One of Us: Keeping the Faith

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David Collyer
David Collyer

There’s a lot to be said for commitment. David Collyer’s first post coming out of seminary, 34 years ago, was Crozet Baptist Church. He’s still there, and it’s given him a long view of change in Crozet and a deep knowledge of the Crozet families he has comforted in their times of trial and suffering.

“We Baptists, all the free church groups, are free to choose who we like as pastor,” he said. “One thing is sure: if you don’t make the best choice you can change it. A good thing is that it can produce a long pastorate. And there are good things in that. You get deep personal relationship and that’s good in times of crisis. You don’t want to get stale, or lose creativity. But when you genuinely invest in a community, that’s when you get a return on it.”

For 15 years he lived in what is known as the Maupin House, since then sold by the church, across the street from the church’s front door. The Collyers then moved to  a quieter abode in Free Union. Roy Thomas was the pastor when Collyer came to Crozet. “I came as the youth ministry intern. I did that two years. It’s a lot to do and you don’t get paid well. Roy was a good mentor and we got along well.

“After that I was made Minister for Youth and Senior Adults and that went on for eight years. Up until the last 10 years I was an associate pastor who would do whatever. Only about then did I begin to preach every Sunday.

“I’ve also been involved as our music director—though I did take a long hiatus. I play guitar and I’ve been singing since high school.” Now he’s taking voice lessons and, with his wife Susan, he’s also a member of Crozet’s handbell choir, which has a rigorous practice schedule and requires close concentration. Crozet Baptist Church hosts the Crozet Community Orchestra’s concerts, too. “It’s a strong connection,” said Collyer. “We feel like they are part of us.”

But that’s all avocation. “I want to promote the larger Christian community of western Albemarle. I have a vision beyond Crozet Baptist Church that embraces all the Christians who are working hard to be Christ-like and promote God in our community. We are open to partnering in that.

“The Easter Sunrise service at Mint Springs Park is inspirational to me. That’s been held for at least 45 years. And the community Thanksgiving service is at least as old. I’ve been in that every year I’ve been here.” CBC’s Sunday attendance averages about 150, Collyer said, but looked at as a monthly figure, the total membership is around 300.

Collyer, who, like his wife, is from south Georgia, went to the University of Georgia as a history major. Then he went on to Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. Later he went to Drew University, a United Methodist seminary, and is at the stage of writing his Ph.D. dissertation.

“I grew up in the church and I always had a positive experience. My mom made sure I was there. My dad later renewed his commitment. In college I began to be active in Baptist student organizations. For two summers I was what they call a summer missionary in Indiana and Michigan.  I thought, maybe God is calling me to do this full time and I decided to go to seminary. I had the experience to know I could do the things you have to do as a pastor. There was a sense of ‘ought-ness’ [to do it]. That’s the Holy Spirit.

“I expected to go back to south Georgia. I had resumes out. I saw a notice at Seminary that a group from Crozet was coming. It was Ben and Maria Hurt and Judy Barber. We hit it off right away. I felt it was the right thing.

“It’s been my one and only ministry. I’ve done others, but not fulltime, and it’s been good. There’s been an opportunity for variety and the community has changed, but God has been good.

“The church I came to had a majority of members who were related to each other. That had a style and culture. In recent years we have had new folks and new ideas that come from their experience. If those new ideas are worthy, we are open to them. We try to be discerning. Crozet Baptist is such a welcoming community and that remains true. Obviously the community has changes a lot. At one time I could walk into any business and see two or three people from church. Now I go in and I don’t know anybody.

“This is really important to me: There are few relationships that aren’t going to experience conflict. Are you going to leave, or are you going to work through it and get to a more meaningful relationship? We give up on relationships too early these days. Some you have to, but there ought to be a lot of striving before that. I don’t like to give up on people. Help them to grow. Rally around them before you give up.

“I think the big problem in the world today is selfishness. My job is to help people move closer to God. It’s a gradual process. Sometimes people make leaps, but usually it’s slow. That’s one of the benefits of a long pastorate. That’s who I want to be, to encourage the faith journey. That goes for me, too. I’m not Mother Theresa or Billy Graham, but I’m trying to move.”

“I love that bumper sticker, ‘Wag more, bark less.’ We need more kindness in our interactions with each other. The Bible clearly calls us to it.

For all his focus on sanctity, Collyer is an avid reader of science and likes to check in on a science blog, “13.7,” a reference to the estimated age of the universe. He also reads to keep up with current events.

His office is serene and dignified with photos of National Parks he has hiked in on the walls. “I enjoy the outdoors. I’ve also become a foodie. Susan is really something. She is very scientific about her cooking. And she really does think about other people more than herself.” Susan is a well-known mainstay in the kitchen at Green House Coffee.

“I’m at the stage of life where my parents are passing out of life,” said Collyer, who will turn 60 in November. “I want to continue to grow as a pastor. CBC wants to be a strong resource for Christ in Crozet. We like to work with school counselors to identify needs of children. We want even stronger relationships  with organizations such as the Crozet Community Chorus, Girl Scouts, and the Crozet Community Orchestra.

“We want to remain faithful followers of Christ in a changing world. Slow and steady. Strong and steady wins the race.”

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