JENNY & BILL KRIESKI
Bill and Jenny Krieski moved into their new house in March 1984 and took their young family to nearby PGUMC for the first time that Easter Sunday, April 22, 1984.
They arrived early expecting they would find the pews crowded. But they weren’t. PGUMC was different then, as was Raleigh itself. Much of Lynn Road was still a dirt road. PGUMC’s congregation was older and much smaller than it is now. Most attendees lived within a short walk and had lived in the area most of their lives. “It was a neighborhood church where everyone lived around here,” Jenny said. Several families had attended for generations.
And then along came the Krieskis, a young couple with a new baby in a congregation where there were only a handful of anyone younger than age 5 attending.
Jenny remembers most of the people she met as older, with grown children. Or, as she notes, the age she is now. And they were Yankees when those were relatively rare in Raleigh. PGUMC had that “southern country feeling,” Bill said. But the Krieskis liked that first service. The minister at the time, the Rev. J.C. Loy, visited them at their home and they appreciated it. And while Bill and Jenny definitely felt like outsiders, they also felt welcome. After the birth of their second child, they became youth leaders. At the time, junior and senior high students were combined in one group and numbered about a dozen most Sundays. The challenge was finding topics and experiences that would appeal to anyone from 6th to 12th grades, Jenny said.
Bill started teaching Sunday school for 2- and 3-year-olds. Twenty-four years later, he still is. To a generation of PGUMC youngsters, he is “Mr. Bill.” Bill loves kids, Jenny said, and if it were up to him, they would have had more than their four offspring. Besides working with youngsters, another advantage to the job is getting to know their parents, Bill said. As PGUMC has grown, he has gotten to know many of the newer members by teaching their children.
Between the two of them, the Krieskis have served on every church committee, often as an officer. They’ve lived through many of the changes wrought by growth. Sometimes they miss that country church where everyone knew everyone, but the changes have been mostly positive.
Jenny remembers attending a church committee meeting one evening decades ago when she couldn’t find a babysitter and Bill was working. She took her two young children to the meeting and gave them coloring books to play quietly. As the meeting ended, she was told that she shouldn’t serve on the committee if she had to bring her kids. Of course, she was angry. Something like that “wouldn’t happen now.” Times have changed. When a young Jay Minnick arrived as the new pastor, he would drop by the house and take the Krieski’s kids rollerblading.
The Krieskis have given their time and talent since that first Easter at PGUMC. “We kept coming back,” Jenny said, “and you get invested in whatever you’re doing. Now we’ve become part of the ‘old regime’.”
–As told to Jane Albright in January 2020
CINDY & DAVE HARDY
We moved to Raleigh in 1987 and had been attending a local UMC church. I was pregnant with our first child and we decided we really wanted to look around and find a church that felt right for us. Due to a construction detour on Leesville Road, Dave found PGUMC which was really close to our home. Our first visit was in early 1990 and the title of the sermon was “Conflict.” Apparently, the church had been in conflict about the placement of the Fellowship Hall building. We were impressed with the pastor’s message. We didn’t know who he was fussing at with that sermon, but he was definitely making a point. People were friendly and welcoming to us, which hadn’t happened at some other churches we visited. The pastor, Curtis Campbell, came to visit us and we really liked him. We joined PGUMC in April 1990 and around that time there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the Fellowship Hall building. Tara was born in June and I remember Mary Ruth Hall and Lois Munford bringing us casseroles and vegetables from their gardens.
Dave – Paying off the bonds for construction for the Fellowship Hall Building.
Both – Around 1993, attendance was down to less than 100 per week and PGUMC couldn’t pay our conference apportionments. The church decided to decrease their budget and pastor’s salary, so we were appointed a brand-new young minister, Jay Minnick. As Jay grew as a pastor, our church grew and changed as well. There were some rough years as we navigated from the mentality of “we’ve always done it that way” to “what do we want our mission to be.”
Cindy – As the PPR (Pastor-Parish Relations) chairperson, hiring Joe Lupton as our music director. I couldn’t believe this amazing musician was playing in our little church. He changed our music program forever and became a dear friend to me.
Both – PGUMC became our family. With no biological family near us, our PGUMC family helped us raise our children and I see that closeness between other families with young children now. When our twins were born, the ladies of PGUMC brought us dinner every night Monday-Friday for a month. I will never forget how we were cared for during that time.
– Submitted in March 2020
DANNY & LUCINDA SULLIVAN
We found Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church in 1990 after getting lost in the parking lot while apartment shopping. We were moving to Raleigh with a baby, and we did not know anyone. One of the first things we decided we needed was a church family. After visiting several churches in the area, we were drawn to PGUMC because of the friendly people who made us feel welcomed.
When we started, we were one of the young couples. There were approximately 80 people each week at the one and only service we had. We quickly jumped into all the activities, and over the years, we have participated in most of the ministries PGUMC has offered, with a special focus on youth, music, and outreach.
We welcomed Jay Minnick in 1993, and fortunately he has been able to stay with us for 27 years. We have added two additional services, undergone a capital campaign to renovate our facilities, and our church family has grown in number. Many things have changed since we joined, but what has not changed are the friendly faces and the feeling of family we find at church each week.
We raised three children in the church, which offered them opportunities through the children’s music programs, Sunday school, vacation bible school, confirmation training, youth group, mission trips, and choir. All of these have strengthened us all in our spiritual growth and helped us all to be the Body of Christ in the world.
Happily, we can see our grandchildren experiencing those same opportunities now at Pleasant Grove. We still feel like this is our church family and we count our blessings that we got lost in the parking lot in 1990!
– Submitted in April 2020
People often make assumptions when they learn Allana Minnick is a minister’s wife, but those assumptions generally are wrong or incomplete about her.
“When people hear I’m a preacher’s wife, they think that I think a certain way,” she said recently. “I hate that.”
Since arriving with husband Jay at PGUMC in 1993, Allana has served as Sunday school teacher, youth group leader, children’s choir director, adult choir leader, and, often, substitute accompanist at the last minute when the regular organist or pianist called in sick. Obviously, she excels at church.
Yet Allana is much more than that. Since 1983 she has cared for sick and premature infants and their parents as a registered nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at WakeMed. She has taken leadership roles in the Triangle Down Syndrome Network, recently renamed the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance, and with the Miracle League of the Triangle, where children and adults with disabilities play baseball and learn acceptance.
She seeks out teachable moments when a person uses the ‘r’ word or a walker doesn’t yield to a blind person with a guide dog. Allana doesn’t hesitate to be fierce when she has to be.
Allana has always been active in church, growing up Methodist in Maryland. She graduated from Duke University with a nursing degree and stayed in the area. She was attending West Raleigh Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, serving as youth leader and singing in the choir, when Jay Minnick was assigned to the church for a field education opportunity as part of his studies for his masters from Duke Divinity School. The assistant pastor arranged for the two to meet.
At that time Jay was planning to go for his PhD and become a professor of Ancient Mediterranean Religions, so there was no clue about him becoming a minister when their relationship began. But as a graduate teaching assistant, Jay found the students in his classes at UNC-Chapel Hill to be indifferent and unengaged. In another field education opportunity, this time at a church in the NC mountains, which meant time apart for the couple, Jay discovered that participants in his Bible study classes at the church were there because they wanted to be. They had questions and were eager to learn.
Jay returned to Raleigh and to Allana with the idea that maybe he would like church work. He took a part-time position at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church and once again experienced the eagerness of church members to be interested and engaged in the classes that he taught there. Allana and Jay were married in 1989 at HBUMC.
His first appointment was to PGUMC, where the Minnicks have stayed ever since.
The parsonage they moved into wasn’t intentionally booby trapped, but when water poured onto the kitchen floor it was discovered that the drainpipe under the sink had been held together with duct tape. Anyone touching the light switch and sink at the same time got a 120-volt shock. But the parsonage was more than twice the size of the house they’d been living in, Allana said, so it seemed especially roomy to a young couple without children.
Allana immediately got involved at their new church. Her stint as Sunday school teacher for middle school students lasted from her arrival in 1993 to 2015.
She volunteered in 1995 to lead the children’s choir for ages kindergarten through 5th grade. “I know a little music, so I could do it for a little while,” she said. That lasted until youngest daughter Molly aged out in 2016. She was assisted first by Cindy Hardy, then Lucinda Sullivan, and finally Julia Ulanch.
At one point more than 40 kids participated. Allana says her greatest challenges were selecting the music and assigning roles. She would discreetly ask each child about a solo or talking part for the Christmas cantata or spring play. Those who reacted with terror were reassured. She noted that more than one shy kindergartener eventually became an enthusiastic performer.
Her son, Jonathan, was one of the enthusiastic performers always ready to sing a solo. The Thursday before the Christmas program in December 2001, the Minnicks learned that 7-year-old Jonathan had a brain tumor and would undergo surgery the following week. She asked the surgeon if Jonathan could sing that Sunday and the surgeon agreed.
On Sunday Lucinda Sullivan led the choir because Allana couldn’t. Prior to the beginning of the service, Danny Sullivan explained the situation to the congregation, so when Jonathan sang “Little Sheep and Little Lambs,” there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Staying close to Jonathan’s physicians at Duke University Medical Center is one reason Jay has turned down offers to move to bigger churches. But it isn’t the only reason, Allana said. The school system has worked well for all her children, Micah, Harper, and Molly. And there’s also her job. But it is the people of PGUMC and the sense of community here that have kept the Minnick family here for all these years.
In 27 years at PGUMC the Minnicks have experienced births and deaths, sickness and acceptance, ups and downs. “The church has become our family,” she said. “They have taken care of us when we needed taking care of.”
–As told to Jane Albright in June 2020
The Saga of “The Move,” 2017, (and some unholy thoughts!)
As we neared the start of construction, the cold realization hit us – we had to keep the church running 100% during the construction period. Well, this meant that we had to move everything out of the Sanctuary Building before the renovation could start.
The following issues became apparent: The 8:30 am and 11:00 am worship services could move to the Fellowship Hall, but where would the staff go? The staff could move into the Preschool classrooms in the Education Building, but where would the Preschool go? The Preschool could move into the Hyder House, but where would the Sunday school classes and church committees meet, and where would the Hyder House furniture go?
The classes and committees could scrounge for space in the main church buildings, and the furniture could be put into storage. It sounded like a reasonably straightforward plan, so that’s exactly what we decided to do.
One problem quickly surfaced, however: It was not really straightforward. Construction was to start on January 2, 2018, so we thought that we had lots of time in the fall of 2017 to implement the plan. Wrong! While a lot of tasks such as taking inventory, packing, etc., could be done in the final months of 2017, the Sanctuary Building had to be totally operational up to, and including, Christmas Eve. After allowing for the holidays, that left us with four days to completely empty the Sanctuary Building before construction started (unholy thought #1).
One of the most valuable tasks that we undertook was to do a complete inventory of most items that the church owned, including where it was located, and where it was destined to go. We devised a very complex system, including labels, that enabled the move back to go fairly smooth. In all, we inventoried and labelled 920 items.
A moving company was hired to move all the heavy items for the six required moves. All other items were moved by church members in their own vehicles. There was never a shortage of volunteers, and a “party” atmosphere was the general theme for the moves. Of course, this was fueled by all the coffee and donuts that were consumed. An interesting sidelight of this was that it was noticed that Dunkin’ Donuts stock soared.
Since we had limited space at the church during construction, much of what we owned had to be stored somewhere. We briefly used a mobile storage unit on our parking lot but abandoned that after two months when we realized that the contents would not withstand the heat of a North Carolina summer (unholy thought #2). We then rented a large 10’x20’ climate-controlled storage unit close by the church. A little later, a second identical unit needed to be rented. Each unit ended up being totally full, floor to ceiling.
Fortunately, we had decided not to store anything that we could possibly need during the construction period. What insight! Wrong! Several times we found that we needed items that we had stored and had to retrieve them from somewhere deep in the storage units (unholy thought #3). One of the more interesting trips to the units involved Pastor Jay. He spent a lot of time searching for something. I’m not sure what it was, or if he ever found it, but during his search Jay was heard to say, “Gosh! We own a bunch of stuff!” He may even have had an unholy thought. The whole storage unit adventure resulted in a new law of nature being discovered:
The degree of difficulty in finding something in storage
is directly proportional to the urgency of that item’s need.
We were thrown a curve in June 2018, when we learned that the flooring in the Education Building, where our staff were temporarily located, needed to be replaced in July, rather than later. This meant that everything had to be moved from the six classrooms into the Fellowship Hall, and then moved back several days later (unholy thought #4). Another call for volunteers went out, and, as usual, there was a tremendous response. Consequently, the Fellowship Hall was available for all Sunday worship services. There were a number of other tasks that were undertaken and were primarily done by church volunteers, and included:
Hyder House modifications
Bathrooms, front porch railing, fencing
Movement of playground equipment
Information technology (computers and phones)
Piano and organ storage
In summary, all aspects of the move were completed well before the dedication of our new facilities on September 9, 2018. In addition to our new facilities, another benefit was that we were forced to decide what items we did not need. We donated many items to other churches, some items to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and many items to Wake County Waste Disposal. The dedication of our many church members who volunteered their time and talents to make the move a total success was truly commendable. Pleasant Grove is indeed blessed.
Jill Boliek arrived at PGUMC in 2007 at the invitation of Music Director Joe Lupton. They knew each other as professional colleagues in the Durham public school system – she as chorus teacher at Riverside High School and Joe as chorus teacher at Jordan High School. They clicked right from the start. Joe asked her to sing along with the PGUMC choir at the Christmas cantata that year.
Soon, she was playing accompaniment on the grand piano on Sundays while Joe led the choir. “I really don’t know how one person can do it all,” Jill says, though Joe and many church choir directors do. Joe introduced her to “a really great page turner,” Harper Minnick, who was a second grader at the time. Harper turned pages for Jill until she left for college – and still does when home for the Christmas cantata.
Whenever Joe went on vacation, Jill would fill in for him. Their friendship grew and they often socialized together with their spouses.
Then Joe got sick with pancreatic cancer and had to take time off for surgery and treatments. Jill covered for him, though Joe tried hard not to miss many Sundays. At his Christmas by Candlelight concert in the Sanctuary in December 2012, he played to a crowd who gave him a standing ovation, which he acknowledged with a nod and a smile, too weak to stand. He played for both services in the Sanctuary on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, but he wasn’t up to his usual standards. Everyone could tell he was struggling.
The following Saturday Joe called Jill and asked her to fill in for him the next day. That day, Sunday, Jan. 13, would be the day Joe died. A couple of years later Jill named her daughter Joey in her friend’s honor.
Jill became interim PGUMC music director. She declined the position of permanent director. “I don’t know how Joe did it,” she said, “while teaching full time.” She agreed to stay until the position was filled.
Chris Dodson was hired for the position in May 2013. “We hit it off quickly,” Jill says. Chris told her that PGUMC still needed an accompanist. “I found I was not ready to leave yet, that I didn’t want anyone else playing that piano.” She also had found a great church family at PGUMC, she said, and has stayed ever since.
The quality of the PGUMC music program has gotten better, she said, with Chris able to give his full attention as music leader, choir director, and with her as accompanist. She thinks Joe would approve.
–As told to Jane Albright in May 2020
MISSION TRIP MEMORIES
Mission trips memories include hard work, laughter, satisfaction, joy, and fatigue. Here are highlights from several participants:
From Kevin Currin, who led Youth group mission trips and participated with other trips:
The interaction with the homeowners of the homes being repaired always ranks at the top for everyone. The physical discomfort: aching and filthy, sweaty bodies at the end of the day serving as reminders of incredibly hard work done for complete strangers and the feeling you’re left with. Getting out of your comfort zone, physically and mentally, and seeing the growth of others getting out of theirs. All of these are wonderful highlights from all the trips. But #1 for me is definitely the time spent working beside and having fellowship with our youth kids. The moments we shared in the evenings having meals, summarizing our day, sharing experiences with each other, praising each other for special moments or actions observed during the workday. The bonds created with them and the other leaders after spending every moment of a special week together are indescribable.
From Noel Currin, who led Youth group mission trips and participated with other trips:
The incredible liberating feeling of helping someone with pure physical labor and no expectation of anything in return. I loved the “good tired” at the end of a hard workday and feeling like I have made a difference. Each time it was an incredibly fulfilling experience. The priceless moments for me always come from seeing those around me working so selflessly, forgetting their own discomfort and putting their whole heart into working for strangers. I agree with Kevin. I really loved coming together at the end of a workday to relive the successes, creating strong bonds that go beyond the day to day trivia we all live with. Mission trip work, especially with the Youth kids, have been the most rewarding experiences of my whole life.
From Lucinda Sullivan, who participated in several trips:
It would be hard to pick a favorite memory from the trips since I have several, such as hearing my fellow workers snoring through the night and sleeping in bunk beds like kids, learning one of the team members had never had Bojangles (!!!), laughing because I couldn't get the power tools to work and realizing it was all operator error, and just laughing with my church family so much! I got to know people in the church and build those friendships and memories that last a lifetime.
From Danny Sullivan, who led several trips and participated in other trips:
2007 - Appalachian Service Project
My favorite memory is about the relationships developed in the teams! This team worked on Luther Wayley’s house in Butler, TN. We began by replacing siding on the back part of the house and then moved on to replacing the back portion of his roof. The team assigned to the project all agreed that Mr. Wayley was the reason we got up every morning, sore and aching, and returned to his house. Interestingly, we stopped each morning at a convenience store to get snacks, just like a real construction crew. When we first began to stop we were greeted with a hello, but as the week went on and the store owners realized why we were there, we became part of the community and they became a part of our lives, too. Each morning, it became harder and harder to get the crew back on the van to the job site. The same became true of our project house. As we started the project, the owner, Mr. Wayley, greeted us with a hello and as the week moved on, he came out for lunch every day with us and told us stories of his life. I most enjoyed watching my son Drew Sullivan become a leader on the roof, directing his team and even pushing his dear old Dad to work a bit later each day. To our team, our hard work reflected what a great friend he had become in such a short while. Mr. Wayley and I remained friends and I visited him a number of times before he passed away two short years later.
2010 – Charleston, South Carolina
Our team was assigned to work on replacement of a roof in scorching heat. We could only work in shifts of about 30 minutes, then down from the roof to have a cool off for 30 minutes. Our team pressed on and finished the roof by week’s end. We saw very little of the homeowner, but the bond we all built with each other was indescribable. Favorite memories of the trip included watching my very polished daughter, Challie Sullivan, work so hard while getting dirty and liking it. Other memories include a ghost walk through Charleston.
2016 – St. Simon’s Island, Georgia
Again to the roof! Our team was assigned a roof removal and replacement. The team worked so hard and my favorite memory was watching two of the youth, Harrison Sullivan and Erica Hardy, take over as foreman on the roof work. A very similar story emerged for the relationship with the homeowner. When we first arrived, she greeted us through a locked screen door. As the week moved on, we saw more of the homeowner and on the last day she was eager to see us and asked for a group picture with her. The evening fellowship was great, but most memorable were the beautiful setting at the St. Simon’s Episcopal Retreat where we stayed and the “talent show” with the kids. Every day we were reminded of the beauty around us and it drove us to wake up tired and weary and head back out to lay some shingles.
From Harrison Sullivan:
I would go along the same lines with dad, however being a youth member, the relationships built among all of us were almost as big as the relationship built with the homeowner. Being in the heat, it was very difficult at times and nobody really said it, but we wanted to quit at some parts. The relationship built with your team members in the times where it feels like you may pass out from a heat stroke is one that is hard to be built elsewhere in life. The moments spent on top of the roof, waking up at 5 AM voluntarily to beat the heat and sleeping in bunk beds with a room of boys who have been working outside all week are ones that I will not forget for the rest of my life.
From Chelsea Brown:
June 2007 – Appalachia Service Project, Sevierille, TN
“Team Pigpen” worked under a house installing a vapor barrier and included Caroline Winters Boyette, Kelly Brown Scott, Adam Schreiner, Colin Leger, Leslie Schreiner, Amos Brown, and myself. We spent most of our time in a small space under the house and dubbed ourselves “Team Pigpen” because of the dust that covered us. The smallest space was less than a foot tall; only Colin and Amos braved that end of the house. We stayed in a local elementary school. The makeshift showers were so cold, the youth decided to bathe in a nearby lake instead.
June 2010 – United Methodist Relief Center, Charleston, SC
My team worked on window frames, flooring, and painting and included Brooke McCurdy Fike, Tara Baitsholts, Kristi Brown, Martin York, Kelley Proffitt, Kevin Currin, and myself. It was so hot in Charleston that both teams of high schoolers elected to wake up VERY early in the morning to be done with our day’s work before the heat of the day set in. We stayed in a house, which was a perfect location for the youth to hang out in a “family” environment while not at work.
June 2014 – REACH, Roanoke, VA
Team 2 worked on roof facia, staining & painting, bee extermination, a summer camp for at-risk kids, and served breakfast at a homeless shelter and included Julia Daft, Scott Della Rosa, Destini Darden, Lauren Nann, Carlos Torres, Nathan Gamble, Heather Crew, Brie Morales, Mike Brown, and myself. We stayed in the Salvation Army, worked on a historic home, hosted a block party, ate at local restaurants, and enjoyed some tubing when all the work was done.
From Eileen Anderson, who participated in all three trips to Mississippi to work on Katrina recovery:
I worked on teams headed by Larry Mosiman and Noel Currin. First trip was the worst for working conditions and damage cleanup. It was hot as Hades. We tore out moldy attic insulation and drywall, filled trash bags with the refuse then had to take to designated areas for drop off. There were no bathroom facilities; we took turns driving to McDonald’s. We reminded each other to take breaks for water and get out of the sun. Larry also led the second team; by then, we were doing replacement insulation, drywall and painting. Also had access to indoor plumbing by then! Noel led the third team; she was awesome, a born leader who made the hard work fun.
Despite working in sweat-laced blazing heat, we laughed a LOT! We kept each other entertained, joked with each other and ultimately became new friends we otherwise wouldn’t have been. My daughter Kelly, just 17 years old at that time, worked feverishly, got along with everyone and even worked through an injury she incurred while cutting drywall. We had the best time together!