Coal Grove Methodist welcomes new pastor

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2007

COAL GROVE — She laughs easily as she settles into a chair in the living room of her new home.

“I’m still unpacking,” she said, gesturing to a stack of boxes. But even with those pesky moving chores, the Rev. Ruth Carter-Crist is delving into her new duties as pastor of Coal Grove United Methodist Church with an enthusiasm that is obvious by the smile on her face.

“The people here are so friendly,” she said. “It’s exciting to be here.”

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Carter-Crist assumed her duties July 1, having previously pastored a church in Fulton County. For Carter-Crist, life as a Methodist minister is something she knows well, though she has not always been one.

“I was called at a young age. My father was a United Methodist minister and I was a child of the 50s. I heard you couldn’t be a minister if you were a woman so I went into education and I taught a couple of years and then I went into rehabilitation for the disabled and in doing this I felt like I was answering God’s call,” she said.

But she retired from the secular a few years ago and God was still calling, wanting her life to go in a different direction.

Thinking she would be one of the few middle-aged women, she nevertheless enrolled in the church’s theological seminary in Dayton, only to find she was right in step with many of her classmates. These days half the ministers ordained through the UMC are women.

The median age is 43. She was in good company after all.

“When I first began seminary I was over 50 and when you can’t find your car keys and can’t remember your kids’ names you wonder if you’ve got what it takes to study,” she laughed. “But it did come back to me.”

That was two and a half years ago. She will graduate with a master’s degree in theology in December, juggling course work and church responsibilities in the meantime.

When church leaders tapped her for a new assignment this spring, Carter-Crist was surprised. She was still in seminary and, being from northwest Ohio, she knew little about this part of the state.

“I didn’t know where Coal Grove was,” she said.

But she knows now. And she said she loves her new home.

“I was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the northeast and then I was in northwest Ohio and that was the flatlands. I love these hills and trees and I love being near water, with the river,” she said. “I love the geography and the people. The people are so gracious and nice, just nice southern hospitality.”

Carter-Crist said she hopes to get better acquainted with her congregation and with the community.

“I would invite anyone who doesn’t have a church to come and visit,” she said. “I would extend a heartfelt invitation.”