The Rev. Dr. Jamil el-Shair has served as the pastor of the 148-year-old Midway First Presbyterian Church for less than a year, yet he is already making history.
During South University’s commencement June 18, he became the school’s College of Theology’s first graduate with a Doctor of Ministry. The Savannah university established the college in 2013.
El-Shair also participated in a hooding ceremony for doctorate students June 17. A baccalaureate service recognizing el-Shair was held that evening at his church.
"Our doctor of ministry degree program is different from traditional seminaries because, rather than teaching one doctrine, it concentrates on how to minister to people of many different faiths in community settings that often reach well beyond the pulpit," said Betsy A. Nolen, South’s director of communications.
The pastor said, "What I am in awe of is the rigor, and that God made provision for me to have the foundation to be able to achieve and maintain a 4.0 during these two and one-half years. I wanted to obtain the degree to enhance my ministry toolbox."
El-Shair also has a Master of Divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.
The Florida native lives in Midway and is a retired Atlanta firefighter. He became the pastor of Midway First Presbyterian on Nov. 2. He was ordained 32 years ago.
Before this pastorship, el-Shair served as a supply pastor at Eastman First Presbyterian Church, Church of the Master in Atlanta and Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church in Macon.
El-Shair has also served as a chaplain at Atlanta Medical Center, Grady Memorial Hospital and for the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.
He said he is busy at his new church.
"The vision statement for Midway First Presbyterian Church is simply, ‘Reaching In, Reaching Up and Reaching Out,’" he said. "We are actively engaged in working on training people to be supportive of people who are incarcerated, about to return, and their families. Our first training led to the church collaborating with the Liberty County Re-entry Coalition to sponsor a state of Georgia training on re-entry.
The church has a monthly family fun night, a monthly food bank, and is engaged in HIV and AIDS awareness and dying and death education.
"Our focus is on internal spiritual growth and transformation to equip members to serve others with no regard to increasing our numbers at the church," el-Shair said.
Midway First Presbyterian, 672 N. Coastal Highway, invites the public to services, Sunday school, prayer and Bible study. For additional information, call the church at 912-884-5967.