- Associate Pastor
- Church Administrator
- Minister of Music
- Minister with Youth and their Families
- Minister with Children and their Families
- Minister of Missions & Adult Education
- Facilities Manager
- Communications Specialist
- Assistant to the Pastor
Nancy E. Petty
Nancy E. Petty began her ministry at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in June of 1992. She has served Pullen in the role of senior pastor since 2002. Prior to being called as the pastor, she served Pullen as the Minister of Christian Education and Associate Pastor. As Pullen’s pastor her role is to function as the spiritual guide of the congregation, performing duties of preaching, teaching, counseling and visitation, to honor the traditions that have developed over the years at Pullen, and to initiate new traditions that capture the theology of Pullen and the spirit of the members.
Through her role as Pullen’s pastor, Nancy is known as a community faith leader speaking out on issues of social justice, interreligious dialogue, and inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community. She is chair of the Board for Repairers of the Breach, a non-profit organization that “seeks to build a moral agenda rooted in a framework that uplifts our deepest moral and constitutional values to redeem the heart and soul of our country”. She is a contributor to several books written on the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina and has been interviewed several times on Frank Stasio’s The State of Things, WUNC program. Nancy’s ministry has been recognized by the following awards: 2011 W. W. Finlator Award-Wake County ACLU; 2013 Women of Influence Humanitarian Award, Hannah Keith S.F. Inc.; 2014 North Carolina NAACP Minister of the Year Award; 2015 Human Relations Commission City of Raleigh Award; 2016 Champions for Children Award, North Carolina Foundation for Public School Children; and the 2018 Neighbor to Neighbor Award, As Salam Islamic Center, Raleigh, NC. In September 2019, The Center for American Progress listed Nancy as one of nine ministers to watch in our nation in 2019.
She is married to Karla Oakley. Karla works in education reform and is often traveling with her work. They have two daughters (Jasmine and Nora), two cats (Tasha and Leo), and one spoiled Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Louis).
When asked what people should know about her, Nancy responded: “Tell them that I am blessed beyond measure because I get to pastor the best church in the world. Not because it is perfect – it’s not – but because the people are amazingly authentic and they truly care about making a difference in the world. Tell them that I love what I do and who I get to do it with. Tell them that I love people, I hate flying (but will board a plane when it means I get to extend Pullen’s ministry to other places), I collect old watches, and I deeply enjoy the North Carolina mountains. A relaxing day for me is being at home with Karla and Louis with no agenda. But most importantly, I want people to know that what matters to me in life is having the courage to take the risks in life that help those who are struggling and suffering, and help me grow in compassion, grace, wisdom, and love for all God’s people.”
Originally from New Jersey, I moved to North Carolina as a teenager and it has become home. I attended UNC Chapel Hill for undergraduate studies and went to Duke for seminary. For the record, I am a Tar Heel!
Why are you at Pullen?
The first half of my ministry life was marked by a lot of legalism and very little grace. My message was, “Resist worldly influences and keep ‘God’s’ rules.” However, a few years out of seminary, I noticed that my belief system didn’t always hold up against the complexities of the human experience. Instead of employing my usual apologetic gymnastics, I began to allow myself to explore and give voice to what I truly believed.
Over time, I embraced a much more robust economy of grace, and it changed my priorities, my preaching, pastoral care, and the entire trajectory of my ministry. I knew that I wanted to inhabit a faith community of radical welcome where people were encouraged to be honest about who they were and what they believed. Pullen is that place for me.
Spending some time outdoors, in quiet contemplation or catching up with friends. On any given day I enjoy physical activity, good food and live music, especially if it’s outdoors.
My work in pastoral ministry comes from a strong sense of call. Growing up, people always ask you what you want to be when you grow up. Early on, I recognized the responses that met the approval of the adults in my life so I would say I wanted to be a doctor or lawyer. But, in all honesty, I couldn’t think of a single vocation to which I wanted to dedicate my life. By the age of 10 I had concluded that I would eventually have to select a career in which I had little interest and will myself to work everyday until retirement. It made me sad, but I figured that’s what responsible adults did.During my teens I became very involved in church, and I felt strangely drawn to the clergy in my church and community. By my senior year of high school I felt that God was calling me to ministry, but assumed I would also need a “real job” like all the pastors I knew. So I entered college as a business major, while continuing to pursue my denomination’s requirements for ordination. The more I engaged in ministry, the more I fell in love with it, and the more I realized that I had zero interest in Business. Thankfully, the church I attended in college had a full time pastor who opened my eyes to ministry as a “real job”. After college, I enrolled in seminary, and the rest is history. I continue to feel an immense amount of gratitude for the opportunity to do what I love every day!
Larry E. Schultz
Minister of Music
In 1992, while sitting in my office at the church I served following seminary, I read an article about Pullen in my copy of Baptists Today – and I vividly remember thinking out loud: “I’d like to be a part of such a brave and autonomous congregation someday.” Nine years later I had the privilege of becoming Pullen’s Minister of Music!
Since 2001 I have enjoyed the opportunity of equipping Pullen for an expansive music ministry that seeks to engage all persons in the church’s worship and congregational life. It is fulfilling to discover ways in which Pullen’s distinctive identity can be explored and expressed through congregational, choral and instrumental music.
I developed an interest in music ministry at an early age, and was nurtured in that interest by the Baptist churches of my childhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After the happy surprise of winning the high school division of a choral anthem contest sponsored by Oklahoma Baptists, I decided to study music theory and composition for use in my ministry. I graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1986 from the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts at Oklahoma Baptist University.
In continued preparation for music ministry, I moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where on the first day I met Cindy Smith. Three years later, in 1989, we walked the aisle of the seminary chapel for two joyful occasions: to receive our Master of Church Music degrees and to marry!
After our time in Kentucky, Cindy and I served together in music ministry in South Carolina where our children, Ryan and Kelly, were born. The timing of our move to North Carolina provided us the meaningful opportunity to raise them from early childhood among the people of Pullen.
The new art installation that adorns the Pullen sanctuary exclaims our congregation as “ever embracing” and “ever becoming.” I have found these significant descriptions to certainly be true and find in them inspiration for my ongoing ministry in this place.
Who would’ve known in 1992 that my spontaneous, wishful prayer would come to be!
Minister with Youth and their Families
I grew up in rural Eastern NC. There are many good things I attribute to my childhood years such as growing up outdoors and learning to appreciate the bounty the earth provides. We also learned the southern church hospitality that comes when people experience loss and sickness and how neighbors take care of neighbors. Walking across the street to borrow a cup of sugar or deliver some freshly caught fish was commonplace. These things have given me the heart that continues with me today.
It was at Campbell University that I began to see a God who was much bigger than the box I had placed God in my whole life, so my period of questioning began. I recall church history class and my professor, who loved Walter Rauschenbush, peaking my interest in matters of justice. Sadly, it seemed a thing of the past and we had moved to a different place in society. As my career in youth ministry and love of coffee progressed, I stumbled upon a coffee company seeking to help in reconciliation efforts in Rwanda following the genocide. My hope in the social gospel was restored and I began to pursue other areas in which we could bring about Shalom in the world.
It was this path that led me to see how the church had damaged so many lives through its words and actions. As my theological journey of finding a bigger, more inclusive God crossed with my path of seeking true justice for people of all walks of life, I experienced the greatest pain in my life. The death of my niece at 6 weeks old caused me to finally tear down the religion I had grown up with. After finding my freedom in a progressive faith, I was promptly forced to resign from the church I had served for 6 years.
I recall the day I was introduced to Pullen. Nancy was offering a prayer at a televised interfaith prayer service, shortly after the San Bernadino shootings. I thought to myself then, this seems like the kind of church I would love to be a part of. After my resignation, I ran from the idea of serving in the congregational context for about 5 months before realizing I knew where I belonged. Stumbling on the listing for Pullen’s Youth Ministry position, I recalled Nancy and her prayer. After doing some further research, I knew Pullen is where my family belonged and if they wouldn’t hire me, we would move to Raleigh and become members.
Serving teenagers and their families has been my passionate desire for more than a decade now and I can only imagine the places we’ll go together.
Minister with Children and their Families
Born and “raised” in the foothills of North Carolina near Lenoir. After graduating from Mars Hill College, I attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he received a Masters of Divinity. Taking root in the Wake County area, Tommy has been on staff at several churches ministering with children, youth and their families for over 25 years.
Because of his many positive experiences enjoyed as a child growing up in the church (smiling pastors, caring adults and hands on activities) and as one who is instinctively drawn to the lives of little humans, Tommy enthusiastically leaped at the opportunity to join the staff at Pullen to serve as Minister with Children and their Families.
Tommy and his wife, Robin and their beautiful blended family (Emma and Tanya Szczesiul and Isaac Cook) love to travel and dine at their own kitchen table when everyone is home. Their family also includes a very intergenic and unpredictable Wheaten Terrier, Murphy.
Minister of Mission & Adult Education
“Pullen Church is a few blocks from where you are living, so why aren’t you going?” This poignant question was proposed by my good friend in 2008 when she learned I had moved to Raleigh. Although hesitant to enter a building with the signifier, “Baptist,” I walked though the door. The people were warm, the hymn singing was robust, and the excitement was palpable. Particularly, I was moved by the intellectual courage the minister brought to the story of David and Goliath. After rereading a portion of the passage, she stopped and asked, I don’t know about you, but each time I read this, I ask, “What is going on here?
I arrived on the Pullen staff after having a successful career as an educator and a business owner. My interest in the biblical text has always been keen, and this love has been fostered by my mentors at Furman University, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Vanderbilt University. At Vanderbilt, I was encouraged to translate my academic talents into a praxis that fostered justice, peace, and love in the community. This commitment allowed me to speak with various groups about sexuality and gender in the Hebrew Bible; teach and work with incarcerated women and men in high-security prisons; and work closely with LGBTQIA teens experiencing homelessness.
At Pullen Church, the synthesis of our best thoughts combines with the best work of our human hands, and this foundation of my faith has allowed me to work toward a more wholesome and humane world for all of creation. At Pullen, I organize opportunities for people to participate in the justice work needed to confront the systemic plagues of racism, sexism, greed, and gender inequity within our society. I daily embrace the prophetic words of poet Nikki Giovanni: “There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well.“ Pullen is a place where I can embrace keen intellectual rigor and social justice as tenets of faith.
The Divine Question is still being asked, “What is going on here?” As an answer, I participate in the collective story of faith that mandates the care for others and the building of a collective commonwealth. Although my work as a minister is critical, it is, in and of itself, not the mission of the community of faith. Our collective answer is the contemporaneous proclamation of the good news in support of the common creaturely good. Such good news is, in a traditional sense, our witness to the world. Yet, this is not a witness to insular and selfish piety, but a witness that celebrates solidarity with humanity in the cause of Divine Love for the world. In the ancient Near East, those outside the Hebrew community were oft in wonder of the community’s ability to nurture the stranger. In the modern world, the collective story of the community of faith will be the most effective when the greater world around us proclaims, “Look at how that church loves and cares for all people.”
Dana Deaton joined the Pullen Staff in March 2019. A North Carolina native, Dana grew up attending Christian school and going to church as a Baptist “PK” (preacher’s kid). She appreciates the familiar and comforting, yet progressive and bold church environment of Pullen. Dana has lived in Raleigh since 1987. Her professional background is in education and she holds a B.S. and M.Ed in Technology Education from NCSU. Dana taught middle school technology and communications for many years in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, and since then has been involved in school, community, and nonprofit communications and marketing. She and her husband Finley Lee enjoy living with their two children in the Mordecai community near downtown. Griffin and Amelia attend the Exploris School where Dana is also involved with the PTO as communications chair. Dana is excited to learn more about the many great things that Pullen is doing and to help others understand the role of this unique worship community.
I joined Pullen for good in 1987. I remember walking into the church holding Audrey’s hand (she was 18 months) saying that if we didn’t like it, we didn’t have to stay. When we got to the toddler’s area Donna Steely was waiting in the rocker. The decision was made.
Because I am a musician I have floated in and out of Pullen. I have “played around” at various churches in the area while still trying to be involved. Currently I am playing on Sunday evenings at Fairmont United Methodist. I have served as interim organist at Pullen and as a substitute before being hired in 2009. But music is not all I do. I work full-time at the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education as the Finance Manager. I have worked at Poe since 2005.
I have two children, Audrey and David, who are pretty much grown, and Oliver (the bird).
I was born in Chapel Hill, NC, but grew up in Fuquay-Varina where I graduated from high school. I have four children–two sons and two daughters—and I am a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Past work experiences include being a manager in a large commercial maintenance company, but I really enjoy working at Pullen where I am able to get to know the people I serve.