By Sharon Mager
Members of the historic Watersedge Baptist Church in Dundalk, Maryland, near the Baltimore City line, called Ken Ledwell as pastor. His first official Sunday was July 12. Ledwell formerly served as associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Beltsville (FBCB) in Maryland.
Ledwell sees the ministry as an opportunity for revitalization and continuance of the heritage of the 72-year-old church that at one time averaged 500 in attendance. Watersedge Baptist Church, like many older churches today, has seen numbers drop drastically through the decades. But though it has dwindled to about 20 members, including eight unable to attend due to health, Ledwell, and his wife Gina, gaze at the surrounding communities and see incredible promise.
Leaders of Watersedge Church asked Ken to consider being their pastor after he had provided several weeks of pulpit supply. The couple prayed about the opportunity. “I was very comfortable in Beltsville,” Ken shared, but he was also open to whatever God wanted him to do. “My heart’s desire is to preach God’s word and reach out into the community,” he said. “God opened a door, and He was leading this way.”
David Erickson, who pastored the church for 40 years, recently retired due to health issues, but he and his wife, Diane, are staying on as members. Diane said she and David are pleased and excited to see Ken step into the pulpit.
“God led him to us. We are really happy with that,” said Diane.
The Ericksons look back
Watersedge Church built their current building in the 50s on property donated by Bethlehem Steele. The church was bustling with families in the early days and had a thriving family ministry, outreaches, and missions. Diane enthusiastically shared that God called many Watersedge leaders to other ministries, both local and international, including Don and Kay Gerlach, who led the Baltimore Baptist Association Seamen’s Ministry for years. Others answered the call to become pastors and some became international missionaries.
“I grew up in the Watersedge community,” David said. He and Diane married at the church in 1960.
As youths, David attended an Episcopal church and Diane a Lutheran church. Those were the days of social unrest and Diane shared about she and David were in a church where a pastor was teaching, “better ‘red than dead,’” one of several slogans popular in the Cold War era of heightened fear of communism, Joseph McCarthy, and the “Red Scare. She laughed and said that “sermon” though terribly bad, ironically showed both of them that the Gospel they heard growing up was true and that they needed to trust Christ and serve Him in those trying days.
When Diane began attending Watersedge Baptist Church with her family, she invited David, and Diane said he so wanted to serve the Lord that he began picking up trash as a service. He later became a Sunday School teacher and a deacon. When the previous pastor, Gardner Koch, left in 1979, David became the interim, and eventually the permanent pastor.
The Ericksons led the church in outreaches including regular church dinners, festivals, car shows, and fundraisers for local causes. They began a senior center and an active daycare center which is still a vital part of the church’s ministry. Members worked to add air conditioning and a steeple to the building and gradually began updating technology with computers and a sound system.
David and Diane have passed the baton to the Ledwells, knowing that they will continue the legacy. Diane said they are excited that Ken has much experience with youth ministry and that he will begin incorporating social media to reach the community.
Ken said he is getting acclimated to the church and neighborhood. “We’re determining where we are spiritually and we are getting rooted and grounded as we prepare to infiltrate the community with the Gospel — reaching out and serving in love,” he said. He is especially excited about the daycare center, and added, “It is a wonderful way to serve the community.”
Ken plans to make use of the church’s property. “We have a beautiful lawn and nice shade trees,” he described. “We can have block parties, take out the grill, and invite folks. This church is surrounded by communities. We can’t wait, but with COVID-19 we have to be careful. We’re making sure we are complying, keeping safe, and keeping others safe.”
Ken graduated from Lancaster Bible College in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Theological Studies/Pastoral Ministry at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.
He served at South Broadway Baptist Church in Baltimore from 2014 to 2016 as assistant pastor until he received the call to serve as associate pastor of FBCB in 2016.
Ken and Gina recently celebrated 24 years of marriage. They have three children: Lauren, Jacob, and Shannon. In their spare time, they enjoy spending time with family and friends.