At Banner Elk Presbyterian Church, the session is made up of twelve active elders, plus a clerk of session.  This group is elected by the congregation to serve in leadership positions to develop the annual budget, support and encourage mission projects, and to make decisions regarding the work and programs of this particular congregation.


Rev. Deck GuessRev. Decherd “Deck” Guess, Transitional Pastor and Session Moderator

Originally from Union, SC, Deck has been coming to the High Country since the 1970’s when his parents built a vacation home on Beech Mountain. He and his wife, Deb, love the mountains, its culture and people and are delighted that God called Deck to serve the Banner Elk Presbyterian Church.

Deck has had training as both a Natural Church Development Coach and a transitional pastor, having worked with several other churches in those capacities. One of his favorite aspects of ministry is worship leadership; he loves to preach the Word, but has a deepening appreciation for how music and art open people up to God. During his career in ministry, he has served as the pastor of churches in Mississippi, Florida and North Carolina.

Deck and his wife, Deb (a retired Christian Educator and workshop leader AND a jewelry artist), are the parents of four incredible adult children and one terrifically fantastic granddaughter, Clark (aka “Alarm Clark”) who has a gift of waking up her grandfather early in the morning! Deck enjoys tennis, skiing and loves to sport quirky socks which have spawned quite a few children’s sermons.

We welcome Deck and Deb and look forward to working together in ministry and service to our Lord here in Banner Elk.

Susan CarterSusan Carter - Clerk of the Session

Susan Carter is a child of the church, lifetime resident of Banner Elk, daughter of Margaret, wife of Lynn, mother to Karen and Andy, mother-in-law to David and Stephanie, step-mother to Ryan and Grant, grandmother to Lawson, Emerson, and Isabelle. She enjoys playing hand bells, singing in the choir, hiking, reading, knitting, and traveling. Susan is a retired educator of developmentally delayed preschool children through the Avery County Schools system. Susan has served in many capacities in our church: a church nursery school teacher, Sunday school teacher of young children, an active member of many congregational committees, several terms as elder and now as clerk of session.
Steve HillSteve Hill - Class of 2020 - Stewardship and Finance

Steve was born and raised in Kent, Ohio, a college town much like Boone, but a lot flatter, and he attended high school in a Cleveland suburb. He met his future wife Betsy while attending M.I.T., and after graduation he worked for a few years as an astronautical engineer in Southern California. Steve and Betsy decided that California was not for them, so they moved back to Ohio where Steve attended law school and Betsy enrolled in medical school. Eventually Steve settled into practicing intellectual property law, a.k.a. patent law, and Betsy became a pediatrician. They had two wonderful children, Sarah and Adam, and in between their births, Betsy went back and became a child psychiatrist. After working for a law firm for 20 years, Steve started his own law firm in Cleveland in 1994.

They moved to the High Country in 2014 for one simple reason—grandchildren. Their daughter Sarah had moved to the area, and they wanted to work as part-time babysitters. Sarah and her husband Matt Rupp practice law together in Boone; Matt is a former Assistant District Attorney. Steve is now mostly retired from his law practice, although he still does a little work from home. Betsy is practicing psychiatry part time here in Banner Elk. Meanwhile, their son Adam was attracted to the Great White North. He met a charming Canadian girl, Bren, moved to Canada where he got his doctorate and now teaches college on Prince Edward Island.

Steve spent his youth in a Congregational Church, but Betsy has always been Presbyterian and they were married in a Presbyterian Church. In Ohio, they joined a United Church of Christ (UCC), another Reformed denomination, where Steve worked in about every position there was, including the choir. The church has always been an important part of his life, both as an opportunity to serve and as a place to renew his faith.
Carol LarsonCarol Larson - Class of 2020 - Missions

Carol moved from Long Island to Cape Cod when she was 10. This was in the day when only the decedents of the founding families lived there all year round! Since her mother was a Nickerson they were IN! After high school, she attended Wells College, a small women's college in Upstate New York. She met Dick in her freshman year, and they were married a week after she graduated. They moved every three months for the next 18 months while Dick was in the flight training command. They were then stationed in Beaufort, South Carolina. She began teaching sixth grade and stayed there while Dick was in Vietnam. She became good friends with one of the chaplains who was a Christian mentor for her during that difficult time. Dick returned to Beaufort, and they stayed there until he began medical school at Duke. So, they moved again! She began teaching in Durham County Schools, and they joined Westminster Presbyterian - a young and vibrant congregation. Ten years later, Dick had finished his training, and they moved to Greenville, North Carolina where he joined a surgical practice and she became a stay-at-home mom. With some free time for the first time ever, they became involved in new church development. That culminated in the building of Peace Presbyterian Church. Carol served as an elder, on the building committee, on the CE committee and every other committee they had because there were so few people to start with! They soon discovered that if they stayed in Greenville when Dick was not on call, he would get called into the hospital. So, they began looking for a home in the mountains. They began with a small home on Beech Mountain, then a larger one when Dick retired, then moved down to the Elk Valley when the winters on Beech became too much. They have lived here full time since 2000 and transferred their membership to BEPC shortly thereafter.

At BEPC, Carol has served on the Mission Committee, helped run the CLUTCH program, coordinated Spaghetti Suppers, worked with the prayer shawl group, was a member of the last Pastoral Nominating Committee, and a member of the kitchen/fellowship hall remodeling committee. She is also helping Dick with Feeding Avery Families.
Debi TornowDebi Tornow - Class of 2020 - Worship

Debi and her McNair have lived on Beech Mountain since 2004, having retired here from Winston-Salem, where Debi sold real estate for 25 years. She now assists McNair two days a week in his law office.

Debi grew up in South Carolina attending a small, country Baptist Church. Then, while living in Winston-Salem, she joined Highland Presbyterian Church, where she served as Deacon, participated in Circle, volunteered at Samaritan Ministries, which involved serving the homeless in and around Forsyth County, and volunteered with Meals on Wheels. At Banner Elk Presbyterian, she have served as Elder, member of the Wedding, Worship, and Funeral Committees, preparing volunteer schedule for Ushers and Sound, as well as coordinating Shepherd notebooks. Debi and McNair also taught Sunday School for one of the boys’ cottages from Grandfather Home while they attended Banner Elk Presbyterian. She is especially delighted to be a part of Comfort Makers having been lovingly instructed by both Margaret Tate and Lynn Newman.

She says, “I feel blessed to be serving our Lord with such a caring congregation and staff. We are a growing congregation and it warms my heart to see children and young adults present, as well as our ‘summer families’ return. It is exciting to see and be a part of Banner Elk Presbyterian.”
Mae WeedMae Weed - Class of 2020 - Communications

Mae D. Weed is an elder, a Certified Lay Pastor, and a member of the Banner Elk Presbyterian Church. Previously she served as Development Officer-Church Liaison for Grandfather Home for Children, and Director of the Resource Center for Pittsburgh Presbytery for 20 years. She is currently serving on the Session of Banner Elk Presbyterian Church. She is on the Board of Avery County Habitat for Humanity, and on the Woolly Worm Board. She is a member of the Banner Elk Kiwanis Club and currently serves on the Board and as Vice President. She and her husband are currently co-pastoring the Lansing Presbyterian Church. She and her husband, Larry, have been married for 42 years and have two adult children.
Connie AddisonConnie Addison - Class of 2021 - Personnel

Connie was born in Albany, Georgia, moved with her family to Florida where she lived until age 9 when the family moved to Durham, NC. She was raised in the First Baptist Church and attended the same schools as Duane, whom she would marry in 2016. They both firmly believe it was Providence that brought them together. Connie earned her B.S. degree from East Carolina University and her M.S. degree from Radford University. She recently retired after twenty-seven years in education as a high school English teacher and Secondary School Counselor. She transferred membership from Central Presbyterian Church in Bristol, VA where she served as deacon, elder, Sunday School teacher, Bible School director, Youth Director, and member of various committees.
Bob BlalockBob Blalock - Class of 2021 - Membership / Outreach

Bob grew up near Statesville, N.C. He served in the United States Marine Corp with a tour in Vietnam with the 3rd Marine Division. After returning home, he attended Appalachian State University earning a B.S. degree and then off to Greenville, N.C. to receive a Masters from East Carolina University. Bob spent 30 years in the field of education as a counselor and coach and held other positions in high school and junior college administration. Because of their love for the mountains and to be closer to their twin daughters, Laura and Katie who work at A.S.U., Bob and Susan moved to Banner Elk in the summer of 2015. They also have a son, daughter-in-law, and three grand-daughters who live in Winston-Salem. Katie and husband Lawson Fields, have the newest grandchild, Hugh.
Lyndsay EnnisLyndsay Ennis - Class of 2021 - Educational Leadership

Lyndsay Ennis lives in Banner Elk with her husband, Jimmy, and two children, Libby (4) and Beau (3). She was born and raised in Elizabethtown, North Carolina. She attended NC State and obtained a degree in Agriculture, before returning to her hometown, eventually becoming a State Bar certified paralegal and obtaining a second degree in Paralegal Technology. She settled in Banner Elk in 2010 and joined our church in 2014. Lyndsay currently works for Carolina Mountain Title as a title insurance agent and underwriter. She serves on our Christian Education Committee and teaches our Sunday School class for our youngest children.
Bob ToddBob Todd - Class of 2021 - Buildings and Grounds

Bob Todd grew up in Bristol, Tennessee where he was part of a Presbyterian youth group, which annually spent a week at Montreat camp. After attending UNC for both undergraduate and graduate school, he taught high school math for two years before joining the USAF for a 24-year career. Besides attending Banner reunions with his wife Angela (the Banner), he was also stationed near Laura Banner Russell’s father in Alaska, South Carolina and Korea, where Earnest was instrumental in helping Bob and Angela adopt a brother and sister from Holt International Adoption Agency. After retiring from the Air Force, he taught high school AFJROTC and middle school math in Raleigh for 12 years. Since moving to the family farm in Plumtree, he has designed and built their house, raised beef cattle, and begun renovating their 100-year-old guesthouse.
Murry HaberMurry Haber - Class of 2022 - Personnel

Murry and his wife Sharon live on Sugar Mountain. They moved here September 2014, and they live here year-round. They moved here because of the friendliness of the people, the beauty of the mountains, and the cooler temperature.

Murry is inspired in worship; he loves the warmth of the congregation; and he is in agreement with the commitment to mission endeavors.

Murry is a retired pastor and has served a variety of churches for 41 years in Iowa, Ohio, Texas and North Carolina. He has served on Presbytery committees, was Moderator of New Covenant Presbytery, and President of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators. He is a Fellow with the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. He was ordained by the Grace Community Church of Raleigh in 2000. He operates the Food Pantry at Reaching Avery Ministry; he is a volunteer with Caldwell Hospice; and he has just joined the choir here at BEPC.

Murry says, “My faith journey is the most prominent experience in my life. It has sustained me during the losses in my life; and inspired me when my dreams have come into being. My experience as a husband and a father have caused me to grow into the person that God created me to be. My experience as a son and a brother have showered me with grace. I continue to be amazed at the way that God has brought healing to the broken experiences in my life journey.”
Don HilsmierDon Hilsmier - Class of 2022 - Fellowship & Nurture
Deka TateDeka Tate - Class of 2022 - Congregational Care

Service to church and community has been the byword for returning elder Deka Tate. Deka served Banner Elk for 12 years as mayor, and five years as mayor pro tem. She also has served on the town’s board of adjustment. She’s active with the Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce, currently serving as vice-president, and was a founder of the Banner Elk Heritage Foundation. She came to Banner Elk more than 45 years ago, and raised her three sons here. In addition to multiple stints on Session, and on various church committees, she has long volunteered as “flower queen,” organizing bouquets for worship and special events. The flowers in her life extend beyond her yard and the church - into her accomplished flower-powered art that has been displayed in the sanctuary.
Luana AndersonLuana Anderson - Class of 2022 - Fellowship & Nurture

While proudly proclaiming her Italian heritage, Luana Anderson was born and bred a Presbyterian; she joins our Session as a first-time elder. “I pledge to give my time and effort to this church as an Elder following in the footsteps of my late husband, who served many times over in this capacity,” Luana relates. She and George devoted untold time and talent to Banner Elk Presbyterian following their arrival in the high country in 2001. The “coffee lady” and always reliable kitchen worker for years’ worth of fellowship events now becomes Chairman of the Nurture Committee. She has served on multiple committees, currently including Outreach, and many terms on the Nominating Committee.