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Wesley Channell resigns from First Presbyterian

By By Janet Little Cooper
For six years Wesley Channell has called Atmore home as he served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Atmore.
He recently resigned from that position and will be returning to his native home in Atlanta, to pursue a degree in counseling.
"I won't be leaving Atmore until the end of the year," Channell said. "I am anticipating a move to Atlanta where I will begin graduate work in January in a two-and-a-half year program in counseling. My hope is to continue to be involved in the lives of the broken hearted and the hearts of people I meet. The restraint of pastoring is that many people are afraid of pastors because they feel we are somehow "too good" or "too holy." I have always worked against that impression so I can reach those people who need hope and life the most. It is my hope that by taking another degree, this time in counseling, I will be able to be more effective in helping people with their deepest needs and that I will remain accessible to all people."
Channell, who has not lived in Atlanta for the last 26 years, accepted the call into the ministry in the mid 1990s while he was serving as an elder in a church in Birmingham.
"I responded and started seminary in 1996, graduating three years later," Channell said. "I did some part time work in a couple of churches for a year while looking for a full time pastorate. First Presbyterian of Atmore is my first and only church I served."
One on one interaction with other people has been a favorite of Channell's while serving in the ministry, while he tends to find religious activities not an effective form of building relationships.
"I have been highly privileged to hear people's secret ambitions, problems and shame," Channell said. "It is a wonderful gift to be allowed into people's hearts. My least favorite part of ministry is religious activities. I enjoy Sunday mornings, but I could care less about lots of formal programs and activities. I feel they are a counter to relationship building."
Channell's decision to change courses in his life has been a work in progress for the last two years.
"Most guidance in my life is like a 'Monday morning quarterback'," Channell said. "I can see clearly in retrospect what I was supposed to do. In the last two years, I have had little clues here and there of a possible future change in the works. When I returned to Atmore June 4 after a trip to Europe more and more clues became evident to me of the need to consider what I had been seeing. Of course, all change is loss and bittersweet, no matter how good it is. But, hopefully, I was quicker this time in anticipating God's direction and more willing to change. Once I made the decision, things became very clear and obvious to me. Everyone I shared it with also saw it as obvious."
Channell has no idea where he will end up following his studies in Atlanta. He swore that he would never return to Atlanta when he left so many years ago and now finds himself going back.
"I have loved Atmore and certainly there is a lot of need in the Gulf Coast area for what I will be trained to do," Channell said. "I think the best thing about Atmore is the simplicity and depth of relationships. It is a great joy to see people rejoice about and enjoy and the simple activities of living and to go anywhere in town and see someone you know and love."
Channell also finds those attributes to be a weakness for Atmore as well.
"Because we all know each other so well it is easy to become so comfortable in our relationships that we forget to invite newcomers and change into our lives," Channell said.
Channell hopes that his decision to move will lead him to the people who need the Lord the most. Below is a poem that he wrote a few years back, which according to him, expresses his life-long heart desire to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.
Damned Good People
By Wesley Channell
Keep me from where the good people are biding their time and living so sane.
No, send me where there is infinite hurt and oppressive shame: heads that can't look up because of their pain.
Lives that are lost, souls that don't care whose daily quest is their lust and every minute is despair.
Minds that only think how to escape their pain only too willing to drink of anything.
Then I'll see the thirsty, the true who've given up on what they can do. They, like legions, the kingdom takes by force and are welcomed in by the gentlest voice.
The good man on day after self same day saving his life in so many effective ways. While kingdom gates stay open wide, never for one moment will he stray inside.