Rev. Robert Countiss , D. Min.

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At the 199th meeting of Holston Conference June 2022,  I received an appointment from the bishop to First UMC in Elizabethton. I want to say how happy and pleased I am to be appointed to this church and I want to take the opportunity to introduce myself.


I am a lifelong United Methodist, having grown up in Bristol VA at Reynolds Memorial UMC.   After graduating high school (Virginia High School), I obtained a BA from Emory & Henry College (Mathematics), and, having completed the candidacy process, I entered and finished a M.Div. from   the Divinity School of Duke University, one of our official UMC seminaries. I completed my formal  education by earning a D.Min. degree from Emmanuel School of Religion (now Emmanuel Christian Seminary of Milligan University) in 1999. I have served churches in Holston Conference since 1985, from Knoxville to Rural Retreat, VA. In 1988, I was married to Carla Wininger of Blountville TN—after a blind date!


Carla is also a lifelong United Methodist, having grown up in the Blountville UMC. She is currently a preschool teacher, but has experience in Sullivan County, Knox County and Bristol TN school systems. Carla earned her degree from ETSU and has a Master’s degree in Education from Tusculum College and she also is a Mary Kay Cosmetics consultant. Carla has been active in the UMW and loves to play hand bells. We have two children: Amanda and Jacob.


The Countiss Family, during a Memorial Day Celebration at their home.

Pictured 1st row (left to right) - grandson Gabriel     Carla      Rev. Robert      daughter, Amanda with baby Ellie Marie
2nd row (left to right) - daughter-in-law, Sarah     son, Jacob      son-in-law, Nick


Youth Director

Sasan Ahovan

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Sasan joined the FUMC Staff as Youth Leader in December 2022. 

Sasan grew up in Kermanshah, a Kurdish city in the west part of Iran. He joined a local church music group in 2007 and got baptized there in 2008 in Iran.

Sasan moved to the US and attended ETSU in 2014. He received his B.A. in music from East Tennessee State University in 2018. He also has a music diploma from the Tehran Music Conservatory. Sasan is passionate about music and loves teaching. Prior to joining FUMC, he worked at Bridges Academy Seattle for a semester as a music teacher, he also worked as a full-time music instructor at Guitar Center from 2019 to 2022. Now he is a gear advisor at Guitar Center.

​In addition to his music degrees, Sasan holds an associate degree in mechanical engineering. Lastly, Sasan holds a lifelong love for soccer, which he looks forward to sharing with students alongside music and his love for Christ.

Children's Director

Jennifer Bradley

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Meet our Children aka Coolagers Director originally from Greeneville, TN, I moved to Elizabethton in 2008 shortly after completing my Master’s degree in Special Education. I am currently a special education math teacher at Hampton Elementary school where I have taught since 2008. I married my husband, Wesley, in May of 2009 on a kayak trip on the Nolichucky River. I am an avid kayaker, biker, and runner. Most of my free time is spent doing one of these three things! I have no children of my own, other than two spoiled cats, but I do consider all of my students both at school and church my kids. I love them dearly and can’t see myself in any other profession! My goal in Children’s Ministry is to plant a love for Christ in each child and nurture them as they grow to find their place in His church.

Administrative Assistant and Video Technician

Robin Folse

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A carter county native, coming to us from her beloved Roan Mountain.  She is often called the "face/voice of the church" since most likely it will be her face or voice that will greet you if you come by during the week or give the church office a call.   Robin joined the church staff in December 2006.  She worked previously with the State of Tennessee at Roan Mountain State Park for 18 years with her last position there being an account clerk. 

Robin strives to be just as her title states, Administrative Assistant.  If you need help, she will assist you to the best of her ability.  Her favorite duty is performing work with  "graphic art" area working with the bulletin and power points.  She prides herself as always willing to lend a ear and possibly throw in her two cents.  She strives to greet everyone with a smile, letting everyone know not only does FUMC love them, but more importantly God does.  

Robin also is FUMC Webmaster and can be found in the balcony during services working as our video tech. 

Finance Secretary and Newsletter Editor

Vickie Shipley

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Vickie and her husband, Sam, have been dedicated members of First United Methodist Church for years serving their church in numerous ways.

Vickie came to us as previous Postmaster.  That job required many of the same characteristics and skills needed to be successful as FUMC Financial Secretary.  Upon retiring from the US Postal Service, Vickie was not ready to just stay at home.  She has a true passion for work; especially the work of her church.  She graciously volunteered with FUMC as a counter and office assistant.  She was called upon to fill in as substitute Administrative Assistant.  This ignited a fire to serve The Lord with her talent of attention to details, love of organization and working with numbers.   She accepted a position as Administrative Assistant at Addilynn UMC in Bristol, TN. 

In 2019 FUMC growth was a true blessing.  Growth is great, but also requires more attention of staff.  FUMC SPRC and Finance Committees made the wonderful decision to add a position of Financial Secretary.  These committees also knew the perfect match to fill the slot of this new position....Vickie Shipley!

Vickie shows a true passion for this position and looks forward to  opportunities to use her talents to benefit God’s work through our church.  She sees the position as a chance to conquer financial challenges, new ideas, and striving for ways we can grow in Christ.

Vickie is also a volunteer to the FUMC family doing an amazing job as keeping FUMC up-to-date by being our newsletter editor and publisher.  She does an incredible job.  Seeing this task as a way to give back to her church family and her Lord through her creativity of a beautifully layout of church events documenting memories for the church. 

Maintenance/Custodian Supervisor

Lynn Carroll


Robert "Bob" Carroll

Choir Director

Catherine Bunton


David Arney


Susan Heaton


Tom Tull

Sound Technician

Austin Canter