After 21 years, the Rev. Joel Snider has decided to retire from First Baptist Church of Rome.
Today is his last day as pastor, he said.
“I’d like to thank the staff of the church, because they are a great group to work with,” he said. “Also, the members of the church — they are the church. They are great people, so therefore this church will be great long after I am gone.”
Snider said when he came to Rome in 1995, he found more than a church, he found a real home for his family.
“I wasn’t actively looking for a position at the time,” he said. “I was in Nashville, and the church was searching and I was interviewed. When I came here, I fell in love with the people and the charm of the community.”
The church’s community involvement also struck a chord with him, he said.
“The driving vision of this church is ‘Seeking his heart, being his hands,’” said Snider. “There has always been so much effort to help those in need.”
And even though he is retiring so he can take some time and rest, relax and travel, he isn’t going anywhere for too long.
“I wanted a slower pace, I have three grandchildren I want to spend more time with,” he explained. “This felt like the right time to retire, like this chapter of my life was coming to an end. However, my wife Cherry and I will stay in Rome.”
Snider said he plans to take some time after his retirement to allow the church to find a new pastor and let him make the transition.
Then, he and his wife plan to return to First Baptist as members.
“Anyone who comes here, they will see what a wonderful place this church, what a wonderful place Rome is,” Snider said. “If they come here, they might as well plan to make it their home, because they will love it.”
One of the things that have brought him the most joy during his service at First Baptist is seeing people grow in their faith.
“When they have that ‘ah-ha’ experience with Christ,” he said. “You see a change in their lives. You see them begin to give themselves to serving him. That is the most rewarding part of my job.”
He said one of his favorite memories of his time at First Baptist is the event the church held on the evening of 9/11.
“We hosted an interfaith worship at the church,” he said. “The coming together of different denominations and faiths, the spirit of that evening, that is one of my most profound memories.”
Snider said he knew from the age of 20 that he was going to be a pastor.
“I felt God’s call in my life,” he said. “I just knew what I was supposed to do.”
In 40 years of service, Snider has served in churches in Nashville, Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky.
I’ve always followed where God leads,” he said. “It’s always been in the South.”
As he retires, he encourages anyone who wants to start attending church to visit First Baptist.
“I would say that any number of people who were perhaps previously disappointed with church would find this church a good place to grow their faith,” said Snider. “It’s something I’ve seen happen many times in my years here.”