Affectionately known as “Dr. Sam,” Rev. Sam Wright, born in Indiana, is the oldest of four children. He earned a Ph.D. in biblical studies. He has served Methodist churches of Florida since 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Sarasota on July 1, 2016.
In addition to being a pastor, Dr. Sam has a passion for both teaching and writing. He has taught at universities and seminaries in Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, and Brazil. He has also written Sunday School curriculum and articles for theological journals.
He and his wife Yvonne suffered the tragic loss of their son in 2013. Their personal journey through the grieving process is the basis for his book Heartbreak to Hope: Overcoming the Anguish of Grief. This 2016 publication has helped many people find their way through their grieving. The book is available in the church office and on www.amazon.com.
Dr. Sam’s first volume of a series entitled Smart Aleck’s Guide to the Bible is a humorous look at the stories of the Bible and also an introduction to the Bible for non-Christians. This book is also available in the church office and on www.amazon.com.
Dr. Sam and Yvonne’s daughter Rebekah Joy lives and works in Sarasota. She tells all that her cat Max is quite affectionate, especially to those who dislike cats. She has a sense of humor similar to her father’s.
Dr. Sam’s favorite part of his job is “the people.” When he is not tending to the needs of his congregation, he enjoys sailing, writing, reading, and photography.
Donna, born in Virginia and raised in Tennessee, has a degree in English. After moving to Florida to get her Master’s Degree in Education, she taught high school and junior college English for seventeen years, bypassing administration. She has worked for the University of Michigan in survey research, traveling between Ann Arbor and other states. A leader in Methodist churches and the Florida conference, she became a First Church staff member in January 1999. Her responsibilities fluctuate with the season but include hospitality, new members/sponsors, writing, editing, assisting with worship, organizing, coordinating, and whatever needs to be done. Donna enjoys exercising, traveling, and meets no stranger.
Michael, a native Floridian, became the Director of Music /Organist in May 2018. His undergraduate and graduate degrees in organ performance are from Baylor University. He has been the Principal Organist for FUMC, Houston, and Associate Organist/Choirmaster at Peachtree Road UMC, Atlanta. Michael has often performed with Sarasota and state symphonies and orchestras. With both organ and piano talents, he has often appeared as an organ soloist and has toured the British Isles in concert performances. He delights in meeting new people and spending time with his family and daughter Chloe. Michael, the man of daily unique socks, continues to bring innovations to the music program of First Church.
Woody, a professional magician, was a police officer/deputy sheriff. When he and wife Dee moved from Maine to Sarasota in 2018, he enjoyed teaching drama and directing plays at Gocio Elementary. Woody, who was the Associate Pastor at Cressey Road UMC in Gorham, Maine, was added to the FUMC staff in 2019 to help move First Church beyond the walls of the church to make disciples and spread God’s love - known as “fresh expressions.” He also facilitates study groups and helps with any needed projects. His hobbies are reading and playing with Rosebud, their Chiweenie. He says his great-great-great granduncle was a pirate. Is this true or just Woody’s unique sense of humor?
To let our church family, guests, and staff see and know that their safety is of the utmost importance to First Church, our security guard Johnny Szabo keeps his eyes and ears alert for worship services and other church events. Johnny has been “watching over” since 2018. Born in Hungary, he worked in law enforcement and security in Europe, including the protection of U. S. and Israeli dignitaries, before moving to Florida. Johnny, as part of the FUMC community, is honored to provide a safe, yet welcoming, environment. He is also a certified life coach with his own practice. Johnny’s passion is helping others. His daughter is his pride and joy.
I have traveled to 33 countries!