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Churches: Female minister one of only two in area

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

The Rev. Pam Ledbetter has been breaking down barriers in the Methodist Church for 40 years.

Becoming the first woman to be named minister of St. Paul Waccamaw United Methodist Church has been an easy one, she said. Ledbetter was named to replace the Rev. Nels Ledwell, who was transferred to Blythewood, at the church last month. She is the second woman to head a church on the Waccamaw Neck. The Rev. Janie Royal is pastor of St. Mary’s AME Zion Church of Pawleys Island.

“This is a very warm congregation, sweet people,” Ledbetter said.

She arrived from Rock Hill on June 25, just in time to see church members beginning work on the annual peach festival. “They are workers,” Ledbetter said. Her goal at St. Paul’s is to reach out to more families with young children. “We are really passionate about this being a family church,” she said. “We have a lot of things to offer young families and youth, and we are gearing the ministry budget-wise to expand those. When people move to this area, I want them to think about St. Paul’s as a place to worship.”

Ledbetter said she saw a willingness to serve others in her new congregation right away. The people providing devotions at the Lakes at Litchfield had stopped. She asked for a pianist and someone who could read the lessons.

“In less than a week, I had six teams,” Ledbetter said. “I love the energy of the congregation. They are very passionate about ministry, about making a difference in the community and the world. That is fun for me.”

Born in Moncks Corner, Ledbetter got a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern and graduated from Candler Seminary at Emory University in Atlanta. She had to go north to find a job. “I was in the South Georgia Conference,” she said, “and they were not eager to have women serving churches.” A bishop was recruiting women for his conference, and Ledbetter spent 10 years in Delaware and Maryland.

In those days, Ledbetter said she had to keep a sense of humor and stay committed no matter how people acted. “My thought was as a pastor to treat people the way you wanted them to behave and don’t worry about where they are going with their thoughts and their feelings about your appropriateness,” she said.

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Ledbetter has followed a man into the pulpit of every church where she has served. “It wasn’t easy,” she said. “I’ve actually had great experiences as a minister. I’m really close to all my churches.”

Ledbetter has moved closer to her family by coming to Litchfield. She has a sister in Camden, two brothers in Charleston and a nephew in Florence.

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