RONCEVERTE, W.Va. -- A pastor in the small town of Ronceverte, Stephen Baldwin was surprised to learn he'd been nominated to a high position of leadership within the Presbytery of West Virginia.
At 29 years old and with four-and-a-half years of experience at the pulpit, Baldwin is the youngest person to serve as moderator in the Presbytery of West Virginia. He's also the first Greenbrier County minister to be elected to the position.
"[It] was a shock to me," Baldwin said, recalling the phone call he received in December. He was later elected moderator.
As moderator, Baldwin will preside over the denomination's business meetings, which bring together Presbyterians from across the state. The Presbytery of West Virginia comprises 140 congregations and more than 11,000 people.
Rev. Frank Mansell, a retired Charleston-area Presbyterian minister, said when choosing a moderator, the denomination takes a candidate's ability and talents into consideration more than his or her age. Baldwin will do a great job as moderator, he said.
"I'm delighted to see these young ministers come and assume roles of leadership," said Mansell, who's known Baldwin over the past several years. "I think it's terrific."
Other denominations, and not just the Presbyterian Church, will benefit from the involvement of the younger generation, Mansell said.
A native of Greenbrier County, Baldwin preached his first sermon at age 15. He said he's always felt a "slow and steady" call from God into the ministry.
As a young man, Baldwin's minister helped him explore that call, and let him tag along to visit people and also preach and lead worship.
"I found that I did enjoy it and I did like it," Baldwin said of ministry. "So I moved in that direction."
Baldwin, whose boyish looks make him appear a little younger than his 29 years, said he's sure age is sometimes an issue among some of the older church members. He recalled a time recently when a movie theater employee asked to see his ID before he watched an R-rated movie.
"If I get carded at an 'R' movie, I'm sure people are thinking, who's this kid?" he said. "I just do my job. I think when they see me doing my job and my responsibilities, then the questions seem to fade."
With four years of experience as a preacher under his belt, Baldwin said he loves his job and especially enjoys getting to help people.