Pastor Jane Leechford is originally from Raleigh and was raised in the Presbyterian Church.
At the age of three, her family moved to Fayetteville where her father taught as an instructor at Fayetteville Technical Community College.
“I’m a North Carolina girl,” Pastor Leechford said.
She is married and has two children who were born in Fayetteville. In 1994 she began working at a United Methodist Church as a secretary. Shortly after, she was asked to lead the Sunday morning worship music.
Although her initial response was, “No,” she felt a tug on her heart. Eventually she had a change of heart as God worked in her life drawing her toward a call to pastoral ministry.
She finished her degree at Methodist University in Fayetteville before continuing to Duke University for her Masters of Divinity. During her time at Duke, she pastored two churches as a student pastor.
“The greatest thing in ministry is being able to love so many people,” she said. “You get to know so many people in so many ways and become part of people’s lives.”
Pastor Leechford’s heart for missions has allowed her to travel on numerous mission trips. She worked in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, has helped the Evangelical Methodist Church in El Salvador, taught pastors at the first United Methodist Church in Thailand, helped the poor in Sri Lanka after the tsunami in 2004, and traveled to Sierra Leone in an effort to reestablish a hospital in Rotifunk. Most recently, she traveled to Armenia to work with Project Agape.
“The biggest influence in my ministry has been mission work. It’s transformed my life and made my world larger,” she said.
While on a mission trip in El Salvador, a young high school student told Pastor Leechford that, “Every young person needs to be required to go on a mission trip.”
“It transformed his life and what he’s doing now,” Pastor Leechford said. “It changes your world view and your idea of what is important.”
Pastor Leechford has been to El Salvador fourteen times and now has good friends there. Her goal during a mission is always to help the poor and needy.
“When you look at people, you see the face of Jesus,” she said. “I’ve seen it in so many people; my heart goes out to them.”
After her time as a student pastor, Pastor Leechford began ministering to different churches, as appointed by the Bishop. She pastored one church in Aberdeen for seven years. In all, she has been with The United Methodist Church as a lay person and then as a pastor for about twenty years.
In April of 2017, shortly after Easter, Pastor Leechford received a call from the district superintendent informing her of her new church home at West End United Methodist Church.
Her first day with the church was on July 1st of 2017. She is the first full-time woman pastor.
“When you move from one church to another, you take part of it with you and leave part of you behind,” she said. “It’s always hard to leave, but then you meet more wonderful people. We’re all on the same mission. We’re in ministry together.”
Pastor Leechford is currently planning her next mission trip to Armenia with nine people including some from West End United Methodist Church.
“The area we serve is a disputed territory. Even the Red Cross won’t go there,” she said. “It’s close to the borders of Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan.”
The mission team is currently raising funds for the trip. They will be in Armenia for about ten days to help restore houses damaged by war.
When Pastor Leechford is not shepherding her congregation, preparing for a mission trip or doing outreach, she’s spending time with her family. Her husband, Robert, is her biggest supporter.
“Our kids are both married with their own kids,” she said. “Ministry is not just a call on the pastor; it’s a call on the family.”
At West End United Methodist Church, Pastor Leechford’s goal is to prepare the congregation for ministry and outreach.
“My role is to help equip the people of the church to minister and make disciples of Jesus Christ,” she said.
The church currently has two main outreaches: the Food Pantry and Shepherds Table. Both provide to locals who are in need of food.
West End United Methodist Church holds services every Sunday at 8:30AM and 11:00AM. Sunday School is held at 9:45AM. To learn more about the church, call (910) 673-1371 or email email@example.com.