Phillip Hurst new pastor at Tryon United Methodist Church

Published 3:32 pm Monday, September 13, 2010

On June 22, true to the Methodist tradition, nearly 200 of the more than 1,000 persons appointed to local churches in Western North Carolina packed up their belongings in one community and took up residence in another.

In Tryon, Methodists bade a fond farewell to their minister of five years, the Rev. Neil Haynes, who was appointed to a church in Concord, N.C. Hours later, a welcoming committee returned to the Methodist parsonage to greet the Rev. Phillip M. Hurst and help him, his wife Diane Stamey, and her mother move into their new home. Their daughter, Lori, lives in Charlotte with her husband and young son.

Hursts path to the ministry was sure, if not direct. He graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.A. in geography and urban planning and spent the first 15 years of his career in local government 10 years in High Point, N.C., as a city planner and five years in Mt. Airy, N.C., as director of planning and community development.

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In Mt. Airy, involvement in his local church brought rewards that left him with an important decision to make concerning his future. He could envision continued growth in his current career, yet he kept asking himself one question: What if I offered my abilities to God to build up the church? The answer to that question led him to Duke Divinity School.

After Divinity School, he began the series of appointments that would ultimately bring him to Tryon. Early in his ministry, he married Diane Stamey, herself ordained in the counseling ministry. She holds M.A. degrees in divinity and counseling from Southern Seminary and Appalachian State University and currently serves as the director of the Mountain Center for Pastoral Counseling in Clyde, N.C., near Lake Junaluska. She is also a provider in the Asheville Districts Potters Touch Counseling Center.

Hursts professional focus for the last several years has been on leadership development, missional leadership churches, and technology and media in worship. He is certified in coaching churches through the Natural Church Development and Vital Signs Strategic Planning Programs and is a conference mentor for ministerial candidates.

Referring to a popular Methodist slogan, Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors, Hurst says he is passionate about the need for the church to step out into the community and show the heart of Christ.

Hurst says, When churches and their members focus on helping, serving, living out their faith, they can bring tremendous benefit to the community and perhaps restore some of the trust in the institutional church that has eroded in our society over the past several decades. Thats what missional leadership means. It is the most important challenge facing the church today.