By CHERIL VERNON
A Philadelphia native and Texas transplant has taken the helm at Palestine's First Presbyterian Church.
The Rev. Woody Meredith has been serving as the pastor since January. He's lived in Texas for the past 14 years.
“I enjoy Texas very much and have no desire to be any place else. I enjoy small towns. I really enjoy that atmosphere — people know you, care about you, help you when you need it, like one big family,” Meredith said during an interview with the Herald-Press.
Meredith was born and raised in Philadelphia, attending college at Presbyterian-affiliated Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tenn. He later attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
“I served as a pastor for 20 years, then went into higher education administration, doing that until 2008,” Meredith said. “I've been going church to church as needed since then.”
He served at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University as the vice president for advancement. He also served as vice president for development at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and director of planned giving and church relations at his alma mater, Tusculum College.
Before coming to Palestine, Meredith served at First Presbyterian Church in Cleburne and First Presbyterian Church in Athens. He and his wife, Donna Foster Meredith, moved to Athens last June.
“My wife has Palestine roots — she's related to the Fosters in Palestine,” Meredith said. “It's good to have family in the area.”
Meredith's calling came early in life.
“I always knew I was going into ministry from a very young age,” Woody said.
But before entering the seminary, most of his work skills he gained from summer jobs and after-school jobs were all physical labor.
“That's all I had before I went into the seminary,” Meredith said. “That background keeps me going. I appreciate that now very much because I'm able to relate to all people. It was very beneficial.”
As the new pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Palestine, Meredith hopes to build a strong future for the congregation.
“Our congregation is relatively small but has great potential. We have a very strong membership outreach, especially with the Stock Pot (soup kitchen) and chartering the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. It's a tremendous outreach,” Meredith said. “We are in the process of seeing what else we can do for Palestine.”
The church has about 150 members currently.
“We have a very strong history here and I'm still in the process of learning more about it. We use the history of our church as our foundation of what to build in the future,” Meredith said. “We have a very friendly congregation and I'm really looking forward to working with folks to see what we can do.”
Services on Sunday start with Sunday school at 10 a.m. and the worship service at 11 a.m.
“Our doors are open and everyone is more than welcome to come for worship and fellowship, no one is turned away,” Meredith said.
Church provides not only a direction for living, but a sense of community and family, Meredith said.
“People are searching for that these days,” Meredith said.
The congregation celebrated 125 years in its historic sanctuary in October 2013. The church is known for its historic bell, which has served the church since its inception in 1849. Prior to building its sanctuary on Avenue A, the Presbyterian congregation shared the church building located at Murchison and Church streets with the local Methodist, Baptist and Campbellite congregations.
First Presbyterian Church also is known for its Tiffany stained glass windows and its organ. The organ that presides over the alter is dated 1904 and was provided to the church by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
First Presbyterian Church is located at 410 Avenue A in Palestine. For information, call 903-729-5730 or email email@example.com.