Meet the elder and trustee nominees who will be elected in August to begin service in 2019.

Elder Candidates

Donna Miller

Donna Miller has been coming to First Presbyterian since 1993. She coached intercollegiate tennis for 20 years. She has an older sister, a younger sister and a younger brother. She enjoys running and working out, which she does six days a week. She enjoys the outdoors and dogs.

What are you most eager about in serving on Session? The operative word is serve. I am most eager to see how God would have me serve his church on Court Square. I want to enter into this with no preconceived notions.

What ways do you hope to contribute to the Session? First of all, to be prayerful in discernment of God’s direction and leading for His church, and then to be obedient in pursuing His will in partnership with the Session.

What’s something God is teaching you that you’d like the congregation to know? I believe He is preparing me for the next season in my life. If anyone asked me where I see myself in five years, I honestly could not answer. He has really raised the bar on my patience and trust in Him.

Pat Haden

Pat has been attending First Presbyterian since the 1950s. She is retired, and retirement brought a deeper level of commitment to First Pres. Pat has a son and two granddaughters, 13 and 11. Aside from her volunteer work at church, Pat volunteers with JMU’s Lifelong Learning Institute and the Sake Kids’ Coalition. She is governor-elect of the Virginia District of Pilot International, which she has been a part of for 40 years. When she can, she likes to read for pleasure.

 What are you most eager about in serving on Session? While serving on Session, I am looking forward to expanding and developing a better understanding of the “workings” of FPC. Most importantly, I want to grow my faith.

What ways do you hope to contribute to the Session? My heart lies in the Local Mission area of FPC. I hope my connection with the Soup Kitchen and Open Doors and our “neighbors in need” will bring a voice to the Session where the needs of these groups might be recognized and fulfilled.

What’s something God is teaching you that you’d like the congregation to know? Patience!  I am not a patient person. I believe God has been working on this issue for quite some time now through separate events in my life. I just need to remember to “listen.”

Martha Graham

Martha grew up at First Pres, and she and her husband, Mark, were married here in 1976. After leaving for college, Martha left First Pres for more than 30 years. When she came, she says, First Pres was a different church, and she was a different person. Mark and Martha have four married children and seven grandchildren. She retired last summer from more than 35 on-and-off years as a writer for JMU and she now writes under her own imprint.

 What are you most eager about in serving on Session? For a longtime I have wanted to be more involved with First Pres but hadn’t found the right place to fit in. I am eager for the structure of the session, the relationships it will engender and the opportunity to serve. I also think God has some amazing plans he wants to implement through our church and I want to be part of them.

What ways do you hope to contribute to the Session? I am wholly intimidated by the responsibilities of this job, and I do not necessarily feel worthy. But (as I’ve told many people) one piece of advice I heard long ago still resonates with me. The advice came from the wife of Uncle Cam Townsend (founder of Wycliffe). She said two kinds of people apply to Wycliffe. One group says, “I can do this and this and this for you. Put me to work.” Another group says, “I don’t know what I can do, but I’ll do anything God wants me to do.” I want to be in the second group.

What’s something God is teaching you that you’d like the congregation to know? Lately, I’ve been realizing that God is a pursuer. He pursues each of us in multiple ways — and I think that First Pres reflects that characteristic of God. Never in a church setting have I felt more pursued, more accepted and more welcome than I have at First Pres. In turn, I want to be part of God’s pursuit of the lost and the forgiven.

Carl Larsson

Carl and his wife, Kelsey, started coming to First Pres shortly after moving to Harrisonburg in 2016. He says he is grateful for how quickly everyone welcomed them to the community. He has served on the Stewardship and Adult Discipleship committees. He enjoys fly fishing, skiing, BBQ and working as an assistant professor at JMU, where he teaches in the College of Business.

What are you most eager about in serving on Session? I’m looking forward to having new opportunities to help carry out the mission of First Pres as we “love Christ, proclaim truth, serve our community, and grow God’s kingdom.”

What ways do you hope to contribute to the Session? One way in which I hope to contribute to the Session is by helping to find new ways to get more young adults involved in the life of our church.

What’s something God is teaching you that you’d like the congregation to know? Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Patrick Werner

Patrick has been attending First Pres for 15 years and says he “loves the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind.” He and his wife, Amy, have two children. He is currently working on the process of becoming a Commissioned Lay Pastor so he can better serve this church and be ready for what God calls him to do in the future. He and Amy are currently bi-vocational missionaries in Cuba serving there alongside Christians spreading the Gospel. He hopes to facilitate covenant partners to join in that ministry through mission trips. During the school year, he is a middle-school teacher in Harrisonburg City Public Schools.

What are you most eager about in serving on Session? I am eager to serve Jesus in whatever way he calls me to serve.  I hope to continue to develop my relationship with the Lord and shepherd the congregation to do the same while spreading the Gospel.

What ways do you hope to contribute to the Session? I hope to contribute more of myself to God’s work and what I believe God is calling our church to do through my relationship with Christ.

What’s something God is teaching you that you’d like the congregation to know? God is teaching me that I am not in control but he has laid out my steps before me and he loves and knows me better than I do. I am also learning to trust in him and turn to prayer and discernment as I walk through daily life.

Candidate for an unexpired term in the Class of 2019

Dan Clements

Dan joined the First Presbyterian family in 1996 after moving to Harrisonburg from Roanoke. He is the proud dad of three children (Drew, Julie, and Macie). Dan served as a deacon in the past and finds joy in serving others through local missions and outreach. Dan came to faith as a young man in the Navy and is excited and committed to find ways to serve the Lord he loves.

Trustee Candidates

Mal Lane

Mal and his wife, Maureen, have been attending First Presbyterian for eight years. Mal is a retired computer science professor and worked at both Duke University and JMU. He has worked as an IT and financial consultant in 38 developing countries. He also has served as a deacon in three Baptist churches and has sung in church choirs for 52 years. He an Maureen, married for 52 years, have two daughters and six grandchildren.

 What are you most eager about in serving as a Trustee? To be able provide guidance on the church’s investments and ideas on how funds can best be used in support of church programs and local and global missions.

What ways do you hope to contribute to the Trustees? Listen to church leaders and members and understand their expectations for using available funds for the Glory of God and use my past financial experience and knowledge to help meet these expectations.

What’s something God is teaching you that you’d like the congregation to know? In a recent Bible study lesson that I led in our small group, I discovered that many Christians have an entitlement mentality about expectations of their church and for worship. God revealed to me that we, as Christians and church members, must transform this to a servant mentality – serving God and people in need and witness to those who do not know Jesus and not focus on little things that might bother us about our church and worship.

Gannon Irons

Gannon and his wife, Hilary, have been members of First Pres since 2008. All of their children (Ethan, Isla Rose and Adrian) have all been baptized at First Pres. Gannon says many of the family’s closest friendships started in and were facilitated by their church experiences. He says they rely on this community for emotional support and for Christian education as our family grows. Gannon went on a mission trip last December to Cuba, and he says it enlightened him to the work that is being done and the work that needs to be done in the world to grow God’s kingdom. 

What are you most eager about in serving in this role? I am eager to take on the role of trustee for First Pres because it will give me the opportunity to give back to our church. The parable of talents demonstrates to us that we should use our talents and abilities fully to serve God. I am excited to learn more about how First Pres operates financially and to assist in the effective distribution of money as a means to create and grow a powerful ministry.
What ways do you hope to contribute? I hope to contribute wisdom which I have gained through my experience as a financial advisor, guiding clients on how to purpose their money to achieve their personal goals. I would do the same for the church in purposing money to fulfill our church mission.
What’s something God is teaching you that you’d like the congregation to know? God is teaching me to trust in him. Through many lessons I have learned that God is in control. Through prayer I have been able to turn my problems over to God. Through my small group Bible study, the overarching lessons I am learning is that God wants us to grow his kingdom. So many people need to know the grace of God; that our God is a forgiving God and loves them for who they are.
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