Taking up the mantle: John Roland enjoys serving Sterrett as the new pastor of Beulah Baptist Church

Published 4:27 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

STERRETT – The historic Beulah Baptist Church in Sterrett now has a new face in the pulpit after the retirement of its former pastor.

As of Jan. 1, John Roland is the new pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Sterrett after the retirement of Earl Hardy, who served as pastor for more than 20 years.

“I’m honored,” Roland said., “I’m just grateful for the seeds that (Hardy’s) sown and the foundation he’s laid (and) the leadership he’s provided. I’m grateful for all that he’s invested in these wonderful people. It’s truly a partnership that I’m proud to be a part of.”

On top of servicing a congregation that he enjoys, Roland also finds himself in the pulpit of a historic church that has served local communities since its formation in 1852. Roland said that he finds preaching at such a church to be humbling.

“There are a lot of people that have loved that church, loved that facility that have passed and they leave a legacy behind, “Roland said. “(They want) us to secure the mantle and not let it die, not let it drop and so that motivates me.”

It was a journey of choices that brought Roland, a Tallahassee, Florida native all the way to the pulpit in Shelby County. After growing up in a “Christian home,” Roland went on to study at Samford University where he said he learned a lot about “the way I was made and shaped.”

Despite this, Roland first sought to be a lawyer but while studying at Florida State University, he had an important realization.

While at a retreat he heard a speaker address on what the prayer of someone’s life ought to be and they referenced Isaiah’s response to God in in Isaiah 6:8, ‘Here am I; send me.’

“I began praying that for some time and so, I really began to sense that I was miserable at law school, I didn’t enjoy it, it was very cutthroat and it’s just not the future,” Roland said.

Despite his father being an attorney, Roland began to feel a different calling.

“What really got me excited in life was ministering—studying God’s word, teaching it, loving people—that’s the way I’m wired,” he said.

Roland changed paths and instead attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he obtained a master of divinity. Over the course of his life, he’s acquired many tools and credentials including a bachelor of science in public administration from Samford University and a master of business from Kennesaw State University. In addition to his role at Beulah Baptist church, he also serves as the advancement officer for the Howard College of Arts and Sciences at Samford University.

Now, a pastor with years of experience behind him, Roland views his main goal as “less of me and more of God.”

“Nothing of me will change lives but God’s word is what changes lives,” he said.

Despite being one of the newest faces amongst the congregation he now leads, Roland finds Beulah Baptist Church to be a welcoming place and said it feels very much like home.

“They’ve been very welcoming and loving to our family and I look forward to being there every week,” he said. “There’s not a day that I don’t jump out of bed and (get) ready to get there.”