Tom Scott, a long-time member of the church, remembers how Gunter was instrumental in transforming the church when he arrived.
“I joined Heritage in 1979, so I was there before Sid came,” he said. “He was the second pastor of the church. There was about a year in between pastors where we had an interim pastor. The church was down to almost nothing by the time he arrived. And what we have now is largely responsible to him.”
Scott said Gunter had a particular passion for the young members of the church.
“He almost immediately built a viable youth group for our church,” he said. “From the time he arrived, he started taking 30 or 40 high school kids every summer over to Montreat, North Carolina, where the Presbyterian Church held camps all summer.”
Gunter was also involved in community outreach, Scott said.
“Sid certainly provided the leadership to build a large food pantry and clothing closet,” he said.
Gunter, Scott said, handles all of his roles successfully and with pride.
“I can’t think of a more difficult job than to be a pastor of a church where you’ve got to take care of the spiritual needs of the church, you have to be a good counselor and you also have the practical skills to be a business manager of a church campus,” he said. “He does all those things exceptionally well.”
Scott said Gunter’s diverse background allowed him to engage with everyone in the church.
“He is very likable,” he said. “He’s a former Georgia (Institute of) Tech(nology) football player. He can pretty much appeal to anybody in the church. We’ve been blessed to have him at Heritage for as long as he’s been there.”
Gunter really did practice what he preached, said Cassie Waits.
“He believes very much that we should not just go to church but “be” the church, and he exemplifies this in the care and love he extends to the HPC church family,” she said. “He was one of the first people to visit me after my first child was born — he arrived before a few members of my family. He teaches that we should comfort each other, encourage each other and love each other — and he lives this out every day. Although he is retiring, his influence lives on in our congregation and in all of those he inspired.”
As a pastor at Covington Presbyterian Church in Covington, La., Rob White said he learned most of what he knows about conducting a church from Gunter.
“Sid was my mentor while I was in seminary,” White said. “I worked for Sid as a youth director and pastoral intern at Heritage for three years. Sid provided a lot of insight and opportunity for me to takeover leadership. There were several times he allowed me to take the pulpit and it really helped into turning me where I am now.”
One lesson in particular, White said, was about the role of the church in people’s lives.
“The church doesn’t fit at the corner of two streets,” White said. “We are the church. Sid was always one to encourage people to get out of the doors and go where we need to go. He convinced us that the church was the starting gate, not the finish line.”
And Gunter’s passion for the youth and community also carried over to White.
“I helped to start children’s ministry where I am now and I volunteer at the food bank where I am now because I was able to work at the food pantry at Heritage and was encouraged by Sid that sometimes we need to put food on the ground before we throw money at the situation,” White said.
The church is at 5323 Bells Ferry Road in Acworth. For more information about the church, visit heritagepres.com.