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New UMC pastor to serve Nashville, Bingen churches

Rev. Pam Estes is the new pastor at First United Methodist Church in Nashville and Bingen United Methodist. Her first Sunday to preach will be July 7.

By Don Hall

News-Leader staff

First United Methodist Church in Nashville and Bingen United Methodist Church have a new pastor, Rev. Pam Estes.

When asked to share a little about herself, Pastor Pam’s eyes twinkle and she says, “I was born a small child…”

Her personality and sense of humor shine from the very beginning.

Pam was born in Topeka, Kan., where her dad, Jack Estes, was a teacher and student working on an advanced degree in French. In 1965 the family, including an older brother and a younger sister, would move to Arkadelphia where her father was hired to teach at Ouachita Baptist University, eventually becoming the chair of the Department of Modern Languages and assistant dean in the School of Arts and Sciences. 

So began life in Arkansas.

Pastor Pam’s mother Bonnie had never had the chance to attend college, but living in Arkadelphia, she began taking classes at Ouachita, eventually earning a B.A. in English and History. 

There was only one problem, Pam says with a smile: “She had to take French from my father. That was almost a deal-breaker.”

Pam later attended Ouachita, majoring in music education and English. After graduating, she

 spent a year studying in Strasbourg, France. 

Upon returning to Arkadelphia, she earned a master’s degree, then taught in Thayer, Mo., and Pocahontas. In the summers, she would return to Ouachita to work in the library.

Thinking she would become the head librarian at Ouachita when the current librarian retired, Pam moved to Nashville, Tenn., earning another degree, this time from Vanderbilt University, in library science. 

But God had a different future for her. Upon graduating from Vanderbilt, she moved to Boston to study theology at Boston University. Over the next four years she would serve an internship through one church, be an associate pastor at another, and then be interim organist and choir director at still another before returning to Arkansas.

“My first appointment in Arkansas was as Associate Pastor at First United Methodist in Camden,” she remembers. She was there for more than three years, then went for eight months to Stamps, where she preached every other Sunday in each of two country churches.

From Stamps, it was on to Little Rock, where she served as Senior Executive Pastor at St. James, the largest United Methodist Church in Arkansas at that time. 

Then it was St. Luke in Little Rock for four years, First United Methodist in Blytheville for six years, Grand Avenue in Hot Springs for four years, Lakeside in Pine Bluff, and FUMC Magnolia, where she was the first woman to serve as pastor. 

Three years later, it was off to St. Paul United Methodist in Little Rock, serving for five years, and now to Nashville and Bingen.

When Methodist ministers are moved from one church to another, it’s on July 1. “The average United Methodist tenure is about five years,” Pam said. When the time to decide new appointments came this past spring, the Bishop’s office called to see if she would be interested in moving to Nashville. “And I said, ‘Well, why not?’”

“I love the town of Nashville. I’ve known where Nashville is since we moved to Arkadelphia because Nashville and Arkadelphia used to play football.” Pam’s brother played on the Arkadelphia team.

“One memorable night we were here in Nashville to see him play,” she relates, “And the Scrappers broke our punter’s leg. There was not an ambulance to take him to Arkadelphia. My folks owned a Pontiac station wagon, so Daddy put the seats down and they put this kid in our car. That’s when I first understood that ‘Scrapper’ meant ‘SCRAPPER!’ in Nashville.”

Pastor Pam first felt God’s call to ministry at 14 years of age. “I’ve never doubted that this is what I’m supposed to do,” she said. After being associate pastor at two churches and senior pastor at six others over a 36-year period of time, she should know.

“One of the things I like about being United Methodist is that we emphasize that all of us are called to ministry and gifted to ministry,” she said. “I feel like I was in ministry when I was in junior high, and was a babysitter. I was in ministry when I was teaching school,” she said. “I believe that we are all called, at whatever station of our lives, as ministers of Jesus.”

“We are a people on a journey of faith with one another. I know that the people here at First United Methodist Church and at Bingen UMC know that God is directing our paths and that God is directing us to do a ministry that emphasizes Good News. When God called me, He clearly said, ‘Preach Good News.’ The Good News is that the Father is always ready to welcome any sinner.”

Pam has never married. “I may not biologically have any children,” she said, “but I love all of the children that God has given me.” There have been many over the years.

She then points to what she calls an “odd” necklace that she is wearing. “This is the balloon from the movie Up with the cross and flame on it.” The cross and flame is the logo of the United Methodist Church. “Notice that the balloon is orange. Scrapper orange.” She found it after her appointment to Nashville. “I love that movie, Up, and to have a Scrapper-orange Up balloon with the cross and flame…”

Is there anything else you would like the people of Nashville to know about you? “I love dogs,” she says with a grin. There’s the twinkle in the eye again and the sense of humor.

Welcome to Nashville, Pastor Pam, to the home of the Scrappers. We like your infectious smile,  your quick wit, and we think you’re going to fit in just fine.