Blake Daniel

Blake began work as pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Sylva in the summer of 2015. Blake studied English and Spanish at the University of Georgia and attended seminary at Duke Divinity School. He is married to Erin and they have three sons, Luke, Isaac, and Asa, and a pup named Penny. 

Email: blake@sylvapres.org

Emily Fields
Administrative Assistant

I'm a recent graduate of Western Carolina University with a degree in Psychology. Usually with a cup of coffee in hand, I love all things organizational and all things chocolate. In my spare time I enjoy painting, working out at CrossFit Swerve in Sylva, and a good marathon every now and then (and by marathon, I mean movie marathon). Church has always been where I've felt most at home, so this is a dream job.

Email: emily@sylvapres.org

Michael Collings
Music Director

Michael's passion for music has lead him to many strange, dangerous and exotic places: from the treacherous jungles of public universities to the terrifying dungeons of inquisition called concert stages; from ebullient taverns full eager jazz fans to the remotest islands where his "background" music was answered only by the lonely cries of seabirds. But his strangest and most perilous calling has been to direct music at "the Local Church" or more specifically, First Presbyterian Church of Sylva in the mountains of North Carolina. Here, he and his family have been warmly accepted by the natives and together they are attempting to discern the sounds and postures of the cloud of witnesses who worship God in the heavenly realms. However, they are doggedly pursued by an enemy that would distract, lull, and intimidate them into fascination with lifeless idols, faithless self-reliance and fearful silence. Nonetheless, together this little mountain tribe of Christ believers look forward in hope to the coming of Christ's kingdom, which is already being established in their hearts.

Katherine Collings
Child Care Attendant

Katherine loves living in the paradise that is Sylva with her wonderful husband, Michael, and her four and counting children. She enjoys quilting, crafting, cooking, homeschooling, and most of all, learning more about our amazing Savior and Creator and walking daily with him in all of life's joys and challenges.

Margaret Hale

I love playing the organ for First Presbyterian Church. No matter what kind of music I play, or how many mistakes I make, the congregation members make me feel appreciated. I also love working with the First Presbyterian Church Choir. The choir members are dedicated, faithful, hard-working, marvelous singers who take seriously their call to lift up our hearts in worship through their music.

Judy Henderson

I am a life-long Presbyterian who loves my church and the God it serves. I have had many jobs along the way, from teacher to engraver, but my favorite calling has been to be wife to Bruce and mom to our three children. Now I can add "Meema" to that list. I have been co-treasurer and then treasurer for over 25 years and am glad that my love of numbers has been of use to the church.

Sara Beth Sanders
Child Care Attendant

Courtney Umphlett
Children's Ministry Director

Courtney is a person of many hats. She lives on a small farm, loves exercising but also ice cream, likes to make things from scratch, plays a variety of musical instruments, and loves to read a good book. But her favorite thing is working with and developing the lives on children and young adults. Courtney is married to Drew Umphlett, who is the band director at Smoky Mountain High School. They have recently welcomed their first child into the world, a little girl named Cecilia.

Email: FPCSylvakids@gmail.com

Elders & Committee Assignments

Class of 2017

  • Frances Hess - Hospitality Committee
  • Frank Royce - Property Committee
  • Marlies Owens - Personnel Committee (1 year term)

Class of 2018

  • Heidi Buchanan - Clerk of Session
  • Betty Foti - Mission Committee
  • Mary Gelbaugh - Stone House Committee

Class of 2019

  • Roger Murajda - Christian Education
  • David Noland - Finance Committee
  • Tommy Thompson - Worship Committee

 A word about Elders:

As there were in Old Testament times elders for the government of the people, so the New Testament church provided persons with particular gifts to share in discernment of God’s Spirit and governance of God’s people. Accordingly, congregations should elect persons of wisdom and maturity of faith, having demonstrated skills in leadership and being compassionate in spirit. Ruling elders are so named not because they “lord it over” the congregation (Matt. 20:25), but because they are chosen by the congregation to discern and measure its fidelity to the Word of God, and to strengthen and nurture its faith and life.
— Presbyterian Book of Order, G-2.0301


Class of 2017

  • Livingston Kelley
  • David Porter - Co-moderator
  • Tom Tabor (1 year term)

Class of 2018

  • Rady Large
  • Peg Shafer - Co-moderator
  • Gloria Stockton

Class of 2019

  • Besan Nash
  • Cyndie Royce
  • Nancy Zachmann

A word about Deacons:

The ministry of deacon as set forth in Scripture is one of compassion, witness, and service, sharing in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the lost, the friendless, the oppressed, those burdened by unjust policies or structures, or anyone in distress. Persons of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly and sisterly love, sincere compassion, and sound judgment should be chosen for this ministry.
— Presbyterian Book of Order, G-2.0201