About Our Staff
To learn more about the leadership and staff at First Baptist Church of Decatur, scroll down. Learn about Deacon leadership.
Dr. David Jordan comes to First Baptist with this his personal mission statement:
To be used by God to facilitate in others the power and the joy of the Gospel. And “To do justice; to love kindness; and to walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).
He loves to preach and teach and tell stories, and he finds great joy in seeing the many ways God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
David is the author of three books, numerous published articles, poetry and a short story. His books include Living with Faith (2015); Approaching the Presence (2012); and Subversive Words (2011). He has multiple copies of each in his office and would love to share them with you!
Before coming to Decatur, David served as a minister to four other congregations in Washington, D.C., Maryland and North Carolina. He most recently served for the last fifteen years as the Teaching Pastor for Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte.
He is the thankful father of three children, Christopher (28 and in Salt Lake City), Catherine (24 and in New York City), and Olivia (21 and graduating from the University of North Carolina in May!); and he is the spouse of Dr. Beth Jackson-Jordan, also a minister, chaplain, CPE Supervisor and immediate past Director of Spiritual Care at a hospital in the Charlotte area. Beth is now the new Clinical Pastoral Education Manager at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sandy Springs.
David’s hobbies include family, reading, writing, tennis, travel, exercise, hiking, languages, gardening, good food, and making music.
Finally, he enjoys people, treasures rich friendships and looks forward to getting to know you; further, he has high hopes you will be pleased with all that you find at First Baptist Decatur and knows that who you are will add immensely to this great fellowship!
Find out more about David, his writings, sermons, travels and photos by visiting his web site at www.fromjordansstormybanks.com.
interim pastor for senior adults and pastoral care
William (Bill) Neal has enjoyed a long career in Baptist ministry, which includes campus ministry, religious journalism, the local church, and more recently, a statewide ministry for people with developmental disabilities.
He is a graduate of Columbus State University and earned his master’s and doctor’s degrees at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Bill has “retired” at least three times, but really enjoys staying busy so he has never really stopped doing some form of ministry.
He and his wife, Judy, have been members of FBC Decatur since 2004 and have been involved in many of the church’s ministries. Bill enjoys travel, reading, various hobbies, volunteer work for the church and several other organizations, and spending time with his four grandchildren.
Pastor for Children and Families
Reverend Kristen Koger has been on staff at FBCD since May 2017. Kristen received her Master of Divinity at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in 2015. Her most recent ministry position was Pastoral Resident at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, which is also the church that ordained her.
Kristen loves spending time with people of all ages, and views her role to be a pastor to the whole Church, not just to children and families. She enjoys finding ways to connect people to one another and helping them find things they have in common.
When Kristen isn't at FBCD, she can often be found hanging out with her dog, Dietrich "Bonehoffer" and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. She loves to welcome people to her table, or bring food to theirs. For fun, she enjoys play board games and going to trivia nights, or sitting at home with a book and her latest knitting project. She is excited to be in a new place and to explore the wonderful things Decatur, Atlanta, and Georgia have to offer!
Pastor for Youth and Families
Kelsey is originally from Charleston, South Carolina. Raised in a Baptist household, she has taken an interest in her Christian faith since she was young. She attended the University of South Carolina with an undergraduate degree in business, where she also served as the president of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry and was involved in summer missions through the BCM. After college she spent two years in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a missionary.
In Buenos Aires, Kelsey did a demographic research project where she interviewed Argentinians about their faith background and had her own faith challenged and deepened. During this time she felt a call to full time ministry, but was unsure where opportunities would be available for her as a woman in her context. After her two-year term, she returned to South Carolina and worked as a mortgage banker.
After two years in the banking industry, she left her job and moved to Atlanta to attend seminary at Candler School of Theology, where she re-discovered her Baptist identity within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
In her free time, she loves travel, writing poetry and prose, cheering on her alma mater's football team, the South Carolina Gamecocks, and her dog Karl Bark. She is very excited about youth ministry and First Baptist Decatur. Her special interests at seminary have included Hebrew Bible and Biblical Scholarship, as well as integrating artistic elements into ministry and teaching.
Interim Pastor for Adult Education
Paul is a teacher, writer, and speaker who believes that education plays a central role in the spiritual formation of all people. In addition to serving at First Baptist Decatur, he teaches physics and astronomy at Agnes Scott College and writes and speaks at the intersection of faith and science.
He holds a PhD in physics from Duke University and an MDiv with a concentration in historical theology from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He was ordained at First Baptist Decatur in 2014.
Paul has also taught at Hampden-Sydney College, Berry College, Candler, and Columbia Theological Seminary. For three years he was a NASA Faculty Fellow at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and twice served on the faculty of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative in Dharamsala, India.
His published articles range from the scientific to the popular. His first book, Stars Beneath Us: Finding God in the Evolving Cosmos, was released in 2016 by Fortress Press. Other books are forthcoming in 2019 from Fortress and Cambridge.
Paul is a fan of apophatic theology, Johnny Cash, the planet Saturn, and birds. He lives in Decatur with his wife Elizabeth, three kids, and orange cat.
Interim Pastor for Community Engagement
Shelley Hasty Woodruff is a minister, preacher, teacher, mom, wife, daughter, and proud aunt. She grew up in Tifton, GA where she met a boy named Josh in the 3rd grade. That boy eventually became her husband and the two now live in Decatur, GA, raising their daughter Lottie (age 6—a first-grader at Glennwood Elementary School) and son Jonah (age 3—a preschooler at College Heights). Shelley studied theology at Furman University (B.A. in religion, 2003), Oxford University in England (Post Graduate Diploma, 2004), McAfee School of Theology (M. Div, 2007), Columbia Theological Seminary (Th.M., 2012), and doctoral coursework in homiletics and Old Testament at Duke University. Shelley has worked on church staffs in the metro-Atlanta area as minister to youth, college, and singles, has facilitated preaching workshops, and serves as a supply preacher in area churches whenever called upon.
Shelley is passionate about helping people in the church do three things: find their voice, ask questions, and lean into the messiness of the journey rather than yearn for the tidiness of answers, all in community with one another. Outside of the church, she loves hanging out with her kids in Decatur, reading, listening to podcasts, and going to scary roadside carnivals.
Director of Communications
Matt is a graduate (2007) of Friends University in Wichita, Kansas and a graduate (2017) of the McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University. In his past, Matt has served as a youth pastor, worship leader, missionary, non-profit marketing consultant, and even a coffee roaster! So it should be no surprise that he loves when discipleship intersects with a good cup of coffee.
You can read Matt's writing at matthewlasnyder.com
Peter Rhea Jones
Peter Rhea Jones served as pastor of First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia from 1979 to 2000. He was also pastor of several churches in Tennessee and Kentucky. Before coming to Georgia, Dr. Jones served on the New Testament faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky from 1968 to 1979. He earned his bachelor's degree at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee; a master of arts in English from the University of Mississippi; a master of theology in preaching from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey; and a master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Peter Rhea is the author of Teaching of the Parables , Studying the Parables of Jesus, and 1, 2 & 3 John, as well as numerous articles for journals, periodicals and books.
Worship Arts Leader
Kathryn Hartgrove came as the Worship Arts Leader at First Baptist Decatur in the summer of 2014.
As a singer, she has been heard throughout the United States, South America and Europe and has performed with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera's National Tour, Chicago Opera Theater, Lodz National Opera of Poland, Chamber Opera of Chicago, Istanbul National Symphony, the Pesaro Chamber Orchestra, Pasqua Festival in Italy, the Dimitria Festival in Thessaloniki, Greece, the Atlier Concert Series in Paris and the Grant Park Symphony of Chicago. She has performed solo recitals in Europe, South America and the United States and has been heard on radio and television in Brazil, Turkey and the United States. As a professional stage director, Kathryn staged in Brazil, Italy, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Maine and Milwaukee. Her conducting credits include opera, oratorio and clinics in Illinois, Italy and Brazil. She is Artistic Director of Festival of International Opera of the Americas in Brazil.
Kathryn is an Associate Professor and voice coordinator at Georgia State University. She received her Master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and continued her study at Northwestern University.
Eliél Rodrigues Freer-Sullivan
Fresh Start Worship Leader
Born and raised in the warm state of São Paulo, Brazil, Eliél Freer-Sullivan graduated from the Universidade Sagrado Coração with a degree in Educação Musical and Bossa Nova. Soon after, he won a jazz competition, moved to the U.S. state of Georgia, and began pursuing a second degree in General Music and Chorus
Eliél started singing as a child, following the inspiration of Vovó Maria Alzira, his pastor, and grandmother. Through giving her life to the Kingdon, vovó taught him to love people, Jesus, and his Kingdom -- as well as music and the arts.
Eliél's music career significantly developed after placing as a finalist on Brazilian TV show "Brazilian Idol" (Brazil's version of "American Idol"), which opened doors for a regional tour and performances with important names in Brazilian music.
When not doing activities that are directly related to music or people, Eliél enjoys spending time with Justin, his Georgian spouse -- and inspiration for many songs.
Interim Fresh Start Worship Coordinator
Randall moved to Georgia from Chicago, IL in 2007, and has been a member of First Baptist Church of Decatur since 2010. He loves the church, helping, and serving others. Besides being the Interim Fresh Start Coordinator, Randall also serves as a Deacon, co-chair of the Risk Management Committee, is a member of the A/V tech team, and bus driver.
In his free time, Randall enjoys reading, listening to good music, working on his computer, and programming his online radio station.
First School/First Camp Director
Harriet Holland is originally from Hickory, N.C. She graduated from Wake Forest University and Bowman Gray Physician Assistant School at Wake Forest University. Following her husband, Wilson, to Atlanta she worked as a Pediatric Physician Assistant for 13 years.
After staying at home with her son Carter for 18 months, she started subbing at Decatur First Methodist Preschool and a few years later became a teacher there. Harriet was called to Glenn School for Young Children at Glen Memorial Methodist Church as their director and was in that position for 7 years. Upon the retirement of long time Director Barbara Long, Harriet joined the First Baptist Decatur staff as the Director of First School and later adding the job of Director of First Camp.
Harriet resides in Sagamore Hills with her husband and furry baby Blue. They like golf, walking, and traveling. In her 30 years as a member at First Baptist Decatur she has been active in the children's ministry, taught young adult small groups, and served as a Deacon.
"All my life I have loved working with children," she says, "I feel privileged and blessed to able to care for those whom Jesus made a priority."
Director of administration and finance
Dilshad was born in Nairobi, Kenya and lived there for 21 years. Later moved to Atlanta, GA and has been here ever since. Additionally, she received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from United States International University.
She worked for Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church for 20 years as their Business Director. Dilshad has been here at First Baptist Church, Decatur for 2 ½ years as the Director of Administration and Finance. She truly believes what she does at work is a Ministry and that is her driving force.
Her husband, son and herself have played competitive badminton for 20 years and are Nationally Ranked US Players in their community.
Dilshad's drive and passion is to radiate Love and Light to others. She is working on being very Mindful and Intentional on building strong relationships with all whom she comes across with, through her words and actions. Dilshad loves to empower others and bring out the best in them.
"One tree can start a forest;
One smile can begin a friendship;
One hand can lift a soul;
One word can frame the goal;
One candle can wipe out the darkness;
One laugh can conquer gloom;
One hope can raise your spirits;
One touch can show you care;
One life can make the difference,
be that one today."
Nancy is a mother of five adult children, grandmother to 12, and an ordained minister.
She relocated back to Georgia, September 2015; after retiring from the Federal Government, as a Human Resource Assistant, at the United States Military Academy (USMA), West Point, NY.
She served in various capacities during her career tenure; Secretary (Chatham County School System, Savannah, GA}; Educational Aid (Kitzgen GE); Autism Aide (Killeen Independent School District, Killeen, TX); Secretary, Office Automation (USMA); Secretary, Office Automation – (Office of the Inspector General, Fort McPherson, GA); Administrative Assistant II – (Georgia Institute of Technology); Secretary 3/Counselor – (Georgia Department of Corrections, Atlanta, GA); Human Resource Assistant – (USMA).
Savannah Area Vocational -Technical School
Inspector General School
Atlanta Technical College
Overall, as a woman of faith, she enjoys spending time with family, listening to inspirational music, traveling, and shopping.
Cynthia is the mother of one son, but is affectionately called mom by many others. She is from Hillside, New Jersey and attended Rutgers University before relocating to Atlanta, Georgia 28 years ago. She has assisted several pastors throughout her time in Atlanta, as Church Administrator and Executive Director of the Community Resource Center.
She has a love for God’s people and uses every opportunity to share and extend that love. She released her first book in the spring of 2017 entitled, Destined Even Though You’ve Been Delayed.
She enjoys spending time with family, traveling, swimming and writing.
Cynthia’s passion is inspiring others to reach their full potential. She has a drive for helping others to realize it’s not to late to go after their dreams. Her desire is to see people persevere and never, ever give up your dreams, no matter how difficult the journey may be.
After graduating from David Lipscomb College (now University) in Nashville, TN with a BA in mathematics, Marianna began her career with Southern Bell in the Atlanta engineering department (later Southern Bell became BellSouth and then AT&T). She eventually joined the planning department where she resigned from AT&T after the birth of her and her husband’s two daughters.
As time permitted, Marianna was associated with several non-profit organizations, including Emory University Pitts Theology Library, Georgia Conservancy, and DeKalb County Habitat for Humanity, where she did part-time office administration and bookkeeping. Marianna came to First Baptist Church of Decatur in 2013.
Presently she enjoys reading, traveling and especially being with her two new grandsons who have just turned six months old and, fortunately for her, live here in the Atlanta area!
Jeremy has been serving at FBCD for nine years. He has worked as part of the Facility Team for seven years and been Facilities Manager since the Fall of 2014.
Jeremy has worked on houses, cars, motorcycles, and airport equipment. Along life's path, Jeremy has learned from time working in fast food, roofing, several departments in college, new construction, aviation, motorcycle and commercial property industries.
He has a degree in Christian ministries and a minor in Biblical Studies. He completed a year of uncredtited schooling in Northern Ireland and holds a certificate in motorcycle repair.
When not working Jeremy enjoys long distance running. Running trail takes him back to the farmer trail he ran as a child. His goal is to make the world a better place.
Devita Parnell currently serves as the pianist at First Baptist Church. She, her husband Mark, and children Tyler and Julia have been members of FBCD since 2007. Devita also serves FBCD as a children’s Sunday school teacher and deacon.
An ordained minister, Devita works full-time with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), a network of churches and individuals across the United States who partner together for missions and ministry. As the director of CBF’s Young Baptist Ecosystem, she coordinates ministry among and with children, youth, college students and young adults.
Devita is a native of Sandersville, GA, and a graduate of the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University and the University of Georgia. Devita has additional professional experience as a missionary, campus minister, and development officer.
If there is any spare time, Devita enjoys exercise (Zumba!), attempting to grow things in her yard, traveling, and meeting new people.
Daniel Solberg is a staple in the professional music scene in Atlanta and has earned widespread respect as a pianist, organist, and arranger.
At Georgia State University Daniel was collaborative pianist and coach for seven years and served as music director for the opera program.
From show choirs to symphonic ensembles, Daniel's orchestrations have been heard across the United States. Daniel regularly writes for the biggest churches in Atlanta, and most recently his orchestration can be heard on a CD release by the Atlanta Boy Choir. He also orchestrated and produced an album of inspirations songs that won the Global Music Award's "Award of Merit" in 2012.
Daniel's musical sensitivity as accompanist has led him to play for many distinguished performers including two-time Grammy award-winning singer, Sylvia McNair. For several years he accompanied La Musica Lirica, a summer opera program in Italy and works for a similar program in Brazil, FIO Americas. After graduating summa cum laude from Millikin University, Daniel earned the title of "youngest director on the high seas" and played for many of the biggest cruise ship entertainers, including Mark Preston from the Letterman Trio. He has also played more than once under the direction of world-renowned conductor Don Neuen as well as under the direction of several members of the New York Voices.
When Daniel is not playing the piano, he also enjoys being organist at First Baptist Church, Decatur.
Food Services Manager
Steven is a native of Macon, Georgia, where he spent most of his adult years. He later moved to Atlanta in 1999.
Steven was hired at FBCD during the Fall of 2003 under the direction of the former church caterer. After a brief absence, he was asked to return to FBCD to take the position of the church caterer.
Shortly thereafter, Steven was offered the position as Director of Food Services (Food Service Manager) by Pastor Julie Pennington Russell, a role he has been serving in ever since!
In 2015, Steven decided after much prayer to return to school to pursue a B.A. in Emergency and Disaster Management (EDM), from AMU. He is scheduled to graduate with honors in the fall of 2019; after which, he plans to pursue a dual Masters in EDM and Homeland Security.
During Steven’s spare time, he is an avid wreath maker and enjoys exploring nature.
Marie Shepley is a retired registered nurse and spent all of her professional life working in the operating room, mostly on the open heart surgical team.
Somewhere in between those years, she raised two sons, Randy and Matt. Marie and her boys were members of Wieuca Road Baptist Church where she volunteered for the children’s choir programs and youth choir. For many years, Marie also worked in the church library.
An avid reader, Marie enjoys her work in the Allen Memorial Library at FBCD. Reading is her passion and she always has two to three books going at one time!
Marie’s other greatest love outside of church is the magical world of grandchildren. She is very blest to be close to her four grand kids and maintains a tight relationship with them (she couldn’t watch Star Wars a million times with them and not develop a close rapport! They still have to tell her who the bad guys are. Obviously, she did not pay close attention...).
For Marie, growing older helped her perspective to see what is really important. God and family sums it up.