peachtree road storybook

Write down for the coming generation what the Lord has done, so that people not yet born will praise him. – Psalms 102:18

The Pastoral Counseling Service

The concept of “unique” usually diminishes over time as ides and structures are replicated, but the Pastoral Counseling Service at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church was unique when launched in January of 1974.  At the time, there were no other churches known to be offering full-time individual, marriage, and family counseling in the southeastern United States.

Early in 1973, Senior Minister Dr. Thomas Whiting offered Dr. Quintin Hand, a professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Candler School of Theology, a sabbatical assignment to explore the feasibility of a counseling center housed within this church, and available to both members and the community at large. Additionally, it was to become self-sustaining reflecting that only space be given by the church with all other expenses and services funded by the counseling center itself. Dr. Hand’s research resulted in the church’s national search for someone to initiate and lead this new ministry.

I learned of this opportunity while serving as a clinical chaplain at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. I had grown up in Western North Carolina, attended graduate school and pursued clinical training at Duke University, had served as an associate minister in Greensboro, North Carolina, and was intrigued with the possibility of this new proposed program. So I called Tom Whiting and applied for the position. I can still hear the Senior Minister’s secretary, Blanch Sillay, and her soft, definitively soothing Southern accent answering the telephone.

I knew I had the qualifications that the position required, yet I also knew there were many other ministers with similar or even better clinical credentials between Des Moines and Atlanta, but I was chosen as one of the few to be interviewed. I spent a weekend in Atlanta, and was, honestly, overwhelmed by the church, the congregation, and its ministry. Two months later, Tom called me with an offer to come and begin the ministry on January 2, 1974.

It came to pass: a bit of skill and audacity on my part, acceptance by the staff and congregation, and the grace of God. What a gift and opportunity I was given.  The Rev Ron Greer joined me as a pastoral counselor in 1982. Ron had come to talk with me about his creating a Pastoral Counseling Ministry in another location. At the time he was finishing an advanced degree, had served a local congregation as senior Minister, and was currently a Chaplain at a mental health hospital.

Significantly, something sparked between him and me, and we each perceived a vision that together we could do something better than each of us could do alone. He was to become an equal business partner and a brother of choice. Ron’s gifts and graces were also unique in the balance, reputation, and functioning of this special ministry. And they still are.

Ron and I were given unusual independence and responsibility for United Methodist Ministers pledged to the itinerant appointment system. We have managed positive relationships with six different senior ministers, a host of staffs comings and goings, and the queries of five different Bishops who have respectfully blessed us and then left us to do our work. Any of the above-along with the politics of competitive authority-could have derailed the Pastoral Counseling Service. I am grateful and humbled that I, and now Ron as Director, did and continue to do what we believe we were called to do.

Dr. Andrea Dewalt joined the practice shortly before I retired in January of 2012. Ron and I, and our Board of Directors, felt strongly that the Pastoral Counseling Service needed a woman therapist also. Andrea is young, very bright, and has added to her degrees a theological education, and brings a set of skills that only add to the depth and legitimacy of what the Pastoral Counseling Service offers.

In remembering and recounting all of this, and valuing the literally thousands of persons who have entered and then left our offices, I remain a bit overwhelmed. But I will be eternally grateful to Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, and humbled by the God who requires us to be in authentic relationships with other persons.

Lawrence C. Adams
Founder and Retired Director of the Pastoral Counseling Service