Presbytery of St. Augustine

Electronic Forms Now Available for Presbytery Nominating Committee


st_augustine_logo_colorWith the deadline quickly approaching for servant leader applications, we are happy to share with you electronic forms which may be filled out on your computer and emailed to by Tuesday, August 15th. We hope that you find these forms more user friendly.

If you have questions, please feel free to call Joe Risby at (904) 480-0683 (cell). Forms may also be returned via fax to 904-737-6658 or mailed to Presbytery of St. Augustine, 1937 University Blvd. W., Jacksonville, FL 32217.

For more information about the General Assembly, scheduled for June 16-23, 2018 in St. Louis, visit here. 




Service on Presbytery Team or Commission

Service as General Assembly Commissioner

Service as Synod Commissioner




General Assembly Applications Due August 15th

PCBizThe General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meets every other year, and the next meeting will take place in St. Louis in June of 2018. 

Serving as a GA commissioner or young adult advisory delegate is a wonderful and memorable experience. Please take a look at the application and consider whether you or someone you know is being called to serve the church in this unique way. If you have any questions, please call/write to Joe Rigsby at 904-480-0683(c) or   

The application deadline is August 15, 2017. Please fill out and return to Sandra Hedrick, States Clerk, at Our representatives and alternates will be elected at the Fall Stated Presbytery Meeting in October so that we can report the names to the General Assembly by the December deadline.

About The General Assembly:
The General Assembly consists of commissioners elected by presbyteries. Half of the commissioners will be ruling elders, half will be teaching elders. Few will ever have been commissioners to the General Assembly before, but most will have served in one of the other governing bodies of our church: the session, which provides care and oversight of a local congregation; the presbytery, which provides care and oversight of a group of congregations; or the synod which provides care and oversight of several presbyteries.

It reviews the work of synods, resolves controversies in the church, is responsible for matters of common concern for the whole church, and serves as a symbol of unity for the church.

The General Assembly has several specific responsibilities outlined in Chapter 3 of the Book of Order. The assembly seeks to protect our church from errors in faith and practice, is responsible for assuring that the expression of our theology remains true to the biblical standards in our historic confessions. The General Assembly presents a witness for truth and justice in our community and in the world community. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies.

New Communications Coordinator Announced

Communications Coordinator Kristen Magda

Communications Coordinator Kristen Magda

The Presbytery of St. Augustine welcomes Kristen Magda as our Communications Coordinator! She is excited about serving in this key role in our new presbytery structure. Kristen will be responsible for communications within the presbytery, including producing a newsletter, sending emails to large groups, maintaining and improving the website, promoting gatherings and events, and much more. 

Kristen, who has over 15 years of experience in the communications field, moved to the Jacksonville area last summer from Massachusetts. She most recently worked as the Associate Director of Communications and Media Relations at Stonehill College, a small Roman Catholic liberal arts college near Boston. 

In that role for eight years, she worked closely with the college’s senior administration in developing institutional messaging while serving as the college’s lead news writer. She also co-managed the school’s social media accounts and played a critical role on its emergency response team.   

Prior to that, she worked in athletic communications for six years where she oversaw publicity for several athletic programs, first at Brown University in Rhode Island and then at Nichols College near Worcester, Mass.

Kristen and her husband Andrew have a five-year old son named AJ and reside in Fleming Island. She comes to us from a Roman Catholic background (her uncle is a priest in the Ormond Beach area). 

You may welcome Kristen by email – or phone (904) 733-8277 (x122). She looks forward to serving with us in our mission: “to support our faith community, so that together we may witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

With joy and thanksgiving,

 The Bridge Staffing Team
Jeff Welch – Moderator
Mary Mickel – Moderator-Elect
Ralph Moulder – Council Moderator
Edd Norris – Discernment and Design Team Chair 

Sandra Hedrick – Stated Clerk

Highlights of 2017 Spring Stated Meeting

Highlights of 2017 Spring Stated Presbytery Meeting
Montgomery Presbyterian Conference Center
By: Alexandra (Sandra) Hedrick, Presbytery Stated Clerk
May 2, 2017

The mission of the Presbytery of St. Augustine is to support our faith community, so that together we may witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

At our Spring Stated Meeting, we witnessed to the gospel of Jesus Christ in worship, prayer and fellowship. We reaffirmed our new mission statement, approved a revised Manual of Operations, welcomed new minister members, and made new friends. Over 140 persons attended, including guests and Montgomery Presbyterian Conference Center staff.

During worship, we heard and participated in “The Word of the Lord – The Sermon in Song.” We celebrated the Lord’s Supper, led by Dawn Conti. Our wonderful musician was Rick Roberts, Director of Music at Fort King Presbyterian Church. The offering taken for the Montgomery Presbyterian Conference Center was almost $1,300!

Highlights of the presentations and actions during the meeting led by our Moderator Jeff Welch included:

We welcomed several new minister members, all of whom are “honorably retired” – Tom Borland, Eric Chavis, Steve Hulsey, Cliff Lyda, Dick Menzel, and Jack Swann.

Joe Albright (Geneva) offered a tribute to the life and ministry of Herbert Meza, who died on February 9, 2017.

We approved a revised Manual of Operations, including a change providing that 12 (rather than 11) persons will be elected “at-large” to the new Coordinating Council. The document entitled “Implementing a New Structure” (cut and paste this link to view: describes the path for completing this part of our transition. A final version of the approved revised Manual of Operations will be posted to our website in the near future.

We voted in the affirmative on each of the proposed amendments to the Book of Order sent to us by the 222nd General Assembly. Our vote has already been reported to the Office of the General Assembly!

We approved the revised 2017 Operating Budget (cut and paste this link to view approved proposal:

We approved an “exception” as specified in the Book of Order (G-2.0504c) to permit Hunter Camp, currently Associate Pastor at the Memorial Presbyterian Church, to be considered as the next installed Pastor of the church.

Joe Rigsby announced that the Nominating Committee will soon circulate applications for service as commissioners to the General Assembly (June 16-23, 2018) and to the Synod of South Atlantic Commissioner (term begins in 2018). In addition, his committee and the Representation Committee will be hard at work to identify and nominate leaders to serve in our new presbytery structure that will be fully in place on January 1, 2018.

Among the exciting news from Montgomery Presbyterian Conference Center is the opportunity for everyone to participate in its ministry by being a part of “Montgomery Day” (the first Sunday in June). A Montgomery Day flyer is attached here for use by congregations and individuals – cut and paste this link:

The Presbytery Council reported that it has approved four individuals to serve as Area Relationship Coordinators during the “Bridge Period”: Gary Hardesty (First Alachua/Honorably Retired), Joe Rigsby(Honorably Retired), Earle Sickels (Calvin/Honorably Retired), and Sheryl Sumlin-Walker (Halifax Health and Hospice Parish Associate – Trinity).

Reports were made on behalf of Presbyterian Women (Carol Graff, PW Moderator – Hodges Boulevard); the Mutual Mission Committee (Bob Bell – First Perry); This Child Here Ministry (Ukraine) (Robert Gamble – Presbytery of Newton); Texas Presbyterian Foundation (TPF) (Jake Wilson) and Westminster Communities of Florida (Walk Jones – Presbytery of Central Florida). Kathy Broyard of the Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network made an appeal to churches to house disaster/storm recovery volunteers.

We took action to ensure that Presbytery Council (soon to be called “Coordinating Council”) minutes will be included in stated presbytery meeting packets.

When the meeting adjourned, we enjoyed lunch on the grounds, including barbecue chicken, fully loaded potato salad, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, cheddar biscuits, and chocolate and vanilla pudding bowls. We thank our Montgomery Presbyterian Conference Center staff for the warm hospitality!

Next Meeting: The 2017 Fall Stated Meeting of the Presbytery of St. Augustine will be held at Montgomery Presbyterian Conference Center on October 3, 2017, at 9:00 a.m.

*Invitation to Host: We are still looking for a church or group of churches to host the 2018 Winter Stated Meeting on Saturday, February 3.  The meeting space needs to accommodate 140-190 attendees for welcoming refreshments, worship, business meeting, and lunch. The church’s ability to provide child care on site will be a factor when considering the proposal. Space is also needed for table displays. If you have questions or would like to volunteer your church (or a partnership of churches in your area), please contact Stated Clerk Sandra Hedrick (cell: 904-612-9766) or email by May 31, 2017.

Rev. Alexandra (Sandra) Hedrick, Presbytery Stated Clerk – 904-612-9766 (cell)

Sermon from 2017 Winter Presbytery Meeting

Friends in the Presbytery of St. Augustine:

The Rev. Bruce Seaman from our Fairfield church preached the sermon at our 2017 Winter Stated Presbytery Meeting.  

Click here to view/listen to “The Meddlin’ Measure” –  Isaiah 58:1-12 and Matthew 5:13-20.

God bless the reading and preaching of the God’s word!

Highlights of Fall Stated Meeting

Highlights of 2016 Fall Stated Presbytery Meeting

By: Alexandra (Sandra) Hedrick, Presbytery Stated Clerk

Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.  Jeremiah 18:6.

The God who “remakes us, remolds us, and reshapes us” called us together on October 4, 2016, at Montgomery Presbyterian Conference Center (MPCC).  Approximately 150 were in attendance.  The morning offering for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) was about $1,320.  One of our presenters was Kathy Broyard from Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network, who provided an update on the approaching Hurricane Matthew and encouraged our preparedness in coordination with one another.

The morning message – “God Does Not Give Up on Flawed People” (Jeremiah 18:1-10; Romans 8:28)  – was brought by the Rev. Dr. Joe Rigsby of the Woodlawn Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida.  Dr. Rigsby shared that God is constantly remaking us, remolding us, and reshaping us. Even when we are flawed and in a mess, and God’s reshaping feels painful, we are assured that the invisible hand of the Heavenly Father is making a beautiful vessel.  God’s best work takes place when we are available, empty and yielding.  We are called to start over, to let God make this a new presbytery, starting with us this very day!

Highlights of the presentations and actions during the meeting led by our Moderator Ralph Moulder included: 

  • We welcomed six teaching elder members: Matthew Benz-Whittington (Baptist Health); Ken Goodrich (Pastor, First Lake City); John Harris (Honorably Retired); Jessi Higginbotham (Interim Associate Pastor, Community); Jennie Thomas (Baptist Health); and Bill Weimer (Honorably Retired). Two other new members could not be present and will be introduced at the next meeting: Heong-Seok Cho (Pastor, Korean Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville) and Jack Swann (Honorably Retired).
  • We recognized with gratitude the teaching elders who serve the church in validated ministries outside the congregation, such as teaching, chaplaincy and leading non-profit entities.  It was also reported that four individuals have been enrolled as Inquirers for Ministry under the care of our presbytery: CJ Dates (Palms), Fred Lundy (First Gainesville), Forrest Foxworth (First Fernandina Beach), and Kevin Wright (Woodlawn).
  • David Lee presented a heartfelt memorial resolution for Don Harris, who last served as Vice President of Foundation Services with Westminster Communities of Florida before his death on April 28.  We approved several teaching elder retirements: Doug Ganyo (Associate Pastor, First Fernandina Beach); Peyton Hopkins (Associate Pastor, Community); Troy Lewis (Pastor, St. Giles); and Terry Lucarelli (Pastor, Lakewood). Lou Lothman, who is retiring as Executive Director of Pastoral Counseling Services, will continue as a part-time consultant in clinical services. 
  • Recognizing four years of dedicated work by Transitional Executive Presbyter Steve Benz, the Presbytery Council reported that his contract would not be renewed at its expiration on December 31. A motion to rescind the Council’s action was made, but the motion failed. 
  • The Presbytery Council also provided an update on the Discernment and Design process and presented the 2017 Asking Budget.  We approved increasing the cap on our transition consultant’s contract by an additional $10,000, plus any amount received as anonymous designated donations.  
  • The MPCC Executive Director (Terry Patterson) and an Executive Operating Board member (Don Mossa) provided updates on the visioning process that has taken place.  At the request of Trustee Murray Beard, the presbytery approved a plan to identify and elect new board members promptly due to the resignations that have occurred.
  • Upon the recommendation of the Committee on Ministry, we voted to increase the effective salary portion of the minimum terms of call for full-time installed pastors form $42,000 to $43,000. 
  • The presbytery approved the sale of the property of the Fleming Island Presbyterian Church and gave the Administrative Commission for the church additional authority which includes the ability to cease operations and dissolve the congregation. 
  • We heard reports from two of the leaders of our Presbyterian Youth Triennium contingent and from the commissioners and young adult advisory delegate who attended the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Portland, Oregon in 2016.  Our Synod of South Atlantic commissioners provided written reports of the September 2016 meeting. Moderator Carol Graff brought us news from Presbyterian Women, and upcoming events for the Jamaica Ecumenical Mutual Mission were described by Co-Moderator Bob Bell.  The Florida representative of the Thornwell Home for Children shared news about new ministries.
  • We approved the Nominating Committee and Presbytery Council’s slate of nominations for service on presbytery committees and commissions.  Written reports were provided by other committees and commissions. 
  • We thank Montgomery Presbyterian Conference Center for the meal provided on the grounds. We were treated to roast beef, Italian chicken breast, cheesy squash, baked potatoes, cheddar garlic biscuits, salad with mandarin oranges, and two kinds of trifle. 

The Winter Stated Meeting of the Presbytery of St. Augustine will be held at Fort King Presbyterian Church in Ocala, Florida on Saturday, February 4, 2017, beginning at 9:00 a.m. 

A workshop for the session clerks of our congregations and others interested in polity (including an update on the proposed amendments to the Book of Order) will be held at First Starke on Saturday, November 5.  Please contact Sandra Hedrick for more information –

It will be my pleasure to answer any questions you may have about these brief highlights or to provide you or your congregation/session with more information.  In addition, if you attended the meeting, I would love to hear your comments and suggestions.  I can be reached at or on my cell phone: 904-612-9766.  Transitional Executive Presbyter Steve Benz also welcomes your input and can be reached at or 904-733-8277, ext. 125.

Rev. Alexandra (Sandra) Hedrick, Presbytery Stated Clerk – 904-612-9766 (cell)

Ordination of Bethany-Benz Whittington

Bethany Benz Whittington_Ord 1

Bethany’s Ordination Commission and Guests

By: Sandra Hedrick, Stated Clerk

We welcome Bethany Benz-Whittington as our newest member of the Presbytery of St. Augustine. Her ordination took place on April 24, 2016, at Peace Presbyterian Church, where she is serving as stated supply pastor. The service was well-attended by church members, family and friends, and friends from around the presbytery. It was followed by a joyous reception with an abundance of delicious food and a beautiful cake.

Bethany’s mother Cindy Benz preached the sermon – “And God said, GO” – to which the congregation responded with the moving hymn, “Lord, You Give The Great Commission.” The choir sang the anthem “Here I Am, Lord” (arrangement by Craig Courtney). Guy Hawker (Minister of Music) accompanied the choir and provided other sacred music to mark the occasion.

The Ordination Commission consisted of Cindy Benz (TE – First, Lake City), Kelsey Gulick (RE – Hodges Boulevard), Mary Mickel (RE – Woodlawn), Cynthia Montgomery (TE – At-Large, Moderator of Presbytery Council), Ralph Moulder (RE – Starke, Moderator of the Presbytery), Joe Rigsby (TE – Woodlawn), Sheldon Steen (TE – At-Large), and Charlene Willis (RE – Peace). There were also many guests of the commission who participated in the service and the celebration that followed. The guests included one of Bethany’s professors and an associate dean from Columbia Theological Seminary, where Bethany received her Master of Divinity in 2015.

Bethany Benz Whittington_Ord 2

Fellowship at a reception following the service

Bethany Benz-Whittington

Bethany Benz-Whittington


Message from Steve Benz

Steve Benz

Dear friends in ministry,

Greetings to all who labor in the vineyard that we call the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the head of the Church!

The greeting above is important because one of the very foundations of our Presbyterian heritage, indeed of all of Christendom, is that Jesus Christ is head of the Church. Each of us who are ruling elders, deacons and teaching elders in the church promise to know and even internalize that in every aspect of our ministry as we serve God and each other.

In one week, we will take that understanding with us to Portland, Oregon, for the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church and I trust that you will all be watching how we live together into our call to be disciples.


I should note right now that I love attending the General Assembly on your behalf. It is equal parts worship, work and family reunion, with a good dose of information gathering and networking thrown in. It is a celebration of what it means to be Presbyterian in this time and place, and we are at our best when we gather as a national body like this. Oh sure, there are disagreements and hard discussions, but then I think that is what makes us the church that God has asked us to be. If we don’t talk about the difficult things that exist in God’s creation, we cannot work to restore that creation. But those folks who have attended General Assemblies on your behalf will come home and tell you that they felt the Holy Spirit present in their deliberations, and that is why we gather.

Your commissioners this year are ruling elders Rick Kirby from Orange Park and Patti Phillips from Branford, teaching elders Laurie Furr-Vancini from Palms and Gabe Goodman from Community – Atlantic Beach, and young adult advisory delegate Lexi Green from Westminster in Gainesville. Sandra and I will be there with them (Sandra is serving as a parliamentarian for a committee and will work the floor during plenary sessions) to love and support their work, and we know of several folks from the presbytery who will also be in attendance as visitors. I solicit your prayers for them as they do this important work, guided by the Holy Spirit in all that they do.

And finally, I will be communicating with you regularly during the assembly to keep you posted on things that may be important to us here in the Presbytery of St. Augustine. Oftentimes, the national media do not fully understand or fully communicate what Presbyterians are doing at an assembly and my job will be to interpret for you. (An aside, the Presbyterian Outlook does a pretty fair job of telling the story and the Presbyterian News Service also gets it right.) I will tell you what our folks are up to, what work they are doing for God and you, and try to give you a sense of the work of the PC(USA). This will be my 10th GA and I am just as excited about this one as the first nine. Stay tuned……

Peace and grace,



Transitions and Passages

Changes and transitions are always happening in our presbytery! Here are some of the most recent ones:

Bethany Benz-Whittington, ordained on April 24, is now the stated supply pastor of the Peace Presbyterian Church.

We also welcome new minister member Jennie Thomas, who was received in April and is the lead chaplain and a clinical pastoral education supervisor at Baptist Health – South in Jacksonville.

Ruth Elswood began serving as the interim pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Jasper on April 24. She is also a chaplain with Palm Garden Health Care and Rehabilitation.

Memorial Presbyterian Church is glad to have Craig Davies as its interim pastor beginning on May 10. He is serving alongside associate pastor Hunter Camp and parish associate Amy Camp.

The Highlands Presbyterian Church (Gainesville) held a worship service in connection with its closing on May 15. It recognizes and gives thanks for the leadership of Sandy Faison (member of the Presbytery of Alaska), who served as its last stated supply pastor through its closing date.

Larry Hadrava, ruling elder member of the Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, completed his service to the San Mateo Presbyterian Church (as commissioned ruling elder) on May 15.

Matthew Benz-Whittington was examined in April and approved for ordination. The ordination will take place this coming Sunday (June 12) at his home church in Tennessee. Matthew is a clinical pastoral education resident at Baptist Health.

July 10 is Ken Goodrich’s first Sunday as the new installed pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Lake City. Ken is transferring his membership from the Presbytery of Lackawanna, where he serves a church in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Lake City church, which just celebrated its 160th anniversary, thanks Cindy Benz for serving as its interim pastor.

Cindy Benz will begin her work as interim pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ocala, Florida on June 20.

Some anniversaries to celebrate are: Amy Camp (ordained 15 years), Larry Green (ordained 15 years), and Cindy Benz (ordained 10 years).

Transitions are always a perfect time to pray for one another. Please keep each individual and community mentioned above in your prayers.

We also welcome receiving information as to new events and changes that should be included in our newsletter and news posts. Thank you!

Meet Your General Assembly Commissioners and Young Adult Advisory Delegate

The 222nd General Assembly (GA) (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is about to be underway from June 18 – 25, in Portland, Oregon.

Commissioners and advisory delegates from all 171 PC(USA) presbyteries, along with other participants and observers from around the world, will gather for worship, fellowship and the business of the church. The theme is: “The Hope in Our Calling,” from Ephesians 1:18.

As the 222nd GA approaches, the Presbytery of St. Augustine’s commissioners and young adult advisory delegate (YAAD) elected at the Fall 2015 Stated Presbytery Meeting are imagining their roles at this important event in the life of the church.

Laurie Furr-Vancini (TE – Palms) will be focusing on Middle East Issues within her committee. She is most looking forward to “seeing the highest body of our church at work” and “learning more about our church alive throughout our country and God’s world.” Patti Phillips (RE – Branford), was recently called in as an alternate. Patti states, “I look forward to worshiping and serving, with fellow Christians, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” She will serve on the Mission Coordination Committee.

YAAD Lexi Green’s (Westminster) committee will focus on Theological Issues. “What I am looking forward to most about the 222nd GA is the opportunity to represent a group that I feel is often misrepresented as well as being able to make connections and just feel the power of the Holy Spirit that I am sure will be very present within that place,” said Lexi.

Gabe Goodman (TE – Community) is excited to serve on his committee, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. “I’m looking forward to addressing controversial issues and helping the church find resolutions,” said Gabe.

Rick Kirby’s (RE – Orange Park) committee’s focus will cover several areas: the Board of Pensions, the Presbyterian Foundation, and two other agencies. “I hope to grow in my own faith by what I see, hear and feel and I certainly hope to be blessed by interacting with other Christians that I don’t know,” said Rick. “It may seem strange, but what I am looking forward to the most right now is seeing the PCUSA polity in action. I am also looking forward the overall experience.”

Once our commissioners and YAAD complete their particular committee work, they will participate in the “plenary” sessions where the committees present their recommendations and the entire assembly takes action. We look forward to hearing about their experiences when they return home to us!  Please keep each and every one of them in your prayers as they follow God’s call to Portland and back.


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