Senior pastor announces retirement

Senior Pastor Sid Batts has announced his retirement from the ministry effective Nov. 1. Sid came to First Presbyterian in January 2001, the 11th senior pastor in our 194-year history. He also served churches in Mobile, Ala.; Atlanta; and Dunn and Lowell, N.C. The church’s Session will begin planning in April for a celebration of Sid’s ministry and a transition to the search for our next leader.

Sid sent this letter to the congregation on March 20:

Dear Members and Friends of First Presbyterian,

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3)

Sid's portraitFor almost 18 years, it has been my great privilege to serve as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church. Believing the right time is upon us, on Monday evening I announced my retirement to the Session, effective November 1 of this year. I will work with staff and Session to determine my last October Sunday.

Of course, a decision like this comes with mixed feelings. The ministry has been my life calling. My family and I have been blessed by being a part of the noble purposes of Christ and the nurture of Christian communities. For almost two decades, First Presbyterian has been that place of purpose and community. For that and you, Cathy and I are enormously grateful. And as you would expect, this has not been an easy decision. It comes with a certain amount of real and anticipated grief because ending and leaving are never easy. Cathy and I covet your prayers as we seek to bring closure and start a new journey. 

There is work to be done between now and November. I have already begun this work with the Session and staff, mapping out transitional issues, seeking the Session’s wisdom in celebrating this era of our common ministry, and getting the process and pieces in place for an interim pastor and ultimately a new senior pastor. We will be aided in this process by Salem Presbytery. As the writer of Ecclesiastes points to, time and timing are part of God’s rhythm. I believe six months is the right time period for a healthy transition to take place. FPC is blessed with excellent congregational leadership and a smart, stable, and committed staff. You will hear more from the Session as we move forward.

You will also hear a lot more from me in the next six months. I am not yet a lame duck! But I want to assure you of First Presbyterian’s future. This is a strong, vibrant church that has made a significant difference in this part of God’s kingdom for almost 200 years. I am constantly reminded of this church’s reputation and how people in the Presbyterian world hold this congregation in such high esteem. Sometimes I stand in Fisher Park Circle looking upward at our Sanctuary and I can almost hear Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” playing in the background. Those words not only describe our architecture, they describe the strong faith of this congregation.  This vibrant faith will forge the future.

In gratitude,

Sid Batts
Senior Pastor