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Rev. Semmes Retiring After ‘Rewarding’ Career, Returning Home to Oxford

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor


After more than 20 years of service to the church, Rev. John M. Semmes has announced his retirement and will be returning home to Oxford where he served at First Presbyterian Church for 14 years.

Semmes has a distinguished career as a pastor and head of staff and also devoted many years to leading churches through transitional periods as an Interim Pastor.

Semmes’ most recent work was as Interim Pastor/Head of Staff at Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta.

Before embarking on his chapter in interim work, Semmes served at First Presbyterian Church in Oxford as Pastor and Head of Staff from 2004 to 2018, a period in which the church experienced significant growth and outreach into the community.

He also served as Associate Pastor in Lexington, Kentucky from 2001 to 2004.

He had also served in pivotal interim roles as Interim Pastor and Head of Staff at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C. and Shallowford Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

Semmes’ vocation as a pastor was the second chapter in his career.

Before his call to ministry, he had a successful sales career in both media and medicine prior to becoming a second-career student at Princeton Theological Seminary. While at Princeton, he was awarded the Jagow Prize for Preaching.

Semmes received his Master of Divinity in 2001.

Semmes is exploring a variety of outlets for his talents in retirement including work in the academic and cultural communities.

“I plan to take a few months off to think about that, but feel confident it will involve helping people in some way,” he said.

He said he is looking forward to returning to Oxford on Feb. 1 and spending time with his wife of 30-plus years, Cindy.

“Oxford is home,” he said on his decision to return to Oxford. “Despite living in five other great cities over 25 years, Oxford is where we raised our children and enjoy our deepest friendships. Like so many others, we love everything about it.”

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