CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In her 26-year career as a minister in the United Methodist Church, Rev. Sandra Steiner Ball has been the "first woman" in every appointment she's ever had.
The latest -- bishop of the church's West Virginia Conference -- is no exception.
Ball, 50, originally of Delaware, officially began her work in the Mountain State on Sept. 1.
"In coming to West Virginia it has been the most welcoming, supportive reception I think that I have ever received as the first woman in a particular position," Ball said.
The women in the West Virginia churches that she serves have welcomed her, she said. That hasn't been the case in every church she's led.
"In a lot of my other appointments in ministry, many times it's been the women who have most vehemently objected [to having a female pastor]," Ball said. "So it's just an interesting dynamic."
Ball is one of three new bishops elected by the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC in July.
The decision to serve the church's West Virginia conference was not Ball's - a committee paired her with the conference -- which encompasses most of the state and Maryland's Garrett County but excludes the Eastern Panhandle.
Before moving to Charleston, Ball's experience with West Virginia was limited. She once visited a high school friend in Bluefield, she said.
Still, when she learned that she had been elected bishop, she hoped to be placed in West Virginia.
That's partly because her home state of Delaware has a lot in common with the Mountain State. Both have small churches, which, despite their size, are vital to their communities, she said. Both have rural areas.
Then there are West Virginia's mountains.
"There's something about the mountains that is very intriguing," Ball said. "... Even in Scripture we talk about mountaintop experiences -- the places where we meet God. There's really some connection there when you have such a beautiful geographical area as West Virginia.
"Being able to see the creation that God has given us both for our health, wholeness and enjoyment, but also a wonderful environment where we have the responsibility to care for that environment so that it continues to be a place for people to live and grow well into the future."