Meet Our Staff
Feild Russell, Pastor
Known for his friendly, welcoming manner, Feild Russell has been with BEPC since 2011. After graduating from Hampden-Sydney College and Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA, he served as installed pastor or co-pastor in PA, VA and in Valdese, NC. He says that everywhere he has served, he’s been privileged to minister among many remarkable Christian brothers and sisters.
An interesting conversation took place recently among three of our members. One declared, “Feild’s main strength is his preaching. His sermons are so well thought-out, and they always inspire me to want to be a better person—to be more committed to living like we’re supposed to.” Another member quickly added, “Well, I love how pastoral he is. Anyone who has felt his comforting presence when they are stressed with sickness or sadness, knows how compassionate he is.” The third person mentioned another attribute. “He has given us such positive leadership. He’s moving us into fresh directions, such as more emphasis on serving younger people—children and families.” Could all this conversation be referring to one person? Yes, they are all describing our pastor, Feild Russell.
At the close of a worship service in the fall of 2014, our congregation joyfully witnessed the marriage of Feild and our own Laura Banner Carringer. “A perfect match!” many exclaimed. Laura has two children who grew up in BEPC, Hogan and Amanda. He has two grown daughters, Kate and Anna, whose mother, Rev. Jenny Russell, died unexpectedly soon after Field began serving us as Interim Pastor.
Feild is active in presbytery work and is on the Lees-McRae College Board of Trustees. Looking forward to ministry with BEPC in the coming months, he states, “I am excited because we are in this together, receiving blessings, meeting challenges, and encouraging one another as heirs of God’s grace through Christ and recipients of the Holy Spirit’s power….Life and ministry among you is filled with meaning and delight.”
Ed Donnell, Parish Associate
Ed Donnell has served congregations in WV, KY and in Raleigh, Beulaville and Roxboro, NC. He was Associate Pastor for Church Education in the three larger congregations and solo pastor in the two smaller churches. Ed quips that an informed and creditable source says that a look into his resources gives a peek into the varieties of his ministries as his library contains panty hose, hula hoops, clown makeup and videos, puppets…educational books, drama scripts and costumes, and of course the standard Bible commentaries and text study tools. Rev. Dr. Donnell received a B.S. degree in psychology at Texas A & M and his Doctorate in Ministry with emphasis in church education at Union Seminary.
The son of a Presbyterian minister, Ed was born and grew up in middle Tennessee, and his mom and brother live in the NC piedmont. Cathy Richmond, his wife of 35 years, is from Mebane, so he feels close ties to this region. “Cathy and I are fortunate to have one son who raised us quite well and who lives in Texas with his wife and our two most precious grandsons (multiple pictures available upon request),” he laughs.
He adds, “We consider ourselves very fortunate to daily enjoy our love of the NC high country while appreciating our strong Presbyterian heritage and its roots from Scotland found here.”
As Parish Associate which began with our congregation in 2015, Ed’s ministry concentrates on families and young children. Using his enthusiasm and wide array of talents, Ed is assisting BEPC in becoming a more multigenerational congregation.
Leslie Piper, Parish Associate
Even though her official duties as “Parish Associate” began in 2015, Leslie has been involved with our congregation’s ministry since moving to Banner Elk in 2013. She has facilitated women’s study groups, hosted fun gatherings, and volunteered with Feeding Avery Families and Habitat.
Leslie and husband, Rev. Brant Piper, a NC Certified Pastoral Counselor, have two children, Emily (30) and Cameron (20). When they realized they were becoming empty nesters, this presented the perfect time to make a change. “I’ve always loved the mountains with a ridiculously large love,” she says, and already being familiar with this area, they decided to re-locate here.
She holds a MA degree from Presbyterian School of Christian Education and Master of Divinity from Union Seminary, Richmond, VA. She was Associate Pastor for 12 years at First Presbyterian Church, Kirkwood, MO, and at First Presbyterian in Concord, NC, 1998-2013. Her hobbies include camping, reading, writing, crafting and sewing and hiking.
Leslie’s work as Parish Associate is evolving as it moves along but primarily includes developing educational programming for young adults. She states, “It is my hope that the young adults of the church will become more involved in the life and ministry of BEPC, and that our members will discover the wonderful potential young adults represent for the present and future of the church. I hope our entire church family will be strengthened through the gifts for ministry that our young adults offer as they discover the great benefit to their lives which stronger ties with the community of faith represent.”
Rob Clemmer, Office Administrator
“Ask Rob,” is one of the most often used sentences around the church. Rob knows just about everything (and everybody), and he’ll answer questions, help locate whatever is needed, or do whatever it takes to help get the job done. An outstanding educator in both the classroom and administration before “retiring” to the mountains, Rob and his wife Phyllis, met as students at Lees-McRae College. Until about 1999, they lived mostly in the Winston-Salem area where they raised their three children. They enjoy telling about trying to “commute” between Winston-Salem and Banner Elk for a year or so, coming here twice a week for choir practice and then to spend weekends. Finally they fulfilled a life-long dream of moving to Banner Elk fulltime. They immediately jumped into leadership roles in Christian education and with youth, until after a number of staff changes and developments, Rob’s eventually became Office Administrator. And although he has a job description, his days include some of almost everything needing to be done. Rob enjoys singing in both choirs and plays golf every chance he gets, but perhaps the most fun he and Phyllis have is cheering on their two grandkids in athletic events. Remember, if there’s anything you want to know about our church, just ask Rob!
Dedy Traver, Administrative Assistant
Dedy says the love of skiing brought her to Banner Elk many years ago, soon after the Sugar Mountain Resort opened. She has wide-ranging experience in office management, and everyone in this church knows how pleasant, informed and helpful she is. However, some folks may not know that among certain circles, Dedy is known as the “Duchess of Who-Dunnit Mysteries.” An avid reader of English cozy murder mysteries, Dedy and several friends write, produce and host mystery productions along with high tea parties in her home each year as fund raisers for Holy Cross Episcopal Church. She also sings in several choirs, plays hand bells, golfs, has been Clerk of the Vestry in her church for 36 years, is an election poll worker, serves on the Avery County Board of Equalizations. She is known for her work in various forms or arts and crafts—including expert jam and jelly-making. Dedy is a dauntless hostess, entertaining large eclectic groups of friends for holiday feasts as well as serving “proper” English teas featuring her to-die-for-hot-from-the-oven scones. What a versatile lady—and what a lucky day for our church when she began working here in 2011!
Diane Rydell, Director of Music
When Diane agreed to fill in as interim organist a number of years ago, little did anyone realize the profound impact her talents would lend to the music program of BEPC as her position evolved into Organist and Music Director. Diane trained in New York and met her husband Stephen there as they sang in opera. But she laughs that she learned to count and ring (a cash register) at an early age in her parents’ toy store—thinking this may have helped hone skills that would lead to beginning and directing our Hand bell Choir. She also began and directs the Men’s Choir which sings at the early worship services throughout summer. Diane’s lovely singing voice, as well as accomplishments in playing organ and directing, have helped develop our music program into a vital and greatly enjoyed part of the church’s ministry. Visitors are often extremely complimentary of the music they experience when worshipping with us, but members have become accustomed to the rich variety and quality we experience on a regular basis. When not working with our church music, Diane teaches music, saying she has taught students from 6 to over 60 years old–and she still enjoys it. A gifted musician, BEPC is blessed with the gifts she shares with us and recently recognized her 25 years of service.
AC Marriott, Preschool Director
Ann-Charlott is originally from Gothenburg, Sweden. “AC” came to America after receiving a full tennis scholarship to play NCAA Division I tennis at High Point University located in High Point, NC. After only 5 years she was awarded 4 Big South All-Academic Honors, Bachelor of Science and a Master’s Degree from HPU. AC comes to us from The Goddard School in Mooresville, NC where she was the Lead After School Teacher and Assistant Teacher in the pre-k classroom. While at Goddard she received several early childhood trainings and earned multiple certificates for her teaching. AC and her family moved to Banner Elk earlier this year as her husband Don is the Men’s and Women’s Head Tennis Coach at Lees-McRae College. Besides teaching and playing tennis AC loves spending time with her daughter Katariina and her two step children Cooper 15, and Mimi 14 years old. AC’s favorite color is purple and one of her favorite children’s books is “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown. AC’s passion for teaching has always been strong “being able to be a positive role model and present the children with a safe educational environment means the world to me”.
Margaret Trivette, Church Housekeeper
Margaret has been on our staff longer than anyone else, serving as Church Housekeeper for over 30 years. One look around the building and its evident how well she does her job, but her influence reaches much further than keeping the building neat and clean. She is known throughout the community for her helpfulness and compassion. Her daughter, Rebecca Bivens, describes her mom as “the most giving and caring person—always putting others first.” When not working at BEPC or helping others in the community, Margaret is busy supporting her husband Richard’s work as pastor of Faith Missions Baptist Church in Watauga County. They’ve been married for over 50 years and have three children and five grandkids. They are very proud of their daughters, Rebecca who lives here in Banner Elk, Tammy who lives in Boone, and son, David a missionary/minister in Florida. Margaret’s smiling face and upbeat spirit are inspirations to us all.