pastor matt bates cropped Matt Bates
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The Rev. Dr. Matthew Bates, Centenary’s senior pastor, was born in Oklahoma and grew up in mostly small towns where his father was a United Methodist pastor. He met his wife, Amy, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX where she was working on a Master’s degree in piano pedagogy, and Matt was a student at Perkins School of Theology. After finishing their education, they moved to North Carolina, Amy’s home state, and began ministry in the Western North Carolina Conference. He served churches in and around Kannapolis, Concord, and Hickory, NC.

In 1997, they moved to Richmond where Matt began work on a Ph.D. in Theology and Ethics. Feeling called to urban ministry, Matt served Central UMC in Richmond for 7 years before a 3 year stint at Verona UMC in the Shenandoah Valley, and then had the privilege of being appointed to Centenary in 2011. Matt, and his whole family, love Centenary’s warmth, commitment to mission, its excellent worship, and its desire to reach out in love to all of God’s people.

Matt has served beyond the local church in several ways. He has been a member of the Virginia Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, and is currently a member of the Pace Center for Campus and Community Ministry Board and chairs the Richmond District Committee on the Superintendency. He also serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Randolph-Macon College where he has taught courses in History of Christianity, Eastern Religions, Western Religions, and Christian Ethics.

Matt likes to pick around now and then on the guitar and imagine that he’s Johnny Cash or Hank Williams. He loves sports of all kinds and has become a Nationals fan since living in Richmond. He enjoys spending time with Amy and his two adult children Rachel and Justin, who try to help continue his education for living in the modern world.

Matt holds the following degrees: B.A., Theological and Historical Studies, Oral Roberts University; M.Div., Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University; Th.M. Duke University; and Ph.D. Union Presbyterian Seminary. His dissertation was an effort to find answers that had long intrigued and confounded him from his work in ministry, trying to find ways to resolve and understand some of the tensions in major strands of Protestantism. The title of his dissertation was Growing the Church, Resisting the Powers, Reforming the World: Three Options for Ecclesial Faithfulness in North American Protestantism. If you’re ever having problems with insomnia, he’ll be glad to loan you a copy.


Lee_Covington_88_x_10 Lee Covington

Lee Covington is a VCU grad, where he studied piano with Landon Bilyeu and composition with Doug Richards. In addition to his duties at Centenary, he works as an accompanist / music teacher at St. Christopher's School, and is a member of the Butterbean Jazz Quartet, a Richmond staple since the early 1990s. Mr. Covington has been a working musician in the Richmond area for over 30 years.


Laura_8x10_resized Laura Nealley
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Laura Nealley is our Administrative Assistant. She runs the office and manages the church calendar, newsletter, and many other important things! She has 10+ years of experience in church offices and enjoys the wonderful community at Centenary. She has one husband, two grown children, and one special needs cat. A few fun facts: she is a fan of the Washington Nationals and Formula 1 racing, knows sign language (no longer fluent) and was once in the Guinness World Records book.

al 8x10 closer Al Richardson

Al Richardson is the Facilities Manager at Centenary. He makes sure that Centenary’s members, volunteers, and visitors feel welcome and have a clean and safe environment for our church activities. Al enjoys football, listening to gospel and jazz music, attending Masonic Lodge meetings, and spending time with his family. He is proud of his grandson, who plays football with the New York Jets. Al is from Richmond, and his favorite thing about Centenary is the way you always feel welcomed with open arms. He likes being able to make people happy and uplifting his homeless friends.

images melissa 8x10 Melissa Martinez

Melissa Martinez has been a Nursery Worker and Sunday School teacher at Centenary since 2010. In her role she educates the children about God and helps them grow in their faith. Her favorite thing about Centenary is the history and the way it feels like a family. She was born in Brooklyn, NY, grew up in Henrico County and attended the Center for the Arts High School for dance. She continues to dance today and also enjoys working with kids in the community through the YMCA.