First female pastor in the history of Mt. Zion CME Church
On July 14, at the annual statewide conference of Christian Methodist Episcopal churches, Mt. Zion CME Church was assigned a new pastor. For a denomination with itinerant preachers, this was a common occurrence. This particular selection, however, was a little more uncommon.
For the first time in its 148-year history, Mt. Zion is now led by a woman pastor. Gwendolyn Lewis Pabon, of the greater Ruston area, was assigned to her second stint in the Minden district, after having once served in the Haynesville community.
“I feel like I’m still in the cloud and trying to come down,” she said. “I’m excited and a little anxious, but eager to help [Mt. Zion] go higher than they already are in being a lighthouse to the community.”
Coming from her previous pastorship in Arcadia, Pabon said she was impressed by how Mt. Zion has handled the transition.
“Mt. Zion has been the finest group of people as far as receiving me,” she said. “They haven’t skipped a beat. Anyone who passes by Mt. Zion CME Church, they have indeed passed by Jesus’ headquarters. This is the finest church with the finest members in Minden.”
Pabon said one of her main focuses is ensuring Mt. Zion continues to minister to the surrounding community as much as to its own members.
“We don’t want to keep Jesus in the box,” she said. “We don’t want to just talk about him here on Sunday morning or at Bible study, but to let people see Jesus in us, in our work. We’re the vehicles here to carry out God’s mission: that his message be given to all mankind. Whether his message is in the written word, in a service, or in a deed you can do for someone. From what I understand, that is the operational mindset of Mt. Zion and this community, and I want that to be something we continue to do.”
Despite her unique position, Pabon said she does not want people to look at her and see a female pastor but a child of God who is there to be of service.
“I believe it’s important for the word of God to get out into the community, regardless of who the gender is as pastor,” she said. “It’s important to me that God’s word is shared with all: the young, old, male, and female. And in my experience, it doesn’t matter who shares it.”
Even so, Pabon said she recognizes the special work God can do through her in this special new chapter in the church’s history.
“I’m thankful for the privilege and opportunity to be able to step in and say God used me to help transition the history here,” she said. “It’s definitely my prayer to continue to walk the walk and share the talk in the work that God has called me and others to do. It’s an honor to be with God’s people.”