Our Church Staff

Senior Pastor - Veranita Alvord
Veranita (like Very-Neat-Ahh), born in Zimbabwe to missionary parents, has an open mind & heart to things & people who may be different than the norm. She’s left-handed & crossed-eyed & called to make a difference in the world, proving that God qualifies the called, rather than calls the perfectly qualified. Married to Joe Tarpley (Lead Pastor at Skyland UMC), whom she met in seminary at Candler School of Theology, Veranita’s early transient roots are held stable by Joe and his family from Rome, GA. They have been married 28 years. Their best work is their two children. Olivia, now fully employed & insured, has a Master’s Degree from American University. Olivia is 24 & lives  in Washington DC.  Ivan is 19 & a rising sophomore at UNCGreensboro majoring in Political Science & Geography.
Joe & Veranita have two outside cats- Pumpkin & Pearl. They also have a pandemic Yorkie pup dubbed “Nico,” by Ivan.
Nico has lots of other names that verge on silly!
Veranita has been serving the UMC for 28 years in rural, suburban & urban settings from Rico, GA to Charlotte, Shelby, Candler & Greensboro. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature  from UNCG, where she was active in Wesley-Luther Campus Ministry & a Master of Divinity & Master of Theology from Candler at Emory University. She received Certification in Spiritual Direction from a Jungian perspective from the Haden Institute in 2020. Presently, she is working on a two-year Dream Work Certification through the Haden Institute in Asheville. Veranita is feeling blessed to serve here as Lead Pastor. She can’t wait to witness to what God will do in this genuine & joy-filled community of Faith!
Hannah De La Riva - Operations Manager

Hannah grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP). She and her husband James met at UNCP and moved to Brevard in 2013. James and Hannah have three beautiful girls: Maylyn Gail, Stella Marie and Myla James. 

Although Hannah was a business and marketing teacher, most of her “career” has been spent as a “domestic engineer” and teacher to her girls. 

She and James are members of Calvary Baptist Church in Brevard, where her husband serves as a Deacon, and she serves by singing in the praise and worship team, as well as managing the AV equipment, broadcasting the worship service and using social media to reach people in the community. 

Hannah enjoys sports, quilting, spending time with her chickens, and coaching her girls’ athletic teams.

Timothy Shepard - Organist/Director of Music

Timothy Shepard has been the Director of Music and Organist at Brevard First United Methodist Church since 2008. He received a BM at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, where he studied sacred music practices, organ and choral conducting. He received a Masters of Sacred Music in Choral Conducting from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. He has been the Director of Music at churches in South Carolina and Georgia.  Mr. Shepard has performed as an organist in recitals throughout WNC including, with the Brevard Philharmonic, at Brevard College. He is presently the Dean of the Blue Ridge Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Rev. Kerry Purselle - Minister of Pastoral Care and Older Adults

Kerry works with Pastor Mike to call and visit parishioners. Since her ordination, Kerry has served churches in North Georgia, Western N.C., and Warsaw, Poland. She and her husband, Dick, have three sons who live with their families in Atlanta, GA. Kerry enjoys music, hiking, and spending time with friends.

Rev. Kimberlee Dodson - Minister of Christian Education

Kimberlee Dodson is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church with her certification in Christian Education.  She is a graduate of Furman University and Scarritt Graduate School.  After serving churches in Naples, Florida and Durham, NC, she and her husband, Marcus moved to Brevard in 1993 when Marcus became the hospice/hospital chaplain at Transylvania Community Hospital.  Kim served as our church’s full time Christian Educator from 1993-1998.  When her second child was born, she became a full-time mother continuing her work in the church as a layperson leading an adult Sunday School class, teaching Disciple, helping with VBS and directing the Early Christian Meal.  In 2006, she was approached about returning part time to the role of Christian Education/Children’s ministry.  She has served in this capacity part-time since then.  Kim’s husband, along with his hospital work, also serves as pastor of Lake Toxaway UMC.  Their three children, Maggie, Jeremy, and Emilee were all born here in Brevard, were raised in the halls of FUMC and are now spreading their wings in the world.

Rev. Peter Batchelder - Minister of Outreach Ministries

Peter was born and grew up in a coastal New Hampshire town. Met Beth, his wife, there. Served US Navy for 4 years, married Beth, and graduated from UNH in 1967. Employed by DoD at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and

Computer Application Support Development Office for 12 years, during which time a daughter and son were born to them: Rebecca and Seth. Served as a consultant for Harbridge House/Development Science Services for 3 yrs. Went with family on short-term mission with Youth With A Mission for 1 year; upon return entered Gordon-Conwell Seminary, graduating in 1986. Served in pastoral roles at Bethlehem Church (Lake Oswego, OR) and Harvest Church (Cell-based, church plant in Glendora, CA). Directed continuing education at Fuller Seminary (Pasadena, CA) for 12 years. Concluded his pastoral role as outreach and missions pastor at Marin Covenant Church (San Rafael, CA). Peter retired in 2014. Peter and Beth moved to Brevard in 2017.

Sherry Carter - Finance Manager

A native of North Carolina, Sherry grew up in Brevard and has spent most of her life here. After marriage, she moved to the Atlanta area with her husband, Steve, (of 29 years) where they worked for four years.  They then moved to Greenville, SC where they lived and worked for 17 years.  Following Steve’s retirement, they decided to make Flat Rock their home. 

Most of Sherry’s 25-year career has been in bookkeeping, with 15 years serving in several different churches. She and Steve are active in worship and Bible study at their church.  They have 4 children between them, 6 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.  They have enjoyed traveling in their motorhome, spending time with family and friends, attending the grandkids’ sporting events, and anything else they are active in.  They have a 17-lb. Ragdoll cat who is spoiled rotten.  Sherry enjoys making gifts for special occasions.

Kelly Merrill - Weekday Children’s Program Director

Hello! My name is Kelly Merrill. I graduated from Mars Hill University in 2016 with a
Masters in Education.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husband, Dustin, and our four-year-old
son, Barrett. We love to travel, garden, and spend time with our dogs, Milo and Birdie.

Barrett has been apart of WCP since 2019. We have thoroughly enjoyed the program and its wonderful teachers. I am excited to be the Director of this program and look forward to the year ahead!