Longtime Oakhurst Presbyterian preacher announces retirement

The Rev. Nibs Stroupe who is retiring after 34 years as pastor at Oakhurst Presbyterian Church once wrote that Oakhurst draws “people from the most divergent backgrounds - middle class professionals, blue-collar and pink-collar workers, welfare recipients, old, young, and very young, black, white, Asian, gay and straight.” Courtesy of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church
The Rev. Nibs Stroupe who is retiring after 34 years as pastor at Oakhurst Presbyterian Church once wrote that Oakhurst draws “people from the most divergent backgrounds - middle class professionals, blue-collar and pink-collar workers, welfare recipients, old, young, and very young, black, white, Asian, gay and straight.” Courtesy of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church

After nearly 34 years pastoring one of the metro area’s most intriguing churches, the Rev. Gibson “Nibs” Stroupe of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church said he is retiring as of Jan. 14.

When Stroupe came in Feb. 1983, the South Decatur church was located in in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods and drawing only about 40 worshippers for Sunday service. He and his wife, the Rev. Caroline Leach, co-pastored until her retirement two years ago. And the church gradually increased membership to 350, one of the most diverse anywhere.

Stroupe and Leach, who are white, combined spirituality with social justice and a total embrace of surrounding neighborhoods that were mostly black until 10 years ago.

Stroupe wrote in an essay that Oakhurst draws “people from the most divergent backgrounds - middle class professionals, blue-collar and pink-collar workers, welfare recipients, old, young, and very young, black, white, Asian, gay and straight.”

The church added its most powerful symbol in 1988 changing the white Jesus in the main stained glass window to olive brown. In the same window the church replaced three disciples with two blacks and a woman.

Raised in Helen, Arkansas, Stroupe was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and has been friends with Ed Loring since their days together at Columbia Seminary. For nearly as long as Stroupe’s been at Oakhurst, Loring has run Atlanta’s Open Door Community, which he’ll close in January, the same month Stroupe retires.

“I turn 70 on Sunday (Nov. 27),” Stroupe said recently. “I’m just getting tired. I’ll miss the preaching and pastoring, but I won’t miss the late-night meetings.”

Oakhurst will hire an interim replacement for Stroupe in January, but several members have said finding a full-time replacement may stretch into 2018.

In Other News