As Second Avenue United Methodist Church’s first female pastor, she may have her hands full with all the duties and responsibilities any new pastor has, but for the moment she’s simply happy to be back in the community and in the welcoming arms of her new congregation.
“It was very much a blessing to be appointed to this church,” Sanders said. “They had no idea I had spent some years of my childhood here. They didn’t know I had connections to Rome.”
The “they” Sanders refers to is the District Superintendent who, in the Methodist Church, decides on pastoral appointments within the district. In this case, the Northwest Georgia district. Sanders could have been appointed to serve in any number of churches. But she was sent to Second Avenue Methodist.
But that’s merely the tail end of a long journey back to Rome.
Sanders spent a few years of her childhood here, the daughter of Gene and Grace Sanders, in a house on East Rome’s Riverview Road. She attended first grade at Darlington Lower School and worshipped at Second Avenue Baptist where she enjoyed singing with the choir.
Her parents moved to Atlanta and Beth left Rome. She got her English and philosophy degree at Emory and then her law degree at UGA. She practiced law in Atlanta for seven years before her life took a complete turnaround.
“I started feeling called to become a pastor,” she said. “Law wasn’t as fulfilling as it should have been. One case in particular made me realize that a legal resolution wasn’t enough for me or the client. I wanted to help with spiritual resolution as well.”
So despite concerns from her parents, Sanders quit her law practice and went back to school at Emory’s Candler School of Theology where she got her theology degree.
“It totally changed my life,” she said. “And now my parents are very supportive and active in my churches. I knew this was what God was calling me to do but I resisted it for a couple years because I knew it would be such a big commitment. You just have to go where you’re sent.”
After serving at two Atlanta Methodist Churches, she got the call to come to Rome.
“My first time leading worship was last Sunday,” she said. “But everyone has been so generous and kind and welcoming. I hope to have gatherings at people’s homes so I can meet them in smaller groups and finding out what I can offer to this congregation.”
While she’s getting to know her congregation and settling into life as pastor at Second Avenue Methodist, Sanders finds time to get reacquainted with Rome. One of the ways she’s doing that is by running. She has run the Peachtree Road Race before and plans to run the race this year, saying running helps her to relax and unwind.
As the trails around Rome take her past familiar sights, Sanders gets little flashes of memories from her childhood. It won’t take long before she’s familiar with the community once more.
And members at her church may not realize they’re getting a little help in the choir as well. Sanders sang in a small a cappella ensemble in Atlanta and can’t wait to lend her voice in praise at Second Avenue Methodist.
“I’m really just trying to build their trust at this point,” she said. “I’m used to a more traditional worship style which I believe will be appreciated here. But I have to demonstrate that pastoral care. It’s tough to just come in and expect people to trust you with their faith and their beliefs which are so deeply held and so important.”
Sanders also hopes to connect with other pastoral colleagues throughout Rome. She said although she is only a small part of Rome’s religious community, she is excited at the idea of forming relationships that will extend beyond the walls of Second Avenue Methodist.
“I hope to serve my congregation but I’d also like to reach out to the entire community,” she said. “Part of my job is to be a part of a great web of relationships within this community.”