A “Best Choice” for Trinity: Wayne Wiatt, Youth Intern/Lead Pastor
by Pam Crosby, Crossroads Editor
In addition to preaching and attending to administrative duties, The Rev. Dr. Wayne Wiatt, lead pastor, has taken part in countless church programs and initiatives alongside members of his congregation. I have gotten to know him best through his participation in—and support of—the Historical Society, especially as a contributor to Crossroads, the church’s historical journal of which I serve as editor.
Dr. Wayne always responded to my requests to write for Crossroads with an immediate “Glad to do it,” for which I will always be grateful. He authored three articles, one on his introduction to Trinity in the 1970s, which I highlight as a tribute to him. I also invite you to read the entire article about his Trinity introduction as well as his other articles that can be found here in our online archives:
“An Unlikely Youth Director: My Introduction to Trinity,” April, 2019, pp. 4-5
“Trinity in Mission, 1978: Eleuthera, Bahamas” (co-author), July 2020, pp. 14-17
“Reflections on Cuba,” October 2021, pp. 8-9
. . .
After Wayne Wiatt completed two years of college at Valdosta State, he was ready to take a break. It was 1976, and he set out for some adventure and to “find himself.”
To his delight, his older brother had invited him to move to Aspen primarily to determine if he should pursue a career in the resort industry at some point. He planned to learn to ski during his time there while checking out what working at a plush recreation spot would be like, and then if he was attracted to resort work, he would return to Florida to major in hospitality management at Florida State.
So there he was, working in Aspen, at one of the most luxurious vacation getaways in the world—interacting with the rich and famous! An ideal job! But not quite; in fact—it was a huge disappointment. In “An Unlikely Youth Director: My Introduction to Trinity,” (2019), he described his experience:
When the Colorado snow finally thawed, I returned home to Valdosta, having accomplished only one goal: becoming a pretty good downhill skier! I quickly discovered that working as a houseboy, hauling firewood, cleaning bathrooms, making beds, and dealing with demanding resort guests really wasn’t my cup of hot chocolate!
So he had not “found himself” at a Colorado resort after all, but he did discover shortly after returning home that what he had yearned for was answered in response to an altar call at his home church: to be a music minister and travel “an educational path in sacred music.” At the present time, however, he was in need of money and was working part-time at a motel. Soon the perfect opportunity loomed in the horizon:
My dad retired in May of that year, and my parents moved to their vacation home on Lake Talquin, just west of Tallahassee. I answered a job posting for a summer youth intern at Trinity and interviewed with the Rev. Phil Roughton, one of the associate pastors at the church that year. A few weeks later, Phil called me and told me I did not get the job! The pastors had decided to go with a Duke Divinity seminary student instead. Disappointed, I turned back to my work as a part-time desk clerk at Ramada Inn.
It was a sad day for young Wayne Wiatt. But a happy turn of events was coming his way:
I am not sure how my life’s path would have proceeded differently had that Duke Divinity guy followed through and accepted the offer to come to Tallahassee. But two weeks after I was turned down, Phil rang again and offered me the internship, explaining, “The Duke student just called and said he got a better offer in North Carolina. Would you still be interested in the job?” I remember covering the receiver and shouting an exuberant “YES!,” accompanied by a fist pump.
Wayne’s recollections of his first Sunday school experience are accompanied with the memories of the sights and smells of the “Youth Basement,” which “smelled pretty much the same as it does now—like a room filled with teenagers who have been playing 4 Square (but now it’s 9 Square) for hours on end.”
In addition to taking part in worship services, his activities included participating in Tuesday Night Bible study in youth homes (with guitar in hand) and youth choir tour in South Georgia, leading a day camp in Maclay Gardens, delivering Meals on Wheels, attending Youth Week, and traveling on mission trips in Tennessee and the Bahamas.
These activities were valuable as work experience—and his “schedule of itinerating around the congregation” was similar to his later life as an “ordained deacon/elder in the Florida Conference.” He had dinner in different homes several nights a week, and a church member provided him with room and board. However, Wayne emphasized that it was his adult mentors who especially influenced his path to seminary and beyond:
I was fortunate to have many mentors who guided and inspired me during those early days at Trinity. Dr. Zimmerman was instrumental in directing me toward ordained ministry and opened doors for me to apply to Emory University’s Candler School of Theology for my seminary education. Dr. Green became my mentor in the candidacy process and guided me to eventually interview with the District Committee on Ministry to become a certified candidate in what was then the Tallahassee District of the United Methodist Church.
Rev. Roughton taught me about youth ministry and even introduced me to some new chords on the guitar as we joined together in leading youth singing during United Methodist Youth Fellowship at Trinity. I joined the Chancel Choir and met a number of college students attending FSU who made Trinity their home.
The Rev. Austin Hollady was leading innovative worship with creative drama and music at the Wesley Foundation, which was groundbreaking for the new contemporary music scene of the early 80s.
These early years made an enormous difference in Wayne Wiatt’s young life, and upon reflection, he shared how beneficial the early Trinity experience had been in his religious formation:
Looking back at the fact that I was Rev. Roughton’s “second choice” for an intern role at Trinity, I will always believe it was the “best choice” for me. Trinity guided, mentored, and encouraged me to answer my call to ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church.
Calling Trinity his “home,” he expressed his gratitude that he had “traveled full circle to the place” that had given him his “wings.” And although he will no longer be our lead pastor, we hope that The Rev. Dr. Wayne Wiatt will always consider Trinity his home and in return, we will always consider him as one of our own. In addition, we are grateful that “dealing with demanding resort guests” during that year many decades ago in Aspen wasn’t his “cup of hot chocolate.”