Photo Gallery: The Rev. Shelia Shores-Ross

PITTSFIELD -- For Sheila Shores-Ross, her ascendancy as the latest pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pittsfield is a match made by heaven, as well as in heaven.

Shores-Ross is from New Orleans, with a 20-year side trip to North Carolina. The weather in both places is almost certainly a little balmier than it is in Berkshire County in the middle of winter.

No matter to Shore-Ross. "This," she said, "is where I was called."

The members of the First Baptist Church are glad she heard the call.

"Her spirituality outshone everyone else we looked at," said Stuard Scace, the president of the nine-member pulpit search committee. "We really liked her openness and she did an interesting thing after her interview: At the end of it, she led us in prayer. No other candidate did that."

"She's very inspiring," said Christine Carlson, who has been a member of the First Baptist Church her entire life. "She' so warm and inviting. You feel so serene around her, and empowered. You want to do good."

The church has been without a full-time pastor for the past two years. The search itself took about a year, said Scace, and a total of 53 applicants from around the country sent in resumes.

That number was whittled down to 23, and then 12 finalists, all of whom were interviewed via Skype.

The First Baptist Church, like many Baptist churches around the country, operates independently.

Thus, a search committee brings a candidate before the congregation, and the congregation then votes to approve or disapprove the candidate's hiring.

Shores-Ross and her husband Nelson arrived in the Berkshires on Thursday. They rented an apartment in Dalton and on Sunday, she led her first service.

"She brought down the house," said Maria Scace, wife of Stuart Scace. "She is filled with the spirit."

After the service, Shores-Scace met members of the congregation and hugged every one of them.

"We came up here with just the necessities," said Shores-Ross. "All I needed was my sermon and my robe."

"It is a loving church," said Shores-Ross of her congregation. "It is a wonderful church."

She made sure a reporter mentioned her husband's encouragement and reinforcement.

"When I decided to heed the calling, my husband was incredibly supportive," she said. "He said, ‘Whatever God wants you to do, I will be there with you.' What more could a woman want than to have a husband like that?"

To reach Derek Gentile:
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