The last name of Jolly has put a few smiles on the faces of those he introduces himself too.
“It’s definitely an icebreaker,” the Rev. Robert Jolly, new pastor at Sardinia Presbyterian Church, said Jan. 20 with a smile.
Last year was a busy year for the Jollys.
Robert graduated from the seminary and the couple uprooted their family and moved from a fairly metropolitan area in York County to rural Clarendon County.
If anyone had told Jolly a year or so ago that he’d be living in the country where he’d spend a Friday night on the side porch looking up at the stars, he’d have thought they were out of their minds, he said.
“But, I love it,” he added. “It’s a slower lifestyle here. You have more time to spend with family. It’s a small community where everyone knows each other. I’m enjoying the slower pace of life.”
For 20 years, Jolly spent his weeks traveling from one side of the country to the other for Wachovia. The only time he had with his family was on the weekends.
“I was jet setting,” he said. “I was moving up the corporate ladder at a good pace. I was doing what the company wanted me to do. I was on a plane all the time. I was spread too thin. Kim was the one raising the family. I was away.”
More income meant more material things, he said.
“I always thought I had to have the latest time saving gadget,” Jolly added, “to keep me more connected. It took me awhile to see the fruitlessness of that lifestyle.”
For the last 10 years of his banking career, Jolly said he was struggling with making a move.
“The Lord was working on me then,” he said. “I ran for 10 years. It just wasn’t clear to me yet.”
Also during this time, Robert and Kim were blessed with twins who were born very early with one weighing just 1.13 pounds and the other 3.9 pounds.
“I was a banker and a fixer,” he said. “But, there was nothing I could do to help them. We cried out to God for his help.”
Today, one would never know the twins struggled to live the first two months of their lives, he said.
In 2008, Jolly made the move – leaving a very profitable 20-year career in banking to attend seminary.
In 2011, Jolly graduated from seminary and made another move – to Sardinia and the Sardinia Presbyterian Church.
“Am I glad I made the move? Absolutely,” Jolly said. “I miss my close friends. I miss being able to walk down the street to Harris Teeter. My daughter is an accomplished ballet student. Now we have to drive her farther to lessons.”
Jolly said their old community might have been more vibrant, but in the community of Sardinia, the church is the hub of activity.
“It’s the life of the people,” he said. “What the Lord has done is redeem me out of the culture I was in and brought me here. This is where God intended for me to be.”
Moving to a small rural community, Jolly said he’s learned that a lot of the activities surrounding the church and community involve food.
“Our church has a lot of great cooks,” he said. “Not just the women but the men can cook too.”
Jolly said it isn’t unusual for someone in the congregation or community to drop off a casserole or vegetables.
“It’s their way of showing their love,” he said. “And, that’s a wonderful thing.”
Jolly said he also believes the Lord led him to Sardinia to pastor a church that has so many youngsters in the church.
“We have 97 on the roll,” he said, “but we have 20 elementary age children. We have a lot of young families and Kim and I have young children. I believe the Lord led me here not for just the next four years but for the next 40 years.”
Today, Jolly said he jogs in front of the church and waves and greets motorists as they drive by.
“I’ve heard so many wonderful stories from the people in this community,” he added. “It’s an agricultural setting so unlike the York area where we lived before. The people here make their living from the soil. They spend their lives turning the soil. They understand that God delivers the rain. It’s these people who build the rich fabric of our community.”
Jolly said he’s excited to be in Sardinia.
“I love the people here,” he said. “They welcomed us with open arms and it feels like home already.”