Conference commissions woman, 70, as oldest pastor to-date
By Jessica Connor
Myrna Kay Westfall, 70, would never have imagined 10 years ago that she would be pastoring two small churches in the Hartsville District of the S.C. Conference.
But on June 10, the great-grandmother became the oldest person this conference has ever commissioned as a pastor. Westfall was commissioned an associate member during ordination service at Annual Conference, joining 34 other associate members, deacons, provisional elders and elders commissioned or ordained before the body.
Westfall, who serves the New Market-Tabernacle Charge in the Hartsville District, has had more than her share of health problems. She suffers from Parkinson s disease, fibromyalgia, spinal stenosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But when she got the call to ministry six years ago, she never even considered saying no.
Every morning, my prayer is, ˜God, whatever you have to do for me, send my way; I m ready, willing and able. He calls, and you have to answer! Westfall said, smiling. If you re doing God s will, He gives you the strength and energy to do what He needs you to do. He never fails.
God called “ literally “ through Westfall s former district superintendent in Florence, the Rev. Janice Frederick-Watts, who phoned to ask if Westfall would prayerfully consider pastoring the Scranton-St. John Charge in the Florence District. Westfall had been a certified lay speaker, and soon she entered Asbury Theological Seminary and became a licensed local pastor.
Six years later, she is commissioned. Her husband, whom she calls her soulmate, along with her three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, all think it s great that she was called to the pulpit later in life.
Go for it, she advises older people who are contemplating their own call. There isn t anyplace in the Bible that says you get to a certain age and you have to stop doing it. Noah was 800 years old when he got the call to build the ark. God s plans are better than our plans. ¦ People should not let age stop them.
The Rev. Ken Nelson, chair of the S.C. Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, said the journey of becoming a United Methodist clergy can be long and tedious, and the educational requirements and demands made upon a candidate s time, resources and family can be daunting, yet Westfall was never deterred by any of that.
Myrna s perseverance is a testimony that in every station and stage in life, God continues to call and use persons for God s glory and the wellbeing of the church, Nelson said. Myrna s love for God and enthusiasm for the work of ministry are a real gift to the church, and we are blessed by her service among us.