Pastor — Reverend Ben Acton
Ben grew up in the metro area of Birmingham, AL. A life-long Presbyterian, Ben’s family was the type who were always at the church whenever the church doors were open. It was a while before he realized not everyone spent summers attending Vacation Bible School, church camps, and Montreat.
Ben attended Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC, graduating with a degree in Religion/Philosophy in 2001 While at PC, Ben met Rachel Jernigan through the PC(USA) campus ministry group. Once he finally remembered her name after forgetting it 6 times(!), they were married in 2003, after Ben’s first year at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA and Rachel’s first year of teaching kindergarten in Stone Mountain, GA. Their family includes their son Nate and dog, Brady (“The Beast”)
Before coming to FPCOG Ben served two churches as Associate Pastor (First Presbyterian in Concord, NC, and Southminster Presbyterian in Vestavia, AL). In both places his area of focus was Faith Formation, and Youth Ministries, which continue to be passions of his.
As solo pastor of FPCOG, Ben spends most of his time each week in worship preparation, pastoral care, resourcing ministry teams, overseeing staff, and making connections in the wider community. For Ben, ministry in Christ’s name is about relationships, and he finds great joy in conversation over phone, text, coffee, lunch or dinner, or wherever and whenever the church gathers to serve and worship God together.
Outside the church’s walls, Ben (and Rachel) spend a lot of their time keeping up with Nate, but he also enjoys cooking, walking, reading, podcasting and Auburn University Sports (War Eagle!). Also, Diet Coke. Lots and lots of Diet Coke.
Director of Music Ministry — Bill Rashleigh
Bill Rashleigh is the “new guy” on staff having accepted the position of Director for Music Ministries in late July, 2022. But he is no stranger to music!
Bill grew up in Nebraska, and was raised in the Methodist church. Singing was a huge part of his life as everyone from aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, parents, friends, all sang. Out of a 15-20 voice church choir, nine members were related to Bill!
After high school graduation, he enlisted in the Air Force and after 4 years of service enrolled in the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He graduated in 1983 with a degree in voice and later earned a masters in conducting.
Bill’s professional experience included 19 wonderful years with the Barbershop Harmony Society. He traveled extensively and instructed both Barbershoppers and students at the university and high school level in the elements of vocal technique, conducting techniques, and choral singing.
Upon moving to Knightdale in the mid-2000s, Bill taught music and theatre at the high school and directed the Raleigh Chapter of the BHS. He also served as Director of Music at Hillyer memorial Community Church in Raleigh from 2010-2020. He is in his final year of teaching in public school as the Music Specialist at Jones Dairy Elementary School in Wake Forest, NC
Bill believes music should be fun and bring that sense of joy to his work. He also believes anyone can sing and is dedicated to helping voices grow strong and blend together to make a joyful noise to God. Such ministry he believes changes lives and can change the world.
Administrative Assistant — Stephanie Taylor
Stephanie was born in Atlanta, GA but has lived in NC most of her life. She graduated from Elon University in the Class of 2003 with a B.A. in Biology and Theater Arts (Technical Theater). She worked at LabCorp as a Technologist Customer Service Rep for 12 years before leaving to get married to her husband, Mark, and in doing so gained a wonderful daughter, Elizabeth. She came to The First Presbyterian Church of Garner in October of 2016. Since then, she has added another member to her family, Harry, who was born in February 2019 and who can sometimes be seen playing in the office when not at preschool.
Stephanie grew up in the Presbyterian Church and when she was 5 years old her mother became a Presbyterian pastor. Years later her mother became the first female ordained pastor in the Presbytery of New Hope. So, churches have always been like a second home to Stephanie.
Outside of the church, Stephanie has a wide variety of interests. She loves spending time with family and friends. She is the local and regional treasurer of an international non-profit group, the Society for Creative Anachronism. “The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is an inclusive community pursuing research and re-creation of pre-seventeenth century skills, arts, combat, and culture. The lives of participants are enriched as we gain knowledge of history through activities, demonstrations, and events”. Some of her other hobbies include crocheting, sewing, gardening, hiking, camping, and much more.
Organist — Gloria Oelke
Gloria was born in Staunton, VA, the first of four children. She was raised in Highland County, VA where her family attended Monterey Presbyterian Church. In 1976, she obtained a bachelors’ degree in mathematics from Longwood College (now Longwood University). She returned to her hometown high school to teach science and math. During that time she also served as pianist in her home church
In 1981, she decided to try something new and moved to Kansas to work as a mechanical engineering aide at a nuclear generating plant that was under construction. There she met Bruce Oelke and, in 1984, they were married in the First Presbyterian Church in Emporia, KS. They now have two daughters and three grandchildren.
The Oelke family transferred to North Carolina in 1984 to work at the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant construction site. They began attending the First Presbyterian Church of Garner, where Gloria sang in the choir as a soprano or alto, as needed. In 1989, she started another career at First Citizens Bank as a computer programmer. Today, she holds the titles of Assistant Vice President and Assistant Secretary.
Gloria became the organist at First Presbyterian Church of Garner in 1992 and considers her music as her witness. She has served as a deacon as well as an elder on the Session.