As a pastor and counselor, the Rev. Dr. Jaye Lynn Peabody Smith strives to “be a vessel for God’s love.”
With a master’s degree in public administration, the Snellville resident was working as a senior administrator at Morehouse School of Medicine when she initiated her journey into ministry.
“I just loved ministry,” she said. “When the opportunity came, I took that chance. Everybody thought I was ridiculous. I already had a master’s from New York University. But I loved the idea of being immersed in ministry.”
Dr. Smith became an ordained minister, took on part-time work at a church, and began classes at Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology in the early 2000s. At McAfee, she found professors, mentors and peers who looked out for her best interests and cared about her and her family. She now has a blended family of seven children, ages 28 to 14, with her husband, Tommie Smith. Dr. Smith said the school was so affirming and supportive of the fact that she was a Black woman in ministry.
“That’s kind of the joy of McAfee; it was a family,” she said. “I had actually started at two other theology schools, and they just weren’t a good fit. I went to McAfee, and I had the best experience. I fell into this idea of pastoral counseling and loved it, and I was thrilled when I found out about the dual program (in Master of Divinity/Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling).”
Amid her studies at Mercer, she moved into the role of executive director of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia for two years before becoming a full-time youth pastor. By 2011, Dr. Smith had finished her degrees at Mercer and was the executive director at Covenant Counseling and Family Resource Center, a role that combined her nonprofit and ministry backgrounds.
Desiring a more flexible schedule to accommodate her children’s needs, she opened her own counseling practice, the Peabody Practice, in Snellville in 2014. The practice provides individual, couples, family and group therapy.
Dr. Smith has been the executive pastor at Redemptive Life Christian Fellowship in Conyers since 2020 and previously served in that role at New Bethel AME Church in Lithonia. In 2021, she earned her Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Counseling from McAfee.
“I’m extremely grateful for my McAfee experience,” she said. “It helped me grow as a pastor, as a woman, even as a mom. I’m really indebted.”
She also is the founder and director of My Sacred Space, a nonprofit counseling organization that provides free and affordable mental health services to those in need; travels frequently to do speaking engagements for churches and professional organizations; and is a published author.
Amid the many hats that Dr. Smith wears, she says her work all fits together nicely. She makes sure to keep her client counseling schedule manageable, and her church is supportive of her traveling engagements.
“I get to do what I love,” she said. “My philosophy about therapy is that we all come into this world wonderful and good, and somewhere, life teaches us something different. Those narratives we take into our adult life. In therapy, we figure out where we got those messages and rewrite them with God’s truth for our life. It really all comes together. A lot of the preaching I do, the sermons are about those things that come up in counseling … grief, pain, the hope that we find in our relationship with God.”
Dr. Smith said it’s fulfilling to be able to ignite hope in people through her sermons and help counseling clients overcome their struggles and discover their purpose.
“My mission and goal in life is to be a vessel for God’s love, and any time that happens through any of those mediums, that to me is the most rewarding part,” she said.
Dr. Smith has led classes on nonprofit leadership and pastoral care in the past and hopes to find ways to teach more in the future. Besides that, she’s not quite sure yet what the future will hold.
“I know God is calling me to a next step, and I’m really just waiting for God to reveal to me what that is. Whatever that is, I’m going to do.”