Each week, an ordained clergy person comes to camp to serve as the Theologian-in-Residence (TIR). The TIR shares a message in morning chapel each day and often a brief message during night chapel to help put a closing thought on the day. In addition to the traditionally thought of role of preacher-for-the-week who gives sermons, the TIR role allows campers a chance to see and relate to a pastor on a very different level (splashing in a creek bed) in very different ways (launching each other off the blob) than in a more typical church setting. TIRs are on-site the entire week as a resource to campers and staff alike as a trained pastor for asking questions about scripture or faith or even exploring a calling to a particular area of ministry. Below is a list of the TIRs for Summer 2017.
Rev. Devon Goddard Smyth is a graduate of Warren Wilson College (Asheville, NC) with a BA in History and of Duke Divinity School (Durham, NC) with a Master of Arts in Christian Practice. Devon is the Executive Director of the William S. Davies Homeless Shelter in Rome, GA. Prior to her current role, she served at Skidaway Island UMC, Cedartown First UMC, and Rome First UMC. Devon is a commissioned Provisional Deacon in the United Methodist Church. She enjoys cycling, yoga, reading, and hiking with her family & girl dog, Lulabelle. It is a joy to provide spiritual formation for students, birth to 18, support their families, and share the journey.
Born in Japan, with family roots in Hawaii and Mississippi, Karen grew up in an Air Force family and lived in seven states. As a child she wanted to be an astronaut and a scientist, but God called her to ministry during college. Karen holds a B.A. in English from Emory University and an M.Div. from The Candler School of Theology at Emory. She has served churches in North Carolina and Georgia as well as The University of West Georgia Wesley Foundation. She is currently serving as an Associate Pastor at Victory UMC and Carrollton First UMC. Karen is married to Dr. David Newton, a professor of English at UWG. They have two daughters, Kelcy, a senior at Georgia Tech, and Caroline, a sophomore at Carrollton High School. Karen loves to preach, teach, create contemporary liturgy, and sing in the choir. She is passionate about equipping the saints for the work of ministry!
Janeese is a graduate of Presbyterian College (Psychology) and of Emory University's Candler School of Theology (Master of Divinity) and has served in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Janeese's family has been involved with Glisson for generations. Her parents, who were married for 71 years, went on their first retreat at Glisson. They were determined to send all six of their kids to Glisson. Janeese was a camper at Glisson and later received her calling to ministry there. All three of Janeese's children have been campers as well and have been similarly impacted by the powerful ministry that happens on the Holy Dirt.
A native of Tennessee, Adam Roberts is an elder in full connection in the North Georgia Conference. He is currently serving as the Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life at LaGrange College. In this role, Adam actively tries to abolish many students' image of a detached, collar-clad pastor. "My parish begins right outside the door of my office," Adam says. "I want to encourage students to express their faith, their gifts, and get connected with God." Adam is a graduate of Lambuth University as well as Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He and his wife Holly have three sons and live in LaGrange, GA.
Andrew was not raised in the church and his life was changed forever when he received an invite to church as a teenager. Andrew committed his life to following Jesus and received a call into ministry when he was 16. Pursuing God’s call led Andrew to spend 4 years serving in student ministry and 2 years as the lead pastor of a small church. Andrew was appointed to Lawrenceville First UMC in 2010 as an associate pastor where he oversaw the student ministry and helped launch a new modern worship service. Andrew was appointed to The Vine as the teaching pastor in 2015. Andrew is passionate about teaching the Word of God so that people can live in the will of God.
A native of Nashville, Rev. Robert King is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and Wesley Theological Seminary. Robert was ordained as a Provisional Elder in 2015 and is currently serving as Associate Pastor at Cascade United Methodist Church. He has previously served in various ministry roles with Ariel Bowen UMC in Atlanta, Gammon Theological Seminary, and the Conference's Timothy Initiative for enhancing the spiritual and leadership development of young racial/ethnic clergy. Robert is extremely excited about following God’s call to pastoral and multicultural ministry on his life. He is thankful for the opportunity to serve God’s people through the church. One of his favorite scriptures is John 13:34, where Jesus declared, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” When not serving in ministry, Robert enjoys watching movies, spending time with family and friends, yoga, traveling, reading, and using his gifts of foreign languages to build bridges between people of different cultures. To find out more about him, read Robert's full bio here.
Rev. Joya L. Abrams will begin a new appointment this June as the Associate Pastor at Decatur First UMC. Joya is a Provisional Elder in the North Georgia Conference. She is an Atlanta native and graduate of The Westminster Schools, Spelman College (BS), Georgia Tech (BS), and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (M.Div.). She is a second career clergywoman and worked as an Industrial Engineer before answering her call to ministry in 2010. Her previous appointments include pastor in charge at Tenth Street Underwood Memorial UMC and Associate Pastor at Impact Church. Joya has a passion for helping people think through how their faith is in action in their lives. Recently, she has served as preacher at the Conference's Winter Confirmation Retreat and Children’s Retreat. She is looking forward to her second summer as a TIR. Joya enjoys photography, baking cookies, going to concerts, eating amazing food and singing. She and her husband, Nate, will soon celebrate 14 years of marriage and they are the parents of two sons, Bennett and Christopher, and a dog, Katie.
Meg is a life-long United Methodist with deep ties in the church. She grew up in Athens, GA with her three brothers. And yes, she is a Georgia Bulldogs fan! Her young nieces, Ava and Grace, are source of great joy. After graduating from Wesleyan College in Macon, GA, she pursued a Master’s degree in Education from UGA and taught middle school special education for years before going into ministry. Backed by a Master’s of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, she went on to serve in churches in Hart County and Madison County. Meg also served in the office of Connectional Ministries for the North Georgia United Methodist Conference. Baking, knitting, reading, and swimming are a few of her favorite things. Meg’s Snickerdoodles are famous in certain circles (choice cinnamon is the secret!).
A native of Brandon, FL, Dana felt God’s call into Ordained Ministry when he was in Junior High. A member of Brandon First UMC, he learned ministry in the UMYF, in the Youth Choir, on the Administrative Board as Youth President and from pastors like Dr. Ray Harrison, Dr. Bob Chapman and others. Dana is a graduate of Florida Southern College and Candler School of Theology. He has served numerous churches including Salem UMC, Aldersgate UMC, Elberton FUMC, Moreland UMC, Faith UMC, Bright Star UMC, Zoar UMC, and McDonough FUMC. His most recent appointment has been Atlanta Emory District Superintendent. As of June, Dana will become the new Director of the Office of Ministerial Services and Board of Ministries Registrar. Coupled with his ministry experience, Dana's gifts uniquely lend themselves to effectively recruiting, forming, and developing clergy. Dana and his wife Sally are the proud parents of three children: Matthew who is the band director at Elbert County High School in Elberton, GA, Jacob who has joined the work force, serving in Atlanta, and Katie who is a student at UNG in Dahlonega.
"Our son looks forward to camp all year long. He is already asking when he will be going back. We are so appreciative of the amazing job you do with our special kids!"
Anne, parent of a 2013 Sparrowwood camper