Barbara Carter
Frank “Tupper” Garden took the reins in September 1991 and drove Raleigh Court forward until his departure in June, 2013. There was both a continuance of beloved tradition as well as innovation that shaped our future.
The Reverend Garden was installed on September 8, 1991, and at the end of that year our active members numbered 691. He instituted an early worship service in the chapel and made plans for Children in Worship for ages 3-5th grade.The Director of Christian Education, Margaret Norris, resigned because of health issues, and Reverend Garden recommended that Mary Lea Hartman be hired on a part-time basis. Children weren’t the only ones studying the Bible; the “Kerygma: Discovering the Bible” curriculum enjoyed overwhelming success in three adult classes. During this time a new church joined Presbytery of the Peaks, Peace Presbyterian.
Parish Associate, “Stretch” Stephens, spent several months leading the Visitation Committee, but he resigned in June, and a new Associate Pastor took over. Gene Edmunds was employed in January, 1994, and she was honored with a Preschool scholarship in her name when she left in December 1995.
During these years, RCPC began a feasibility study for expansion and renovation, and the Capital Fund Raising Campaign set a target of $1.8 million. The 735 active members in 1994 sponsored a family from Haiti through Roanoke’s Refugee Resettlement Program and helped complete a house for Habitat for Humanity. We also worked to resume a relationship with the Church of the Nazarene, a “sister” church in Guatemala. Session provided $1,900 for three church members to attend a Presbyterian seminar in Guatemala, and we donated $1,000 to the Pere Albert School in Haiti to purchase a truck.
At home, the Preschool was restructured to have an Elder on the Preschool Board. They now answered directly to Session instead of a sub-committee under Nurture and Education. The first playground was constructed on the church grounds for our children.
The Reverend Collier Harvey began as Parish Associate, and RCPC member Lisa Poole requested to be enrolled as an Inquirer in Preparation for the Office of Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the PCUSA, one of several to come!
Motley and Associates were approved for the addition and renovation project with a budget not to exceed $2.25 million, and Martin Brothers would do the actual construction. Another construction project was a school in Levoire, Haiti, and Session approved $10,000 from the Capital Fund Campaign to begin work. Gifts given in memory of Dr. James Allison would provide scholarships for RCPC members who participated in international mission trips or work/study. Habitat for Humanity received $4,000. Those were big projects for the congregation that had now grown to 770.
In 1997, we received word that the school in Levoire, Haiti would be named in honor of the late Dr. James Allison. RCPC sent an additional $5,000 to the school as well as funds to build desks. We also funded a church that was built adjacent to the school. Our Session voted to name our new fellowship hall, gathering area, and classrooms The James Allison Hall.
Dr. Joseph and Linda Markee of Leogane, Hati became our church missionaries. Bill Whitaker continued as Youth Director but also began to serve as Business Administrator. LOGOS, a new program for children and youth was accepted and scheduled to begin after training. Also in 1997, Mary Jo Shannon resigned as editor of The Herald, the church newsletter, and Glenna Fisher took over. Member Lee Cabiness made a “Prayer Garden” in front of the building as part of his Eagle Scout Project the following year.
Reverend Garden was considered “a friend to all,” and liked to encourage this in others, so he instituted the tradition of “Passing the Peace” during worship. We had another member, Steve Wicks, wish to enroll at Union Theological Seminary, and Session appointed a Task Force to help support him and his family.
October, 1999 marked the 75th Anniversary of Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church. Betty Merritt helped organize the celebration which culminated in a dinner and special worship service for the 792 active members.
Some staff changes came with the new millennium; The Reverend H. Davis Yeuell became the Parish Associate, and Bill Whitaker announced his resignation as Church Administrator. Session approved a tile mosaic to be installed in a window of the new fellowship hall. It was designed by Susan Allison, daughter of James Allison.
Rev. Yeuell moved away in 2001, and The Rev. Burt Newman took over as Parish Associate. That summer, William Alexander Moses from Austin Theological Seminary began as Associate Pastor. $12,000 of the sizeable donation from the estate of Ms. Harriett Wood was used to purchase furniture and equipment for the church library, which was renamed in her memory. A new program was instituted for the 11:00 a.m. service: interpretation for the Hearing Impaired would now be offered each Sunday.
The years 2002-2006 were growing years, and we reached our peak of 855 members. Summer services were condensed to one worship time at 10:00 during the summer, but a Wednesday morning service with communion was instituted. The Session was reduced from 18 to 15 members, and that body approved the Deacons’ recommendation that loose change offering the first Sunday of each month go to the Communion Fund
The congregation of RCPC donated over $17,000 for Hurricane Katrina relief and put together over 400 Health Kits. In addition, Rev Garden and seven church members traveled to Kiln, MS for a week to be “boots on the ground” relief.
The 20th anniversary of Tupper Garden’s ordination was celebrated, along with the 45th anniversary of Bert Newman’s. In other staff news, DCE Mary Lea Hartman passed away, and RCPC member Susan Kessler was hired as part-time interim. Associate pastor Alex Moses resigned, and Julianne Hollingsworth was offered the position of Parish Associate for Visitation. Stuart Revercomb also joined the staff as Adult Programming Leader.
2004 was the first time a member, the late Walter Leigh, had his ashes inurned in the new Columbarium. Another big moment came when the final check to pay off the building was mailed to the bank in 2005.
In 2007, Session approved a 3 month sabbatical for our senior minister, and another show of appreciation was a 2011 resolution honoring Reverend and Mrs. Garden for 20 years of service and ministry. Associate Pastor Burt Newman resigned to take an interim position in Vinton, and Josh Robinson came aboard as our new Associate. Linda Marshall was hired as custodian in 2008 and in 2010 given the title of Building Supervisor. A young member, Rachel Erb, was enrolled as Inquirer in the Process of Becoming a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the PCUSA.
Session made several important decisions in the life of our congregation such as the following: Church officers elected to serve will follow the church calendar, not January – December. The Stephen Ministry was terminated after 18 years. Jenny McKenzie, a member who needs a sign language interpreter, has been aided exclusively by member Ellen Austin. Session approved $2,000 per year to give the current interpreter once-per-month relief.
Another young member, Richard Aylor, was enrolled as Inquirer in the Process of Becoming a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the PCUSA in 2012. That same year, DCE Susan Kessler retired, and the playground was named in her honor. RCPC member Leigh Sackett was named as Interim DCE, but a month later Session approved adoption of a Co-DCE model with Leigh Sackett sharing the job with Anne Travers. We were fortunate to have member Deanne Vance step in and agree to be Interim Choir Director and Organist. Another staff change was the addition of Betsy Prillaman who was hired to be Director of the preschool and a full member of staff.
The greatest change, however, was in April, 2013, when “with great regret,” Session accepted the resignation of Pastor Tupper Garden effective June 30, 2013. A new leadership seemed poised to take the reins: Joel Haywood was approved to be the next Choir Director/Organist, Bart Smith was offered a position as Part-Time Transitional Pastor for 1 year. In a short time, however, Associate Pastor Josh Robinson resigned to accept a call as Pastor and Head of Staff at Hope Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX, Joel Haywood resigned his music position in 2016, and Bart Smith left for Arizona.
The Reverend Carl Utley became Interim Pastor in October, 2013, and helped guide RCPC onto the path that lead our able Search Committee to extend the call to The Reverend Andrew Whaley to become the next Senor Pastor and Head of Staff at Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church. Sunday, June 28, 2015 was the date that the congregation joyfully voted to begin a new chapter under the leadership of young Reverend Whaley.
Beloved pastor Reverend Jim Allison developed cancer as he was nearing retirement age. As he stepped away, the church was well cared for with a succession of able interims/associates such as “Stretch” Stephens and Collier Harvey. Shortly after Reverend Allison’s Cancer was discovered our Search Committee selected Tupper Garden as Raleigh Court’s third Pastor. The two Reverends teamed well together resulting in a smooth transition from one administration to the next.
Reverend Allison and Tupper became good friends and Tupper supported him throughout his illness with frequent hospital visits during treatments. Reverend Allison lived several more years, attending RCPC with his wife Margaret, and enjoyed the luxury of having his own minister in his successor the Reverend Tupper Garden. They stayed remarkably close friends until Reverend Allison passed into Heaven.