A Note From Pastor Anna
Grace and peace to you!
I am humbled to be chosen by God to serve as your new senior pastor, and it has been an immense joy to get to know this church through the eyes of the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC). Years ago, I went to visit a mentor for some advice about discernment. She offered me this phrase: “When the ‘yesses’ line up, that’s a call. That’s how the Spirit works.” The Spirit certainly has been at work over the last several months, and the “yesses” are lining up in a way that I can only call holy.
Over and over again, I have asked the PNC, “Why Shallowford?” Over and over again, they have given some version of the answer, “Because this church is a family.” Each time, I have heard the Spirit whisper, “yes.” Members of your community were eager to tell me about your commitment to being welcoming, your vibrant worship, your thriving spiritual formation, and your growing passion for mission.
With each chance to get to you know you, I have heard another “yes.”
I look forward to learning with you and worshiping with you, singing with you and sharing tables with you, and laughing with you when life is full of light and caring for you when the light is hard to find. “Shallowford is a family,” the PNC said. It is pure joy to become a part of this family and grow in faith together.
Questions & Answers
I am thrilled to be coming to Shallowford, and I am confident that God has been at work through this search process. Shallowford is a thriving, welcoming church family that is a source of hope and support in the community. I am excited to join you, and I am excited to work with your wonderful staff team.
The Pastor Nominating Committee shared with me the congregational survey everyone took as this search was beginning. In the survey, a growing desire to be engaged with local missions rose to the surface. This quote, attributed to William Temple, caught my attention years ago: “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.” Isn’t that message humbling? In this next chapter of Shallowford’s story, I am excited to listen with you for the ways God may be calling us to serve our community in mission while growing and sustaining the thriving community within the congregation.
We pastors often talk about our calls as if they were one time events: God called us to ministry, we answered, and the “call” chapter of our stories closed. In my experience, that is far from the truth. I was called to ministry as a high school and college student, and I am continually called back into this work every day. Every time my passion for worship and for justice intersects with the needs of the church and the world, I find myself called more deeply into this work of pastoral ministry.
I grew up in the Presbyterian church, in a family that talked openly about faith and encouraged me in every way. Looking back, I can see that the spirit was tugging me toward ministry from an early age, and I am grateful for the people who nurtured me in faith and helped me to hear that call. I went to Presbyterian College to study music and Christian education, and I thought I would have a career as a Christian educator. Through college, wonderful friends and mentors pushed me, challenged me, and helped me to hear God’s call to seminary. I went to Union Presbyterian Seminary and, through seminary, heard a call to preaching and pastoral ministry.
For the past five years, I have served as a pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta. I began my time at Central as a pastor in residence, and I was called to stay as an associate pastor. During transition periods, I served as acting executive pastor and then acting head of staff. While at Central, I have served as an officer on the board of the Central Outreach and Advocacy Center, a direct service nonprofit seeking to open doors to overcome and prevent homelessness, and Ukirk Atlanta, a Presbyterian campus ministry in the presbytery. I also serve on the Examinations Commission of the Presbytery, and I am a mentor for first call pastors.
I have been honored to hold leadership positions in the denomination, as well; I have led worship and written liturgy for conferences around the nation, written for PC(USA) and Presbyterian Association of Musicians publications, and served as co-director of a few Montreat conferences. Leadership is a passion of mine, and, in 2018, I decided to develop my executive leadership skills through formal education. I enrolled in a distance-learning Master of Business Administration program through The Citadel Graduate College in Charleston, and I will graduate in 2020.
As Presbyterians, we believe that the sovereign reign of God is marked by justice, peace, and mercy, and we seek to make the world around us look a bit more like the one God envisioned. Our denomination has a commitment to the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people, is prioritizing efforts that promote racial equity, and is following the lead of the Spirit as new ways of being church bubble up at the margins. I also appreciate the commitment to diversity in the PC(USA). In this church, difference does not have to be cause for division, and we are called to sit at the table together. I am grateful for the denomination that raised me, and I am full of hope for what the spirit has in store.
One of the scriptures that has been formational in my faith is from the book of Numbers, which often surprises people! In Numbers 27, we have the story of Mahlah, Holgah, Milcah, Noah, and Tirzah, known collectively as the “daughters of Zelophehad.” The story goes like this: Moses is dividing up land between the tribes of Israel. Being a patriarchal culture, the land passed between men. The daughters of Zelophehad, though, had no living father, brothers, or uncles; they had no one to hold land for them, and Moses was going to pass them by. They spoke up for themselves, challenging Moses, and God was on their side.
I love that story for a couple of reasons. At times in my life, I felt like the daughters.
I have been compelled to speak out for myself or to speak with people who are marginalized, and I have known that God was present. In my role as a pastor, though, I like this story because it challenges me to listen. If Moses had blind spots, then surely I do, too. Numbers 27 confronts me with the privilege of being a leader in God’s church and the challenge to be listening for voices unheard.
My favorite book is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, perhaps tied with the Harry Potter series. I love novels, and the last one I read for fun was Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. I also listen to a lot of podcasts, and my favorite is This American Life.
Growing up, my family sat together in worship every week. During the sermon, just as my sister and I may have started to get squirmy, my dad would give us each a one dollar bill to place in the offering plate. We would then fold the dollar bill into the most elaborate origami we could manage. (A bow tie was my go-to shape.) I am certain that the ushers of Fountain Inn Presbyterian Church always knew which $2 came from the George girls!
Looking back, though, my parents were doing more than entertaining us during the sermon for the cost of $2. They were also teaching us stewardship, and my memories of placing dollars-disguised-as-bowties in the offering plates still shape my stewardship practice and preaching today.
I am married to Blake, and we live in North Decatur with our maltipoo, Buoy, and feisty cat, Mosby. We both love to be outside. We spend a lot of time on Lake Lanier when the weather is warm, and we love to sneak away to the mountains for a day hike when we can. We also both love to run, and we have done a few half marathons togethers. Blake is a gifted painter and woodworker, and he loves to tinker with his 1966 Ford 100 truck. I love to dig in my vegetable garden, cook, read, and, above all, spend time with friends.
Several years ago, a beloved church member named Howard moved into hospice care at 93 years old. Just before he died, I joined the church’s choir in singing at his hospice bedside. We sang sacred words: “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.” “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” He mouthed along with every word, the verses embedded deeply in his memory and his soul. As we ended with a sung benediction, a holy silence fell over the room.
Everyone looked around. Then they looked to me. This holy group of grieving friends needed someone to say the words. I think that is what “pastor” means. The pastor is the one who says the words. The pastor is one who says, “We commend Howard’s spirit to you.” The pastor is the one who says, “On the night of his arrest…” The pastor is the one who says, “Child of the covenant, I baptize you…” My favorite part of being a pastor is that I get to say the words, sing the words, live the words, and breathe the words that communicate the promises of God to this beloved world.
About The Traynhams
Anna and Blake grew up in neighboring towns and met in the seventh grade. They were prom dates Anna’s junior year, and they have been inseparable since. They both love to run, hike, travel, spend time on the lake, and explore the amazingly diverse cuisine Atlanta has to offer. They bought a house in Medlock Park in 2018, with no idea that Anna would be called to a church so close by!
Anna loves to grow vegetables, bake pies, read books, listen to podcasts, and write. She often writes original prayers on her blog, andalsowithyou.blog.
Blake is a graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and Charleston is his favorite place on the globe. He is a Presbyterian pastor, and he has been serving as a chaplain at Grady Memorial Hospital since 2014. Anna’s sister and brother-in-law are both Presbyterian pastors as well, serving churches in the Charlotte Presbytery. Church conferences are a family affair!
Anna’s parents still live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. During football season, you will often find the whole family under a Clemson tailgate tent.
Some things sound just too good to be true, and that was the case for me when I learned that the gifted, visionary Anna Traynham was being called to serve as Senior Pastor at Shallowford Presbyterian Church, one of the healthiest and most faithful congregations I know.
At Union, Anna was an excellent student and received the preaching and worship awards, as well as a graduate fellowship, when she graduated in 2014. Just this past May, she served as the worship leader at Union’s prestigious Sprunt Lecture Series, where noted scholars speak annually. Creative liturgy is a special interest of hers.
My husband and I have many close friends at Central Presbyterian Church, a church I served for eight years as Minister to the Community way back in the day. Each and everyone of them rejoice that a young minister so talented, so spiritually deep, so adept at administration, so refreshingly visionary, so attuned both to their needs and the needs of the world has been their pastor. They will weep when she leaves. You will rejoice when she comes to you. How blessed you will be. Anna’s energy and her ability to help people connect with God’s Word and with the challenges of our changing world will ensure Shallowford’s growth in mission and outreach, as well as personal discipleship in the years ahead.
Anna proved herself a talented preacher, a fine liturgist, and an inspiring worship leader. I can only imagine that those gifts are going to flourish even more as she joins the ministry at Shallowford.