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Rev. Dana Waters joins Presbyterian Foundation as Ministry Relations Officer

His clear but scary call to ministry came while worshiping near Montreat Conference Center

by Chuck Toney for the Presbyterian Foundation | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dana Waters

The Rev. Dana Waters is the fourth person in his family — and the third Dana Waters — to be ordained into PC(USA) ministry. He is the newest Ministry Relations Officer to join the Presbyterian Foundation.

Growing up in South Highland Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, he recalls standing with his pastor grandfather, greeting congregants as they left the sanctuary after worship. Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and youth group were regular parts of his young faith life.

“My grandparents were both central to my faith development,” he said. “They entertained countless questions from their inquiring grandson. They also taught me several Bible verses that I still hold onto fondly today.”

As an adult, he has served individual churches as a youth minister, associate pastor, senior pastor, and interim pastor, all of which were gratifying. But he kept hearing a call to serve the church universal.

“I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up all my life to what God has always known was my call,” he said. “In seminary, I told my advisor that I thought I would serve in congregational ministry for five to 10 years then find a way to serve more churches and more people at the same time.”

“When I heard about this position, I told my wife, ‘This is what God has been preparing me for.’ There was joy in all of the ministry positions I had served, and I believe those have prepared me for this call.”

Presbyterian College years

Waters’s family moved to Aiken, South Carolina, midway through his high school years. It was there that he learned about Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina; he and several of his friends enrolled there together. It was at PC that he had a financial experience that he also believes is part of his divinely ordained path to this Foundation position.

“I was a French major and the campus bookstore wasn’t doing a very good job of getting our textbooks in,” he recalled. “I was frustrated, and my roommate joked that we should start our own bookstore — and we did! But I knew nothing about running a business, so I added a business major to learn the skills I needed.”

The dorm room bookstore was growing well beyond procuring French lit books; a business plan Waters wrote for one of his new classes turned into a successful proposal for funding from a local bank. When the contract for the campus bookstore was up for renewal, the president of the college asked him to submit a proposal to operate the bookstore.

“I was studying for finals and writing this proposal at the same time,” he laughed. “And then we got the contract!”

Hearing the call

After graduation, he stayed in Clinton for three years to manage the campus bookstore. And while he enjoyed that work, he felt a pull to something greater.

“I was starting to discern a call to ministry, and part of that was wondering how my business and finance experience fit into that call,” he said. He went to the Montreat Conference Center in western North Carolina alone, not for a conference or meeting, but simply to be in that sacred space to listen for God’s voice. On a cold and rainy Sunday morning in February, he went to worship at Black Mountain Presbyterian Church, where the Rev. Shannon Kershner was preaching.

“In that sanctuary, I heard a clear call,” he said. “It was probably the scariest moment of my life. It was the classic lightning strike, and I knew I had figured out what to do with my life. And I knew God was probably having a good chuckle.”

Waters spoke with his pastor back home in Aiken, who offered counsel on discerning a call and the opportunity to serve as youth minister there, as the position had recently become vacant. That year convinced him to enroll at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, where he earned his Master of Divinity degree in 2016 and embarked on eight years serving in various ministry capacities.

As Ministry Relations Officer for the Southeast region, Waters will serve churches in a territory that includes his home state of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and Puerto Rico. MROs work with congregations to create a culture of generosity; offer seminars and workshops; develop gift and fundraising plans for ministries; and provide coaching to finance, stewardship, and endowment committees.

“What gives me joy is helping churches tell their stories,” Waters said. “We’re not always good at telling the story to the people in the pews. I believe strongly in giving thanks, celebrating giving, and talking about those gifts.

“I feel like this is exactly what God has called me to do.”

Waters and his wife, Kira, live in Athens, Georgia, with their daughter Leona and three cats. A former Alabama football fan, he has recently become a devotee of Premier League Soccer and enjoys watching games in which his rooting interest does not affect his emotional state as strongly as Crimson Tide games once did.

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