Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church in Vinton has experienced several changes in staff in recent months. There is a new associate pastor, a new director of youth and young adults, and a new organist/pianist.
New Associate Pastor Jesse Moffitt
Pastor Jesse Moffitt is the new associate pastor, replacing Pastor Jae Yong Song, who was recently ordained at the Virginia UMC Annual Conference and appointed as senior pastor at Red Valley UMC in Boones Mill.
Moffitt was licensed as a Local Pastor at the same annual meeting and appointed by Bishop Sharma Lewis to serve at Thrasher as she “fixed” the appointments in June. He now begins the lengthy road to ordination, which typically takes three or four years.
Moffitt, his wife Carrie, and sons Morgan (9) and Eli (4) moved to Vinton at the end of June. His first official Sunday at Thrasher was on July 2. He preached his first sermon on July 9 and shared his story of how he ended up in the ministry and at Thrasher.
Moffitt is originally from Georgia. He took a somewhat unique path to the ministry, having earned an undergraduate degree from the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Atlanta. He graduated Summa Cum Laude in Food and Beverage Management in 2009. Subsequently he earned an Advanced Level Professional Certificate in Wines and Spirits from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, earning the title of Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
“As a professional sommelier, I worked for different formal dining establishments,” said Moffitt. “Before ministry, I spent five years working for Atlanta’s prestigious Capital City Club as the maitre d’ of their formal dining room and club sommelier in charge of a wine cellar with over 5,000 bottles.”
One evening after closing as he surveyed the empty bottles and glasses in the club, he ruminated on the temporary effect he had on people’s lives in that job. He asked himself “Why not offer people the true bread of life through the ministry?”
He and his wife felt that he was being directed to enter the ministry, packed up, and moved to Kentucky, where he became a student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, located in central Kentucky near Lexington. Moffitt says the family had no idea where they would eventually end up at the time but stepped out in faith.
When he was about to graduate from seminary, Moffitt says that he again felt the hand of God when representatives from Virginia interviewing at Asbury reached out to him— when the family really had given no thought at all to ministry in Virginia. They felt immediately drawn toward Virginia and felt that God was leading them to where they are now.
“Being new to the Virginia Conference is a challenge to us as a family, but we certainly feel that the blessing of God has been with us in this part of our life’s journey,” said Moffitt. “We are looking forward toward all that God has in store for us in the years to come. We have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in our time here already.”
Moffitt says his wife is “taking a much-needed break from being actively employed.”
“She was the coordinator of Global Initiatives at Asbury Theological Seminary where she hosted international scholars and implemented various programs,” Moffitt said. “Previously, she worked for Hall County Schools in Georgia where she worked for the technology department. In 2010, she coordinated a massive technology expo that made national news. She has an Associate Degree in Baking and Pastry from the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Atlanta. That was where we met. Later she completed a Bachelor’s of Education from the University of North Georgia. Currently, she is on a deacon track as a certified candidate in the Virginia Conference.”
New Youth Director Cody McCurry
Director of Youth and Young Adults Cody McCurry began his duties in June. He has already been involved with annual youth mission trips to ASP and the Jeremiah Project. He replaces Bonnie Jones, who retired at the end of June after nine years in her position at Thrasher.
“Bonnie has done a great job and leaves Cody with a great youth program,” said Pastor B. Failes, senior pastor at Thrasher.
McCurry was born and raised in Madison County “around miles of cows and corn.” McCurry says that his interest in youth ministry began when he was told that he needed to complete internships at Virginia Tech where he was studying Aerospace Engineering.
“Every summer I was told I needed to be doing internships, but opportunities arose to serve at youth-based mission camps and I always chose the youth organizations instead,” said McCurry. “I was just happier and more fulfilled doing that. I don’t plan on working towards being a senior pastor or going to seminary. I think my gifts are better used in this position as youth director.
“I loved planning and being part of youth retreats and fellowship events through the Wesley Foundation at Virginia Tech,” said McCurry. “I feel blessed to be able to answer this call to ministry with youth and young adults.
“I also have a real passion for missions, so I can’t wait to serve friends all over the world with my new friends at Thrasher,” said McCurry. “I can’t wait to meet everyone and hopefully find some people to drag on hikes, kayaking trips, to bowling, pick-up basketball and softball, movie nights, game nights and whatever other fun things we can think to do!
“My philosophy is that youth are not the future of the church, they are already part of the church,” McCurry said. “I see my position as a resource for finding a place to use their passions and gifts to serve others. My job is also to be available and present to foster spiritual and emotional growth.”
New organist Alyssa Melchers
Alyssa Melchers became the organist/pianist at Thrasher in March on alternate weeks, sharing the position with Pastor Jae Song’s wife, Star, until their departure.
She grew up in Vinton, the daughter of Wanda and Gari Melchers, who have been involved with the music ministry at Vinton Baptist for many years.
Melchers graduated from William Byrd High School in 2012 as a valedictorians. Her performing career began with musical theater productions in fourth grade and Floyd Ward dance performances even earlier than that.
Melchers graduated Summa Cum Laude from the College of William and Mary in 2016 with a major in music and a minor in accounting. She was a Phi Beta Kappa initiate.
She was also a member of the prestigious Choir of the College of William and Mary for all four years of college as a vocalist and accompanist, touring internationally with the group.
Pastor Failes has expressed his gratitude to the Staff-Parish, which functions as the human resources committee at Thrasher. While the United Methodist Conference assigns pastors, the church has total input over all other staff positions.
“We have eight people on staff for which they are responsible,” said Failes. “This means they evaluate the positions, assist in the hiring, and set salaries. This year we have worked to replace almost half of the staff– three out of eight.”
“Staff-Parish has been busy for a number of months evaluating the positions and making the necessary changes that will help our church continue to grow,” Failes said. “One of the biggest changes was making our youth position full-time and adding young adults to that position.”
The Staff-Parish group committee includes Chair Greg Chlan, John Romeo, Mary Ann St. Clair, David Clark, Ashleigh Huggard, Deedie Kagey, Marty Crow, Vanessa Payne, and Kitty Walls. Mike Sutton (lay leader) and Jo Brooks and Carol Maddox (lay members of Annual Conference) are ex-officio members.
“The transition of our staff has gone well,” said Failes. “We are excited to continue the ministry and mission that has blessed Thrasher and the community for over 200 years.”