Jaye Lynn Peabody wears many hats.
She’s a mom of four kids and a PTA co-president at Partee Elementary School, in addition to working as a therapist and serving as the executive director of Covenant Counseling & Family Resource Center, a faith-based nonprofit. Peabody, of Snellville, explained that the center’s mission is to promote healing and wholeness in the community through pastoral counseling, psychotherapy, education and consultation.
Her capacity for acceptance comes from her childhood. Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Peabody is one of six children of a Caucasian, Jewish mom and an African American, Baptist dad who have been married more than 40 years. The family focused on celebrating both religions and cultures.
“They got married at a time when in some states, it was illegal to do so,” Peabody said of her parents. “In New Jersey, there were quite a few families that were mixed, so it didn’t feel odd to me until I got older and people would ask me what my nationality was."
Her mother had been married before so she was raised with two sisters and a brother who were white. She describes her upbringing as an “amazing,” diverse experience.
“My white sister married an African American. My brother married a woman from Jamaica. My sister is a lesbian and her partner is Catholic – they’re the most different in the group,” she said, laughing.
Peabody went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree from Ramapo College of New Jersey and did an internship at a hospital during her last year.
“I fell in love with the idea of working with people who are underserved,” she said.
She decided to go to graduate school at New York University where she earned a master of public administration in health policy and nonprofit management. Since then, she has worked in the health sector, primarily with women and children.
Peabody decided to go into ministry after taking a discipleship class. She went through the ordination process in an AME church and in 2005 was given her first full time position in the church in which she was a member.
“I knew I had a calling on my life,” she said, “but I didn’t think it was to be a pastor.”
A year later, she learned that the pastor was accused of sexual misconduct and misuse of funds and everyone but her was terminated or put on leave. As the associate pastor/youth pastor, she was “helping to keep the church running, but was going through a difficult time. People wanted to know how to forgive, but in my anger I couldn’t,” she said.
She ultimately sought counseling from Dr. Joe Whitwell at Covenant Counseling & Family Resource Center.
“After two or three sessions, he suggested that I didn’t need therapy, but that it was a good time for me to complete clinical pastoral education," she said. "The process was life changing for me, transforming. I learned so much about myself in ministry and realized then that I wanted to do pastoral counseling."
Peabody then earned a master of science in clinical mental health and a master of divinity in pastoral care and counseling from Mercer University in Atlanta. When Whitwell retired from Covenant as executive director, Peabody applied for the position and was hired by the board of directors in October 2009.
“I look at the time at the church as a really bad time for me, yet it brought me to Covenant,” she said. “I knew that when I first came I would be here for a while. I feel that this is where God wants me to be.”
In her position, Peabody counsels, teaches, conducts workshops, and provides executive leadership. She also works to bring attention to the organization, manages programs, and collaborates with community organizations.
Recently, Covenant joined with Eastside Medical Center, the Snellville Police Department, the Lawrenceville Police Department, and Walton EMC to open a women’s sexual assault center in the community. Covenant will train staff members to work with sexual assault victims, as well as victims’ advocates.
Peabody’s sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, recently donated nearly 100 sweat suits to the sexual assault center. And the sorority just honored her with the Servant’s Heart Award for the southeast region primarily due to the work Covenant is doing with the sexual advocacy program.
Peabody notes that her two toughest assignments at Covenant are fundraising and board development.
“I am always looking and interested in meeting with people who share our mission – to provide health and healing to individuals, families, congregations and organizations that are in our community." She states that her personal mission is to “help others be whole.”
A member of the current Leadership Gwinnett class, Peabody is a National Certified Counselor and a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and the American Association of Clinical Pastoral Education. She is available to present workshops on an array of topics including relationships, parenting, ADHD, transitions, communication, and grief.
How does Peabody wear all these hats and still manage to maintain a balanced life? After her third child was born, Peabody said, her parents moved south and live in an apartment in her basement.
Who inspires her? “For me, that would be Jesus,” she said. “I would say that I’m extremely grateful for everything that God has done for me. How I live my life is my way of showing gratitude. That’s where my desire to serve others comes from – out of my gratitude.”