SML Community Church welcomes new pastor

Tabitha Rudy

A former teacher has been called to lead others in a different way—from the pulpit.

Smith Mountain Lake Community Church’s new pastor Tabitha Rudy began her ministerial duties on Jan. 1.

Rudy grew up in the Calloway area of Franklin County and began teaching history at Franklin County High School, her alma mater, in 2010. Rudy said she enjoyed teaching, “but there was something missing.”

“I realized I was getting called into the ministry,” she said.

As a child, and later as a student at Ferrum College, Rudy stayed active in her home congregation of Monte Vista Church of the Brethren, where she served as worship leader, read Scripture, served as chair on the church board and led devotions.

While ministry never was foreign to her, she initially didn’t see herself as a pastor. Instead, there were persistent comments from others who encouraged her to enter the ministry.

On the website of Smith Mountain Lake Community Church, Rudy describes how the Brethren “believe that those who are called into the ministry should be called out from the faith community.

“Ministry is not something you eagerly pursue because you think you are good at it,” Rudy’s online biography states. “Instead, based on the gifts and skills others see, one is called out to serve. This happened to me over many years and through many experiences.”

“God was calling me through these people,” Rudy said.

After three years of teaching, Rudy enrolled fulltime in seminary. With a masters in divinity degree, she began working as an interim associate district executive minister of the local Virlina District of the Church of the Brethren. Rudy soon felt called to serve as a pastor of a church. Following an interview process last year, Smith Mountain Lake Community Church voted in favor of having Rudy serve as its next pastor.

Rudy is the second woman to serve as pastor of Smith Mountain Lake Community Church.

Smith Mountain Lake Community Church was planted in the 1990s by the Church of the Brethren. Its first pastor was a woman, Judy Mills Reimer. Mills Reimer later served as the general secretary of the Church of the Brethren.

The church is thrilled to have Pastor Rudy, said Lori Hurt, the head of the church’s search committee. Not only is Rudy a warm and welcoming person, as well as a “dyed in the wool” Brethren,” she is well known in the district and came highly recommended, Hurt said.

Overall, “she met so many of the things we were looking for in a pastor,” Hurt said.

“We feel blessed that God’s given her to us.”

Rudy’s husband, Dan, is a pastor of Ninth Street Church of the Brethren in Roanoke. Having two pastors in one household works out.

“From the beginning, he said he always wanted me to exercise my gift,” Rudy said. “He has been the best person to call out my gift.”

Rudy said one thing she is concerned about is discipleship. Calling herself a proud millennial, Rudy said she receives many questions about ways to get more young people involved in a church.

“One thing I’ve heard, and my peers have said over and over again is, ‘we want people to be authentic in their faith,’” Rudy said.

Rudy said if she has a goal for herself, as well her congregation, is to always connect one’s beliefs to one’s actions.

“If we believe certain things, it should be evident in everything we do,” Rudy said.

Speaking of her current station in life, “I feel this where I need to be,” Rudy said.

“What I realized as I get older and getting called into the ministry is that so much of the stuff I’ve always been doing was ministry work.”

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