Saint Mark United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Beth LaRocca-Pitts, has left the church, leaving Rev. Dr. Dana Everhart to take her place. LaRocca-Pitts will take on a new position as Senior Pastor of Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Decatur.

“If I could pick the person who followed me to Saint Mark – which I’m not allowed to do – I couldn’t have picked a better person than Dana,” LaRocca-Pitts said in a video posted to Facebook announcing the news. “I don’t know a single person in the conference that loves this church more than him.”

Everhart has been a United Methodist pastor for about 34 years, serving several congregations across the North Georgia conference. For six years, he served as the District Superintendent for the Atlanta Emory District, under which Saint Mark falls. Everhart officially began his new appointment on Jan. 1 but has been working with LaRocca-Pitts to transition into the church since November.

“I’m truly excited to be at Saint Mark,” Everhart told Georgia Voice. “This community of faith is one that has been leading the way for all people to be included into the kingdom of God since its founding in the early 1900s. Saint Mark has been a leader in social justice and social gospel. … Historically, [Saint Mark] was there for women’s rights, they were they for civil rights, and now we’ve been here for the LGBTQ community for several years and continue to be a beacon for other congregations to understand the need for that.”

Saint Mark is well-known among Atlanta for being open to all people, especially members of the LGBTQ community. Everhart says this is because Saint Mark strives to be “the true picture of the kingdom of God.”

“On Sunday morning, when I preached my first sermon and looked across the congregation, I saw all people – of color and gender and race and style of life – and it was a true picture of the kingdom of God,” he said. “I felt like, ‘Wow, I’ve arrived!’ I want others to come and experience that as well.”

Under his leadership, Everhart plans to continue Saint Mark’s mission of inclusion and acceptance by spreading the word to other congregations in the denomination – especially as the denomination splits over LGBTQ beliefs.

“[W]e understand that most of the UMC, especially in the perimeter, have become open and inclusive,” he said. “So, we’re not the only church, yet we want to continue to empower all churches … and help lead them in a positive way as our denomination shifts and changes.”

“This will be the church for all God’s people,” he continued. “We are excited and thankful, and we’ll always be appreciative of the LGBTQ community and how they have become a part of our ministry … I do hope people will feel welcome to come and experience what we do here at Saint Mark, gay or straight!”

Saint Mark UMC offers Sunday morning service at 9am and 11:15am, Sunday school classes open to all ages at 10:10am, and midweek retreats (which include a bible study and dinner) on Wednesdays at 5pm.

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