After almost 11 years of service, Rev. Donna Cobb will be leaving her position on June 23, as pastor of the two-church charge of the historic churches of Snow Hill United Methodist in the Cowee community, and Iotla United Methodist Church in Iotla Valley.
She came to her position in August 2002 with years of training, experienced in working with small churches, and equipped with administrative knowledge gained through her various positions in the United Methodist Church (UMC).
“Pastor Donna,” as she is affectionately called by her parishioners, worked at the Hinton Center in Hayesville as an administrative secretary in 1986. The Hinton Center specializes in retreats for pastors and other groups, training mission work teams, and providing training for small churches. Later she became the full time director of the mission work team program.
In 1991, she went to work as a pastoral associate in the Cherokee County United Methodist Parish, which consisted of 10 churches. In addition to this part-time position, she became the secretary of the First United Methodist Church in Hayesville, where she remained until 1994. While at First UMC, she learned the mechanics of running a church through administrative and clerical responsibilities.
Rev. Cobb says she owes much of her knowledge in administration to her former pastor and mentor, Rev. Thornton Hawkins. She had learned small church ministry while at the Hinton Center, and the common problems of small churches — all valuable preparation for pulpit ministry.
Her pulpit experience began in a small church she attended when she started filling the pulpit when the minister was gone. While not looking for a pulpit ministry, she wanted to help the pastor in any way she could. Later she would see the value of this experience as she trained as a lay speaker and began to fill pulpits in the absence of other area pastors and leaders.
In 1995, she became interim minister of Sweetwater, a small church in Clay County, while she was still working in the Cherokee County UM Parish. In April 1996, the district superintendent asked her if she wanted to continue as the pastor of the congregation, or be relieved.
Pastor Donna said she would like to stay and for the first time, she recognized her calling to pulpit ministry, and enrolled in school to obtain her license that same year.
She stayed at Sweetwater until 2002 when her parish duties ended, and the district superintendent found her a full-time position as minister to the Snow Hill-Iotla twochurch charge.
Through the years, both churches have been involved with, or supported the other’s outreach projects. Each group has established a ministry that has aided the Iotla and Cowee schools. Women from both churches have joined in the United Methodist Women’s organization that meets monthly to promote and learn about mission opportunities. A food pantry, started two years ago at Snow Hill, has the support of Iotla parishioners. In addition, the two churches come together for various services at different times of the year.
“My greatest joy is watching the congregations grow under God’s grace and from knowing my ministry has touched people’s lives,” said Pastor Donna.
Rev. Cobb sees her departure as the opening of a new chapter in the life of the two churches and that of her family. Her daughter, Jessica, a captain in the U.S. Air Force, will begin a new chapter in her life and career with a new assignment. Her son, James, has just completed his first year of college at Davidson. Both have grown up in the church ministry. Along with her husband, Mike, the couple is relocating to Florida.
The new chapter for the churches includes a new minister.
“I love the way the UMC easily provides for new gifts and pastoral leadership through their itinerant system. Rev. Steve Miller will come with a different set of ministry skills for this two church charge,” she added. She is confident that his ministry will complement hers, and lead the churches forward.
Pastor Donna will preach her final message to the Snow Hill and Iotla congregations on June 23. Rev. Miller will officially begin his position as minister of both churches on July 14.
Submitted by Nelda Kyger