The First Presbyterian Church of Marion has a new spiritual leader who is getting acquainted with the local community and is eager to build on the rich legacy left by those who have gone before him.
Jacob Douylliez has been the new pastor for First Presbyterian since the end of October. At age 26, this is his first time being a pastor and he has not yet been ordained by the Presbyterian Church. On Sunday, Nov. 27, he will become an ordained minister and he can start using the title of reverend.
“It’s really great getting to know the community,” said Douylliez. “I will say there are not many churches like Marion that are open to a first call.”
As he begins his new pastorate, Douylliez often walks past the portraits of former ministers and lay leaders hanging on the walls at First Presbyterian. The historic church, which was founded more than 150 years ago, dates back to the very beginnings of the city of Marion and McDowell as a separate county.
“That can be a weighty walk,” he said. “There’s a lot of history, a lot of responsibility, a lot of tradition that falls on my shoulders.”
Although he is new to being a pastor, he comes from a family that has a long background with the Presbyterian Church. Douylliez was raised in St. Mary’s, Ga., which is located on the coast and is approximately 90 minutes south of Savannah. His father, the Rev. Rick Douylliez, is the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of St. Mary’s and is the longest serving pastor of that historic church.
The First Presbyterian Church in St. Mary’s is even older than the one in Marion. It was founded more than 200 years ago and has the oldest Presbyterian Church building in the state of Georgia. It also has the distinction of being the oldest building in Georgia that has been in continuous use as a church since it was built in 1808, according to that church’s website.
Douylliez said his last name has French origins and he’s aware many people will have trouble pronouncing it. To make it easier, he says folks can pronounce it as “de-lease.”
He graduated from Camden County High School in 2008 and from Piedmont College in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy. He lived in Birmingham, Ala. for a while before attending Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J. He graduated from there this past May with a master’s degree in divinity.
Douylliez is married and his wife Catherine works as a nurse. They have no children yet.
After graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary, the young Douylliez looked for a church that was willing to take him as a new pastor even though he was not yet ordained. He found it at First Presbyterian of Marion.
Douylliez said he was familiar with western North Carolina through his time at Montreat College.
Douylliez submitted his information and he was contacted by Robert Ayers, chairman of the church’s search committee. He went through the interviews and had to preach a sermon before the committee. His new position also had to meet the approval of the Presbytery of Western North Carolina, which covers 110 congregations.
His first Sunday here was on Oct. 30. Since then, several members of the church have expressed their enthusiasm for their new pastor.
First Presbyterian has approximately 200 members and there’s an average of around 100 people for Sunday services. Douylliez does not have an assistant pastor but Josh Smith is the youth director.
In addition to serving the spiritual needs of his congregation, Douylliez will focus on the needs of the surrounding community. He’s getting to know the pastors at other local churches.
Like his predecessors, he serves on the board of directors for the Maxwell M. Corpening Jr. Foundation, which provides assistance to people in need in McDowell County. He’s been attending the board meetings and working to make sure those who need the help are getting it.
And First Presbyterian has the good fortune of receiving a donation of land from the Barnes family. This land is located off Airport Road and is near Shiflet Field. Douylliez said he and church leaders are trying to figure out how to make the best use of it.
“There are a lot of things we could do with it,” he said.
Although he is new, Douylliez said he wants the community to know First Presbyterian is continuing its long tradition of ministering to the needs of Marion and McDowell County.
“I’m thankful those who have served the church as pastors and lay leaders left this church with a strong foundation,” he said.