To understand the strength of Good Shepherd's lay leadership, one only has to look at our beginnings. The seed for Good Shepherd was planted by four Clay County couples who began meeting as a study group in 1952. In 1955 Good Shepherd was officially recognized by the diocese as a mission congregation and functioned as a yoked congregation with the Episcopal Church of the Messiah, Murphy, North Carolina, until 1986.
The congregation built its first home in 1958-59 as a simple concrete block building of 960 square feet. In the 1970s, when the church was ready for a much-needed expansion, it had unknowingly become land-locked. The Rev. Brad Rockwood encouraged the parish to purchase the present property on US Highway 64.
The church's new home, built with much oversight and labor by church members, was consecrated by Bishop Weinhauer in 1981.
In the ten years Fr. Rockwood served Messiah and Good Shepherd, he encouraged many joint activities and sharing of resources between the two churches. When he retired in 1986, the biggest shift in Good Shepherd's history took place. The church severed the yoked relationship with Messiah and called The Rev. Charlotte Waldroup in 1987. The enthusiastic, hands-on participation of a full-time rector required an adjustment for a largely lay-led church.
Many still-active programs such as Grazers, Clay County Food Pantry, and Stephen Ministry were started during the nine years Mother Charlotte was priest. During her tenure, adjoining property was bought and the facility greatly expanded to provide office space, accessible bathrooms, a parish hall, and an enlarged nave. All 103 families participated in pledging financial and physical support. Completion of the new addition was celebrated in September 1992.
In 1995, The Rev. Bob Reuss served two years as interim priest before The Rev. Deacon Donald O'Malley accepted the call to Good Shepherd in June 1997. He was ordained as priest in December. Fr. Don was a Biblical student, good teacher, and good administrator.
During Fr. Don's six years, the River of Healing chapter of the Order of St. Luke was established, Daughters of the King became active, and many grew in their spiritual formation through Bible study, Cursillo, and other programs. In 1997, Turner Guidry, a parishioner and a counselor in the school system, was ordained into the vocational deaconate. His special emphasis on youth and young men has been a great addition to Good Shepherd. A second major shift in our history occurred in 2003 when Fr. O'Malley and nearly a third of Good Shepherd's most active parishioners abruptly left the Episcopal Church over differences with decisions made at General Convention.
At the suggestion of then Bishop Robert Johnson, The Rev. John Rice, who had led workshops in the healing ministry at Good Shepherd, arrived in November 2003 as priest-in-charge. Before long, both Fr. John and the vestry felt a strong sense that he was being called to be our rector, and the Bishop gave his approval. Fr. John's warm and engaging personality soon attracted many new members, restoring attendance to its previous level.
Over Fr. John's eight years, the prayer shawl ministry was begun and Stephen Ministry revived; mission trips were made to Mississippi, Mexico, India, and Jamaica; and we celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2005.
For years, vestries had engaged in long-range planning in preparation for the anticipated swell of retirees moving to the mountains. Our region was already one of the fastest-growing in the country. Progress had been made in optimizing our limited acreage and doubling parking capacity, and a Master Plan was developed.
While Fr. John was on sabbatical in 2010, construction of Phase 1 of the Master Plan began on a welcoming new parish hall, kitchen and nursery, plus an addition to provide modern restrooms, meeting rooms, and space for a future elevator. When the time is right, God willing, this addition will form a bridge to Phase 2 of our master plan: a new and larger nave. Fr. John's sabbatical focused on a study of healing gardens. On his return, a landscape plan for several gardens on the property was designed and is partially completed.
Good Shepherd celebrated the opening of the new Parish Hall with a month-long Celebration of Arts and Spirituality. The art show, concert, and Adult Spiritual Formation programming were singled out as the most meaningful recent event by parishioners at the Holy Conversation.
The Rev. John Rice retired from parish ministry in February 2012. Good Shepherd was blessed with the experienced leadership and teaching skills of The Rev. Linda Baker Pineo as interim rector while the parish conducted a year-long discernment process.
It was with gratitude and rejoicing that we commemorated the end of Mother Linda's tenure with us on Pentecost 2013, and The Rev. Dr. William "Bill" Breedlove began his ministry at Good Shepherd, preaching his first sermon on June 16, 2013.