Meet our pastor, worship leaders and staff at Banner Elk Presbyterian Church!
Rev. Rachael McConnell arrived as pastor at our church in August 2021. She and her husband, Josh, have four sons: Isaac, Esmond, John and Willie. Rachael came to faith in Christ as a teenager after her best friend in high school asked her to sing in her church choir when she was 15 because of her love of singing. A Texas native, Rachael was most previously the director of children’s and family ministry at Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh.
A woman of many talents, Rachael earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in music from the University of Texas at Arlington. She has an enriched background in which she has done many things, from being a speech competitor and opera singer to teaching music and Spanish, and performing improv comedy. After graduating with her undergrad degree, she, Isaac and Josh moved to Argentina for two and a half years before returning to Texas where Rachael enrolled in seminary. She completed her Masters of Divinity at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and served in various capacities at churches in Texas before moving to North Carolina. Read more about our pastor!
Choir Director Nina Allbert began her career as a church musician at the age of eleven playing for her small hometown church. Since then she has been a soprano soloist/ section leader for Woodmont Christian Church and West End United Methodist Church in Nashville, TN. She has sung with these choirs and the Nashville Symphony for many concerts including a production of Handel’s Messiah with the symphony and ballet as the soprano soloist. She also led children and teen choirs at both churches.
In addition, she taught choral music and drama for 26 years with an age span of 3 years to adults. She has been an active participant with Lees-McRae Summer Theatre as an actor and music director. Nina has a very talented daughter, Roxie who lives in Connecticut. Nina and her husband Alan live in Roan Mountain with their new puppy, Dipsy Doodle.
Pianist/Organist David Soyars began playing piano for church at age sixteen and has been in music ministry for most of his adult life, with more than thirty years experience. Born into a musical family, David was singing in the church choir by age 10. Formal piano lessons and choral training began in Junior High, and High School was busy with marching band, musical theatre and choral ensembles– selected twice for All-State Chorus. Most previously, he served as organist/pianist for fifteen years at College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC.
Some of his highlight musical experiences have included an organ tour in the UK with the opportunity to “test drive” organs at five major cathedrals and singing with a 250-voice choir and orchestra at Carnegie Hall to premiere Pepper Choplin’s “Our Father”, a musical study of The Lord’s Prayer. In 2012, he recorded the Christmas CD Peace and Joy with modern piano arrangements of traditional favorites. He and his husband Mark File live in Banner Elk.
Alisa Ballard, Office Administrator, began coming to the Banner Elk area in 1977, little did she know that she would return to the area 39 years later to be a permanent resident. Alisa is originally from Lenoir, North Carolina, graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne University and moved to Wilkesboro, North Carolina where she became involved in the Wilkesboro Presbyterian Chapel, which is the historic mother church established in 1837 of North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church. Alisa became very active in the North Wilkesboro Church working with Presbyterian Women, Vacation Bible School, Presbytery, volunteering in the church office and later as Interim Director of Christian Education.
In 2005, Alisa moved to Winston-Salem area where she became a member of Highland Presbyterian Church. Alisa has been a Vista Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and worked in various corporate environments during her career before moving to the Banner Elk area.
Dedy Traver, Office Manager & Bookkeeper, 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!
Ann-Charlott Marriott, Preschool Director, 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 Donald works at Mountain Air Country Club in Burnsville. Besides teaching and playing tennis AC loves spending time with her daughter Katariina and her two step-children, Cooper , and Mimi . 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, has been on our staff longer than anyone else, serving as Church Housekeeper for over 30 years. One look around the building and it’s 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.