Lester and Sandy Sedam have served in ministry for 35 years in Rhode Island, where they planted Pilgrim’s Baptist Church in 1985.
Under Pastor Sedam’s leadership the church has grown, matured, and maintained various ministries that continue to reach the communities of Ashaway and Westerly and their surroundings. This past July, Pilgrim’s Baptist Church celebrated the faithfulness of Lester and Sandy Sedam as he retired from the pastorate and honorably passed the torch to the next generation.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Lester and his family moved to Florida in order for him to attend Bible college and train for the ministry.
After a semester at a small college in central Florida, he transferred to TBC where he completed his bachelor’s degree in the spring of 1984.
At that time, Lester and Sandy had four young children and began to search for and pray over their place of ministry. Lester recalls sending out dozens of letters as they began their search. While they waited for God’s leading to become clear, the Sedams settled in south Georgia where Lester served as pulpit supply for a small church.
“It was a neat little church. They didn’t have a pastor, and they kindly made it known that they were looking for a seasoned pastor. Of course, that wasn’t me since I had never pastored before!”
“One day I got a call from a friend who asked if I would come up to a small town in Rhode Island that had been on his heart. He really had a desire to see a church started there. Now, in my mind, I had just assumed that I would step into an existing church as opposed to starting from scratch! But I met with him anyway, visited the town, and had the opportunity to lead a man to Christ in the park while there.”
That visit sparked a burden in Lester’s heart and within a short time he and his wife made the decision to relocate to Westerly, Rhode Island.
In 1985 they began their ministry as church planters with BMFP (Baptist Missions to Forgotten Peoples) and founded Pilgrim’s Baptist Church.
For the first 12 years Pilgrim’s Baptist Church met in a Girl Scout house, using their creativity to make the space work for the ministry.
“We used all sorts of things to divide up the rooms in ways that worked for us. I remember using big refrigerator boxes for a while!”
As is the case in most ministry families, Sandy Sedam worked tirelessly alongside her husband, leading and filling roles in many areas. From organizing the nursery and leading women’s classes to hosting Bible studies, counseling, and planning events.
When space ran out at their main location, the church rented an additional building to house their youth ministry, The Haven.
But Pilgrim’s Baptist Church envisioned reaching beyond the physical spaces at their disposal. In addition to supporting missionaries they began a television broadcast, Walking In Truth, in order to reach community members who could not attend the church’s physical location. A few years later they expanded to include a radio broadcast ministry, The Winning Side, which proved to be an effective tool and a blessing to many.
“The radio ministry is an hour radio broadcast every Friday. Sometimes I would interview different missionaries from time to time or leaders in our church. But often it was Sunday’s message or a Bible study. We did this through the local radio station. We would do 15-minute segments and would have breaks with music during which people could call in and ask questions. It was a nice dynamic. I’m happy to say that I had the privilege of personally leading the owner to Christ!”
Of course, the ongoing ministries and projects which have been accomplished represent dozens of families and hundreds of lives. Each one shaped by the gospel and influenced through the life of a willing pastor and his family.
Just as in other areas of life, in ministry there are times of great success and positivity as well as times of difficulty.
One of the most challenging things in all their years of ministry was guiding the church through times of transition.
“Similarly to how TBC has changed over the years – in positive ways, I think – we have held to scriptural doctrine but adjusted our preferences to stay relevant to the culture in which we we live. As we made incremental changes, some people decided to move on. But I believe that we have left a strong, healthy church. It is on a good foundation and has a pastor who is kindred to our culture.”
After 35 years of faithful service, Pastor Lester Sedam retired July 26, 2020.
His retirement was not a surprise to the church. He was careful to make his plans known well in advance and actively helped in the search for a new pastor.
“We announced over a year ago that we would be stepping down and we were able to prepare for the transition. That was probably one of the healthiest things we could have done. We both (the church as well as Sandy and I) needed that time to adjust.”
“I said I was going to take a month off you know… but I’m sort of regretting that statement now. I’m having some difficulty with withdrawals. But it was time and I knew it. The only way I can explain it is… it was the same way when I knew it was time to start a church.”
Pilgrim’s Baptist Church is now under the experienced leadership of Stetson Planck, former missionary to Italy.
In Lester Sedam’s words, “The church and the pastor couldn’t be more well-matched. If you look at Italy and look at Westerly Rhode Island, there isn’t much of a difference — especially in terms of the heavy Roman Catholic influence. God orchestrated that for sure. When I first approached him about taking over as pastor, he said that maybe in three years he would consider it, but not before. And now… well, he is the pastor at Pilgrim’s Baptist Church!”
Pastor Sedam’s dedication to Christ has been instrumental in the growth of Pilgrim’s Baptist Church and the furtherance of the gospel in New England. Please pray for him and his wife in this new season and join us in honoring them for their faithfulness.
This past July, Pastor Messer, President Heavener, and the board of trustees of Trinity Baptist College issued a proclamation declaring Pastor Sedam a Distinguished Alumnus in honor of his blameless and faithful service to the Lord.
In addition to his long history at Pilgrim’s Baptist, Lester Sedam’s legacy has impacted Trinity Baptist College as well. His associate pastor, Andy McDade (’08) and Andy’s wife, Jill (’08), as well as Lester’s own son, Joel (’08), are fellow TBC alumni and faithful in the ministry.