AS Tenterfield’s first female pastor, God and having a living, loving relationship with his son Jesus Christ is a vital part of Pam Sammut’s life.
It is a relationship that has seen her through good times and bad times.
For the past 13 years, Pam and her husband Samuel have called Tenterfield and the town’s Crossways Church home.
Pam is the first woman, aside from those affiliated with the Salvation Army, to hold such a leadership position and she has some big dreams for the church and the wider Tenterfield community.
“For me, religion has never been about a list of dos and don’ts ,” she says.
“The simple thing is God loves all humanity and a relationship with God is simply a personal relationship, just like you have with your best friend.”
Pam can trace her relationship with God back to her earliest days growing up near Maroubra in Sydney.
Along with playing tennis at school and going to the beach, she has memories of going to church with her mother and brother.
Her mother Elizabeth was one of her biggest inspirations.
“My mother was an incredible Christian woman and if I live my life even half the way she did I will be very happy.”
After finishing school in Sydney she took up various jobs in the public service, first in the NSW police department, then the attorney generals’ office, then the Department of Community Service (DOCs) and more recently at Tenterfield TAFE.
Faith was still a big part of her life.
“I always loved going to church and I actually continued doing Sunday school exams until I was 21 years old,” Pam says.
“However I sort of had a head knowledge of Jesus but never the heart knowledge of him... and I went right off the rails.”
It took a serious illness and a divorce at the age of 32 for Pam to come into that “heart knowledge” .
“I had this conviction that I had not been doing the right things in my life and I called on God to forgive me,” she recalls.
“I called upon Jesus, ‘If you’re there Jesus I need you’ and from that moment I came into a living relationship with Jesus.
“He went from my head to my heart and that relationship has continued and grown for the past 25 years.”
Pam then moved to Alstonville on the north coast of NSW where she worked as a manager with DOCS as well as studying a degree in social science, majoring in counselling and human resources through Southern Cross University.
It was while at church in Alstonville that Pam first met her second husband Samuel and they have been married for the past 17years.
“I was actually on stage at the time, the only time I’ve ever been on stage in my life and he was sitting there,” she says.
“He came up to me afterwards and was telling me all about himself... there was just this incredible electricity between us.”
Pam admits it was because of her relationship with Samuel that she made it through an emotional breakdown seven years ago.
“I just lost all confidence and I also lost faith. I called on God every moment of the day,” Pam recalls.
“I barely spoke, I was almost catatonic because it was such an important part of my life.”
It was through Samuel and particularly his work as a farrier that Pam had another turning point in her relationship with God.
“God spoke to me through a horse and a two-year-old child,” she laughs.
“It might sound silly but I was standing in the yard and this horse came and pushed me with its head,” she says.
“God spoke to my spirit he said, ‘come on Pam move on’ and this horse pushed me with its head again and said ‘come on Pam, you can do it, move on’ and then this two-year-old girl grabbed my hand... and she was leading me up the path to their farmhouse.
“She was kind of dragging me because I was so slow. She picked up this rock and put it in my hand... and then she led me through this gate and I asked, ‘where are you taking me?’ and she said, ‘I’m taking you to my father’s house’. It was just an amazing, amazing day.”
It was after this experience that Pam’s health improved and she was inspired to become a pastor, a 12-month process that as well as a lot of study involves “revealing your soul”.
As Pam had already completed a bachelor of social science, the teachers at the Sydney College of Divinity encouraged her to go straight into a masters of theology.
While this meant her study time was slightly reduced, it also meant that she went into study without the full background of a theology degree.
Pam admits that she would not have been able to get through all the necessary study without the support of her husband or of former Crossways pastor Geoff Hovey and his wife Margy.
Geoff Hovey says that the church officials made the right decision in making Pam a minister.
“She was truly the best person for the job,” he says.
Not only was Pam’s faith and evangelism strong but Geoff says that because Pam and her husband had lived in Tenterfield for a number of years, they had an understanding and compassion for the community and congregation that a minister from outside would take years to learn.
Pam says in her new role as pastor she would like to see a lot more love and forgiveness prosper in Tenterfield.
“Christ just loved people,” she says.
“It didn’t matter who they were or what they’d done… and my desire is to have that kind of attitude, that anyone can come to me and never feel judged.
“I would like everyone to know Christ and to have a relationship with him.”