A farewell dinner for Pastor Richard Bryant and family is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Rec. Hall next to the church. Meat and beverages will be provided and folks are encouraged to bring a covered dish to share.
By Peter Vankevich
After five years, Pastor Richard Bryant of Ocracoke United Methodist Church, will move on at the end of June. He has been reassigned to the Bergaw United Methodist Church in Pender County outside of Wilmington.
The new pastor, Susie Fitch-Slater, is transferring from the Sharon United Methodist Church in Poplar Branch, Currituck County.
“We have enjoyed immensely our life on Ocracoke,” Bryant said about the island. “Our whole family has become enmeshed in the island and the culture. Our three daughters, Jordan, Mackenzie and Caroline Novak, have gone to school here and it’s been a blessing to be here.”
His wife, Mary Bryant, worked at the community library, the Ocracoke Preservation Society and served as a volunteer for many of the island’s nonprofit activities.
In addition to his pastoral duties he did a weekly radio show, “The Week That Is,” on WOVV 90.1 FM, the island’s community radio station. His program comprised a mix of news, music, humor and concluded with an uplifting message.
He is also a prolific poet. Soon after he arrived in 2014, at a sultry August Sunday afternoon poetry reading at Books to Be Red, he took to the stage, decked out in a newsboy cap and madras pants, and got the audience laughing with his “Wal-Mart blues.” As well as the humorous side of life, his poetry themes cover spirituality and reflections on daily life.
Sunday sermons would often meld a glimpse of the contemporary–a news event, HBO movie or a 60s sitcom scene--into a Christian context.
Ordained in 2007, he grew up in North Carolina. Well-rounded in education, he holds degrees in history, Russian studies and theology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Duke University. He also undertook additional post-graduate work in post-Soviet Studies at the University of Leeds, Leeds, England. Over his career, he spent two years in Russia, worked for a summer on an archaeological dig in Israel and he worked a shortened Peace Corps stint in French-speaking Africa (Togo).
The Bryants arrived on Ocracoke after spending two years in Northern Ireland. There, in a village outside of the city of Londonderry and along the border of the Republic of Ireland, he ministered to two United Methodist churches in a predominantly Catholic enclave.
“We were a minority (Methodist) within a minority (Protestant) where we were, which was a predominantly Catholic region,” he said.
Comparing the two, he noted the similarities and differences: One a much bigger island and both, at times, having a sense of remoteness. But the major difference was that Northern Ireland still had a tense political climate. Part of his ministry there focused on reconciliation, including inviting Protestants and Catholics to share meals together.
“We had a wonderful time in Ireland and made many friends there, but it was a different environment as you can imagine with different challenges placed upon us in ministry,” he said soon after arriving onto Ocracoke.