Who are the people of Mt. Olive?

  • We are a community connected by trust in God’s unconditional love for his world, revealed in Jesus Christ. We are part of the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA),  where all are welcome.

  • We are a congregation with a heart for service and are always looking for ways to join God’s work in Hickory and throughout the world.

  • We are a multi-generational congregation. Children are not only welcome in worship, they help lead it.

  • We sponsor and support many church and community ministries and are actively seeking new ministry partners.

  • Our central activity together is worship when we hear the good news of Jesus taught and receive God’s grace through Holy Communion.

  • We invite you to join us!

Sunday – 8:30am & 10:45am

Sunday School:
Sunday – 9:45am

Our Staff

Meet the dedicated servants who organize our church community. Our staff members bring passion, expertise, and a shared commitment to serving Jesus in and through Mt. Olive. Get to know the faces guiding our ministries, and reach out to us with any questions or support you need.

The Rev. Dr. Ryan T. Ray

Lead Pastor & Teen Ministry

Pastor Ryan passionately believes and teaches that God loves us all, and we can do nothing about it! He has found great joy in being the servant-leader of Mt. Olive since 2017.

He is married to his much better half, Kim, and is the proud father of Liam and Nolan. He maintains a love-hate relationship with Umi, a miniature greyhound who has charmed his way into the Rays’ home and hearts. 

Pastor Ryan loves music, reading, home-cooked food, traveling, and anything that gets him outside in God’s creation. If you have an hour to waste, bring up The Beatles, The Office (US), or NC Barbecue around him.

Jenna Waters

Director of Music & Children’s Ministries

Jenna is the longest-serving member of Mt. Olive’s leadership team and combines her gifts and passion for music with her enormous heart for children.  She is a recent graduate of the UNC School of the Arts, where she received a Master of Music in Organ Performance under Dr. Timothy Olsen.  She completed her undergraduate degrees in Sacred Music and Music Performance at Lenoir-Rhyne University.  Jenna has served as Mt. Olive’s organist since May 2016, when she was only 17 years old.  Over the years, she has gained experience in service playing and organ performance, along with experience in many other areas that have prepared her for the responsibilities of her current position. She began coordinating our ministries with children and their families in 2023.

In addition to her work at Mt. Olive, Jenna has performed at many local churches, including recitals in Greensboro and Salisbury, NC.  She has performed on a variety of instruments, even some historic organs, and she enjoys the challenge of adjusting to each one.  Jenna has been hired to play for the NC ELCA Synod Gathering (2022), the NC WELCA Gathering (2024), and other special services.  She also enjoys accompanying the chorus students at local schools for competitions and performances.

In her free time, Jenna loves working on new organ repertoire, running, and spending time with her 87-pound Golden Retriever, Kobi, who regularly attends staff meetings.

Karen Abernathy

Parish Administrator

Karen was born and raised in Rutherford College, NC. She enjoys being the youngest of three children and the only girl. She is married to Justin Abernathy from Hildebran, NC, and they have been married for almost two decades. They have two daughters, Ella and Jenna, who are both attending college. We are blessed that Karen is a part of the Mt. Olive family.