Pastor Ashley Guthas becomes minister of Maranatha Baptist church

Published 11:43 pm Saturday, June 29, 2024

Pastor Ashley Guthas has become the new pastor at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, a church famous for the Sunday school lessons taught by former President Jimmy Carter. Guthas, a 2023 seminary graduate of Mercer University at McAfee School of Theology, gave an interview June 28.

She told how her work in churches spanned nearly twenty years, including roles as a youth pastor and associate pastor, but that this was the first time she had pastored a congregation of her own. She shared how she started in ministry: “I felt called into ministry my junior year of high school.”

Guthas told how she was initially hesitant to leave her home church, speaking of the warmth she had experienced growing up in it. “In my life, there were so many leaders in my church, whether it was a Sunday school teacher or just a community member in the church, to the various youth pastors, who had really just loved me well, and I had a church that I think lived the motto of it takes a village to raise a child.”

However, Guthas said the calling persisted: “And I felt as if God was saying, it’s time for you to go and love others in the way that you’ve been loved. And so from there, I started jumping into student ministry, and whether it was volunteering for a while or being on staff, it’s been kind of a mixture.”

Guthas told how when she first came to preach at Maranatha, she had no expectations of becoming the pastor: “Because Maranatha had been without a pastor for two years, they had been just kind of doing pulpit supply and having different people come and fill in. Someone gave Maranatha my name, and so I was invited to come and preach.”

She mentioned her surprise at the response she received: “And not long after, I was contacted by Bose Godwin, who asked me to consider coming and being their pastor. I was floored. I wasn’t looking to be the pastor of a church.”

Guthas noted that she initially took a detour: “I had other job offers at the time, and I ended up taking a different position last year with North Side Drive Baptist in Atlanta, which maybe this is God’s sense of humor, but what I didn’t know was that Northside Drive Baptist was the church that Jimmy and Rosalynn attended when they were in the governor’s mansion.”

She told what it was like preaching at a church were a former president taught Sunday school: “What I appreciate the most is knowing that this church has been filled with people from all over the world, people that have represented many different religions, different ethnicities, races, countries, languages, political beliefs, and also a vast array of socio-economic statuses. And what I love about just the influence of Jimmy Carter and having his presence here is that this church welcomed all of those people freely and openly without hesitation. And I imagine that there are very few churches around the world that have experienced this quality of diversity.” She told how this history inspired her vision: “I have a great sense of responsibility to nurture that type of radical inclusion.”

When asked about community outreach, she noted the food drive: “I think in terms of reaching the community, as you acknowledge the third Saturday of every month, the church does host the annual food drive. And we’re always looking for extra help and hearts who are willing to serve.”

Guthas also talked about her own efforts to connect: “I think it takes time to get to know a place and a people, and I don’t expect to be blindly trusted.” She told of conversations she had with different residents on back porches, or walks they had accompanied her on. “I work really hard to listen intently to the lives of those in the church and community.”

She used the analogy of a seed to describe the experience of being transplanted into Plains: “I’ve been planted among this beautiful community of Plains, and it’s going to take time to establish those roots. But I’ll be patient with that process. And I think in being patient, there will be growth for myself, for the church, and the community and hopefully the world and some ways that we can dream big, and I just choose to place that in the hands of God right now.”