DECATUR, Ga. (BP) — Church planter and pastor Emory Berry Jr.’s passion for serving the educational community has its roots in his second-grade public school teacher of decades ago, Lillie Courtney, who also taught him Sunday School.
Berry, who holds a doctorate in theology, had begun the second grade at Palmetto Elementary School in Pinecrest, Fla., as the lowest ranking member of his class in reading comprehension.
“This teacher could have easily labeled me and put me in special classes, remedial classes, but she took a personal investment,” said Berry, founding pastor of The Favor Church. “I guess she saw the potential was there, but I did not have the skillset. And she worked with me and worked with me.
“By the time I finished the second grade, I was still in a reading group by myself, but now I was in the highest reading group. So, I experienced incredible gains with my literacy because this one teacher took an investment in me,” he said. “I know the power of educators. She helped give me a hunger or taste for achievement.”
Berry counts nearly 20 active and retired educators and school administrators among the 100 or so worshipers who attend The Favor Church, which Berry planted at Easter, including his wife Julie Ann Berry who is an assistant principal. The church sees the three local public schools in its community as a mission field.