THE Rev. Pamela Le Poidevin, who died recently aged 83, will always be remembered as someone who devoted her life to God and to the service of others with a calm but infectious enthusiasm and determination.
‘It was never about Pam Le Poidevin; it was about responding to the love of God she had received through her Lord Jesus Christ, and her desire to serve her neighbours in whatever way she could, and wherever she could,’ said the Rev. Dr David Hinchliffe, superintendent minister of the Guernsey Methodist Circuit.
Born in Guernsey in 1933, Pam was the third child of Frank and Reta, who lived at Les Marchez, St Peter’s. Her older brothers were Frank and Roy, later to become a prominent Guernsey States member. Her younger brother, Peter, sadly died some years ago.
Following evacuation from the island in 1940, Pam and her two older brothers were billeted in Cheadle Hulme, while her mother and baby Peter went to Glasgow, before joining them six months later.
Her brother Roy remembers that while in England Pam passed the scholarship to the Girls’ Grammar School and went to live in Rochdale. Returning to Guernsey after the Liberation, she continued her education at the Grammar School until she left and stayed at home helping her mother run a guest house and her father in the greenhouses.
She was in her teens and began to think about what she wanted to do in the future. She named two possibilities, domestic science or work with children. But there was an even stronger force at work.
‘I always had a strong sense of loyalty to the church,’ she once said. ‘I loved being secretary of the cradle roll and teaching in the Sunday School.’
And when she heard about the Methodist Church’s Deaconess Order, she knew that was to be her path. At the time the Methodist Church did not permit women to become full ministers, a situation of which Pam did not approve, and which the church changed a few years later.
Pam trained at the Deaconess College in Ilkley for two years and her first appointment as a probationer in 1957 was in Moss Side, Manchester, where she worked tirelessly in a mainly immigrant community.
She was ordained a Wesley Deaconess in 1960 and remained in Moss Side until 1962.
Mr Hinchliffe says that ‘in her probationer’s appointment in Moss Side, there was no manse; she shared a terraced house with a church member and had a bedroom and the use of a bathroom and kitchen. She rode a bicycle and had no phone.’
‘That was luxurious compared to her next appointment in Dorset, where Pam lived in a caravan parked in the church grounds. She was graciously given the use of the church facilities. Transport: a bicycle for a year, then a moped. In 1970 she brought a Morris 1000 car.’
She remained in the Wimborne Circuit in Dorset from 1962 to 1970, before moving to the South Molton Circuit in Devon, where she remained until 1976. She moved to Barnstaple Circuit and the following year was ordained as a presbyter, once women were permitted to be ordained as presbyter Methodist ministers; indeed, one of Pamela Le Poidevin’s most valued possessions was her dispensation as a probationer minister signed by the then President of the Methodist Conference, Colin Morris, to preside at the Lord’s Supper. She was ordained at Toll Gavel Methodist Church, Beverley, during the Hull Methodist Conference of 1977.
Her final position was in the Newmarket Circuit, Cambridgeshire, from 1987 to 1994, after which she retired to Guernsey, though the word retirement was hardly appropriate.
Pamela threw herself wholeheartedly into the work of the Circuit, particularly at Galaad, and she was bitterly disappointed when the church closed. She was for a time chair of the Blind Association, involved with Methodist Women in Britain and various other charities.
Pamela Le Poidevin was passionately committed to young people. The beginnings of her church calling could be traced to her work with young people in Guernsey.
She was instrumental in working with them as youth leader in all her ministries, from leaving college to retirement.
‘Pam’s ministry was devoted to youth work,’ says Mr Hinchliffe. ‘How many young lives she must have shaped during those years of youth ministry.’
It is hardly surprising that someone as organised as Pamela Le Poidevin would list some essentials for ministry: ‘Essential to have a good memory – or at least a good diary! Essential to preach with conviction. Essential to be able to forgive and be forgiven. We do make mistakes. We do miss opportunities. Essential to have a sense of humour. Ministry is a privilege, and ministry is a responsibility.’
She also had a keen commitment to women’s ministry, not only ordained ministry, but the ministry of all women, whether lay or ordained. For Pam that was first expressed through her own ministry as a Methodist minister, but it was equally expressed in women’s work more broadly. In retirement, for example, Pam played a vital role in supporting the work of women’s ministry here in Guernsey.
Once, in a newspaper interview, Pamela Le Poidevin admitted frankly that her youthful ambition was to be married and run her own home, although she added that she would have found it hard to be a housewife and at the same time continue with a full-time mission in the Church. The telephone could ring at any time of day or night and if at the other end of the line was someone needing help, she would have to go.
‘But I am not a frustrated old maid,’ she asserted in the interview. ‘I have found my work fulfilling and I have not felt in any way deprived. You have to share in the family life of so many people.’
She was devoted to her own family, her brothers and her nephews and nieces. Roy says, ‘I am sure I am a better person for having Pam with me in Guernsey. I always looked to her for support and guidance in many things I would want to say and do. We will all miss her.’