Parker Agnew first came to Perry Presbyterian Church in 1988. He was youth pastor at the time. “This is my second tour,” he said. “I first came as youth pastor back in the 1980s after attending Reformed Theological Seminary and getting a master of divinity degree. Then I left for 10 years — then came back.”
Agnew, a South Carolina native, said he became a Christian just before entering Clemson University and was subsequently called to preach.
“While I was at Clemson studying to become a social studies teacher I got involved with Campus Crusade for Christ,” he said. “That led to working with Campus Crusade at Georgia Southern University for two years. I really liked it but realized I wanted to be a pastor and involved in church ministry.”
Agnew said the desire led him to seminary but there were stints in fast food management and as a teacher along the way. He said there was also miraculous confirmation of his call and plan to attend seminary.
“I taught in a private school in Alabama in anticipation of getting to seminary,” he said. “During the summer I worked maintenance for a company and one day the owner asked me what I was planning to do with my life. I told him I was going into the ministry and then I was floored when he said to me, ‘Here’s my credit card. Pick a seminary and I’ll pay your way.’ Of course I told him how much I appreciated it but had to ask why — why would he do this? He just said, ‘People need to hear the gospel. You tell them. That’s my only requirement: you tell them the gospel.’”
After finishing seminary and his first round in Perry as youth pastor, Agnew said he pastored Cleveland Street Presbyterian Church in Albany. Miss. Then the call came to return to Perry and, at first, serve again as youth pastor. It wasn’t long before Perry Presbyterian was without a lead pastor and Agnew was called as interim, then to fill the role permanently.
“I hadn’t ever imagined being in Perry, Georgia, but I’ve been so blessed here,” he said, “I’ve been so blessed to be in this church. There are truly wonderful folks here, sinners like we all are, but sinners who are forgiven and saved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ. I still love sharing the gospel, teaching and preaching God’s word and, though I’m more an introvert than extrovert, I do love people and love seeing God work in their lives. I love seeing him change lives like only he can.”
Agnew said it’s been especially “cool” being in the church long enough to see he and his wife, Anne’s, two daughters raised where people loved them, were concerned for them, prayed for them and helped them learn about God and life.
He said the love and concern toward his and other’s children is reflected in many ways in the congregation but certainly through one of its prominent long-term ministries: Perry Presbyterian Playschool.
The mission of the playschool is “Touching the Lives of Children with God’s Love.”
“So many kids have been through it and gotten such love and care as they learned the Bible and were prepared for kindergarten,” Agnew said. “I run into people all the time who tell me they sent their kids here and how much they loved it. It started in the 1950s so there are plenty of people who can say they went here, sent their kids here and now their grand kids are there. All the teachers and everyone involved do such a super job.”
Agnew said Perry Presbyterian was constituted in 1847 and is aligned with the biblically conservative Presbyterian Church in America. He said the congregation, whether small or large, has been a consistent witness in the community from the beginning.
“It’s my understanding the church met closer to downtown in what’s now our fellowship hall,” he said. “There are pictures of the building being moved to where we are now on Second Street which backs us up to U.S. 41. The church languished as a pretty small congregation for many years, but in the 1950s and ‘60s saw a lot of growth. We built our new sanctuary around 2001.”
Aside from the playschool, Agnew highlighted the church’s involvement with local, regional and international mission work, support of individual missionaries and the Reformed University Fellowship, and youth service and outreach projects as significant to the congregation.
He said the role of the local church and the message of the gospel remain relevant.
“One of the tenants of the reformation was the value of a biblical worldview and of loving God and others while reaching out with the gospel,” he said. “None of us can live without some aspect of sin in our lives but Christ allows us to break free of prejudices and racism and other woes. I believe identity politics is really tearing our nation apart. Jesus said the gospel frees us from identifying as Jew or Greek and by extension as red, yellow, black or white. He asks us to follow him in his love for people just as God loved the world enough to give his only son. It’s the only answer, and I believe it’s only possible through Christ. Not by force, but by showing God’s love and sharing his word while he does his work in our hearts.”
Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.
Perry Presbyterian Church
Address: 1111 2nd Street, Perry, Ga. 31069
Leadership: Parker Agnew, pastor
Worship: Sunday 9:30 a.m.