Member spotlight: Carolyn Bradley

Adapted from a conversation between Carolyn Bradley and Ellie Stewart, pastoral intern. 

How did you come to know God—or come to faith? 

I was born and raised in a family of believers, and my parents had already started going to First Pres when I was born, and so I would come here for church. Brant Copeland was already the minister, and then not long after I arrived, Christy Williams and Korey Lowry became the Church education directors. That was my introduction to Sunday School class here at First Pres. 

How long have you been at First Pres, and what brought you back? 

I went to undergrad at Vassar in New York State. Then I did a few things abroad for a while, and then I went to grad school at UF. I was living in Gainesville for a while and going to a Presbyterian church. I started coming back to First Pres, actually, during Covid! I was attending Sunday school online from Gainesville. And so I got to see the transition with Margaret coming in. When I moved to Tallahassee in March 2021, I immediately started going back to church because my mom’s still going. 

What parts of your journey at First Pres and/or generally in faith have been formative? 

I went to Dogwood Acres a lot when I was a kid. My mom had so many kids, she was always sending us to camps. Sitting in the chapel and singing the songs I just really started to fall in love with Jesus. I felt like, “this is going to be important in my life.” And so there’s that, and then also in high school, Christy would take us to Montreat youth conferences. We went every summer. There was always a good group of us, and it was a wonderful experience.  

When I was in Gainesville, I had a tragedy in my family. In December 2020, my little brother passed away and Margaret presided over the funeral because he lived in Tallahassee. That’s when I got to know Margaret and became attached to her, because she came to our family when we were grieving. And then I moved back in March because I was just so sad, I missed my little brother so much that I needed to be close to my family. That was a devastating loss. I couldn’t have gotten through it if I hadn’t had a solid foundation in my Christianity as this church has provided me. And knowing he also was raised in the church, that he learned these things, that the world is bigger than just us, that there’s someone out there who loves you…all that really meant a lot to me. 

What parts of life at First Pres bring you joy? 

The worship services bring me joy. Like, I don’t consider Presbyterian songs to be the most catchy (laughter) but they still bring me joy, especially when I recognize some that I know. And then, just seeing the familiar faces. 

What do you see as needed for the future of this congregation? 

When I think about the future of our church, I do think we need to grow. I think we need to grow a stronger youth program because kids bring joy and kids bring optimism. So I really think we need to work on growing the church with two main goals, getting people who have kids and welcoming more diversity.