Officers & Staff
Reverend Ben Acton – Pastor
Ben grew up in the “Heart of Dixie,” in the metro area of Birmingham, AL. A life-long Presbyterian, Ben’s family was the type who were always at the church whenever the church doors were open. It was awhile before he realized not everyone spent summers attending Vacation Bible School, church camps, and Montreat.
Ben attended Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC, graduating with degree in Religion/Philosophy in May of 2001. While at PC, Ben met Rachel Jernigan through the PC(USA) campus ministry group.
They started dating (after he finally remembered her name after forgetting it 6 times!) and were married in 2003, after Ben’s first year at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA and after Rachel’s first year of teaching kindergarten at Pine Ridge Elementary in Stone Mountain.
Before coming to FPCoG Ben served two churches as Associate Pastor (First Presbyterian in Concord, NC, and Southminster Presbyterian in Vestavia, Al, part of the Birmingham metro area). In both places his area of focus was Christian Education Education and Youth Ministries, which continue to be passions of his.
While in Concord, their family grew to include Lucy (the wonder dog!) and the best gift of their life yet: Nate (age 6). Nate loves soccer, karate, tacos, legos, the Auburn Tigers (like his dad) and the Carolina Panthers (also like his dad, he’s partial to Cam Newton).
Outside the church’s walls, Rachel and Ben spend most of their time keeping up with Nate, but also enjoy cooking, reading, podcasting (Ben), and yoga (Rachel). And Diet Coke. Lots of Diet Coke.
They are excited to be be part of a growing and vibrant Garner community and to be connected in faith and life to FPCoG, a dedicated, prayerful, and lively community of faith.
Stephanie Taylor — Administrative Assistant
Stephanie was born in Atlanta, GA but has lived in NC most her life. She graduated from Elon University in the Class of 2003. She worked at LabCorp as a Technologist Customer Service Rep for 12 yrs before coming to The First Presbyterian Church of Garner. She married her husband, Mark, in June of 2016 and gained a wonderful teenage daughter at that time. She loves spending time with family and friends and her hobbies include crocheting, sewing, gardening, historical reenacting, and much more.
Rose Gurkin — Choir Director
Rose began her ministry with us in September, 2001. She has many years’ experience on church staffs and brings her love for music and her dedication to her faith together in service as our Music Director. She has a bachelors’ degree in Music Education from Western Carolina University and a masters’ degree in Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Rose believes that every person has music within them and strives to provide multiple opportunities for every person to worship meaningfully with music and to grow in their faith through participation in the Adult Choir, Handbell Choir and Kid’s Choir.
Rose also works full-time as an Administrative Assistant for the North Carolina Council of Churches. She and her husband Michael live in North Raleigh with a spoiled menagerie of pets.
Gloria Oelke — Organist
Gloria was born in Staunton, VA, the first of four children. She was raised in Highland County, VA where her family attended Monterey Presbyterian Church. In 1976, she obtained a bachelors’ degree in mathematics from Longwood College (now Longwood University). She returned to her hometown high school to teach science and math. During that time she also served as pianist in her home church
In 1981, she decided to try something new and moved to Kansas to work as a mechanical engineering aide at a nuclear generating plant that was under construction. There she met Bruce Oelke and, in 1984, they were married in the First Presbyterian Church in Emporia, KS. They now have two daughters and three grandchildren.
The Oelke family transferred to North Carolina in 1984 to work at the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant construction site. They began attending the First Presbyterian Church of Garner, where Gloria sang in the choir as a soprano or alto, as needed. In 1989, she started another career at First Citizens Bank as a computer programmer. Today, she holds the titles of Assistant Vice President and Assistant Secretary.
Gloria became the organist at First Presbyterian Church of Garner in 1992 and considers her music as her witness. She has served as a deacon as well as an elder on the Session.