Pastors' Memoirs

Pamela Ruth Cowan Sawyer, 1942-2001

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  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:10) These words guided Pam Sawyer’s life. They describe both who she was and what she strove to be in life.

The Rev. Pamela Sawyer was born December 1, 1942, to Walter and Bettie Corey Cowan of Meadville, Penn. Upon completion of high school, she enrolled in nursing school in Pittsburgh, Penn., graduating in three years with honors. Soon after graduation, her marriage to a military man took her to Texas, California, Virginia, and Germany. Pam put her nursing career on hold while raising her three children; Tracey, Matt, and Joseph. In addition to her children, she is survived by her father, Walt Cowan; one sister, Janie Cowan; and four grandchildren, Alan, Derek, David and Tory.

   Pam left her home in Woodbridge, Va., in 1988, to finish her college degree at Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky. She received her undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies and Greek, then enrolled in the three-year seminary program at Asbury Seminary. Both programs were completed with honors. As a member of the Order of St. Luke, Pam was a deep sacramentalist and, like John Wesley, partook of the Sacrament of Holy Communion frequently.

Upon graduation, she returned to the Virginia Conference, where she served her first appointment from 1994-1997 at Mt. Moriah United Methodist Church in the Charlottesville District. In 1997, she was appointed to Herndon United Methodist Church where she served until her death, October 2, 2001.

Pam’s greatest gift to all who knew her was her keen ability to see potential for growth. She delighted in pulling individuals out of their comfort zones and watching them blossom and grow. Under her nurturing and love, persons became empowered and unfolded like flowers into the persons God intended them to become. Her ministry and life were truly incarnational, for she looked at everyone she met with the eyes of Jesus Christ.

Pam Sawyer was a pastor, mother, and friend; but she cherished her role as teacher. Her deepest desire was to have an opportunity to "be a teacher to the pastors." Her keen intelligence, coupled with the ability to communicate and impart knowledge was a gift. In ministry, Pam was first a servant and second a student. At the time of her death, she had only the completion of her dissertation before receiving a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Asbury Seminary.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death. Throughout her personal faith journey Pam constantly sought to know Christ more fully, to love him more dearly, and to follow him more nearly. She was never satisfied with the status quo, but always looked to grow to the next level in her relationship with Jesus Christ. Pam has reached her ultimate goal of intimacy with her Lord. It is in the breaking of our own grieving hearts that God will be able to enter more fully into our lives so that, like Pam, we, too, will come to know more fully what it means to "know Christ and the power of his resurrection." As we honor the life of the Rev. Pamela Sawyer, there is no better tribute we can give her than to embrace what she has taught us by example, through love, and through her Lord.

— The Rev. Elizabeth "Tizzy" von Trapp Walker



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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