Historic Macedonia Baptist Church welcomes first female pastor

Billie Cox is the first female pastor at the 139-year-old Macedonia Baptist Church in Conyers.

Billie Cox is the first female pastor at the 139-year-old Macedonia Baptist Church in Conyers.

To say that the first female pastor at Macedonia Baptist Church is doing everything a male pastor would do but with one hand tied behind her back is almost true. It's not behind her back, but it is bandaged up from recent surgery.

The Rev. Billie Cox has stepped into the pulpit of one of Rockdale County's historic churches, and the congregation has welcomed its new minister and her family.

"I was like a new baby coming in," Cox said. "Everybody was loving on the baby."

Indeed, once she arrived at the 139-year-old church, the pastor said it was as if she had been born to be the pastor of Macedonia Baptist.

"They are just this loving and kind people," she said. "I'm having a beautiful time and I'm very thankful."

While women in the ministry is not necessarily a new topic, it is new for Macedonia Baptist.

"It's hard for a woman," Cox said of serving in the ministry. "But I just refused to settle. I knew what God had called me to do. If He can call a rock to cry out to Him, surely He can use a woman."

Cox said she and her congregation enjoy serving together and they say with good nature that "there's a girl in the pulpit."

Cox is the daughter of a pastor. Her father, who died two years ago, was a minister for 49 years in Alabama.

Growing up in Lanett, Ala., where she graduated from Lanett High School, Cox enjoyed her Christian upbringing and church life. She enrolled at Mercer University and received her undergraduate degree in organizational leadership.

In 1998, Cox said she answered God's call on her life to be in the ministry. She said she knew she would someday become a pastor, and that at some point she wanted to go to divinity school.

Just last week, Cox completed the final work on her master of divinity degree at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology. She had been working in the ministry prior to going to seminary, but said she knew getting additional education was something God wanted her to do.

"God had been dealing with me," she said. "I had just come back from speaking at a women's conference in Alabama and was about two minutes from my home when it was like the Holy Spirit was in the car with me. It was as profound as you and I speaking."

She said, God told her it was time for the next step and she was going to be like a "midwife" and help people give birth to their life's purpose.

"I said, 'God, I have a family, I'm working full time, I'm doing a lot in the ministry. How will I be able to go to school?'" Cox said. "He said, 'I'll give you grace for the journey.'"

Cox said all this happened two weeks before school was to start at Mercer. The next day, she called McAfee School of Theology and told them she "needed to be there." They told her to come in and fill out the paperwork and two weeks later, she was sitting in class.

"It was like (following) orders," she said.

In recent years, Cox has served as an interim pastor at churches in Conyers and as director of ministries at Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers under the pastorate of Rev. Eric Lee. She said she had never applied to be a pastor because she wanted to first finish her education.

"I decided I wasn't looking for a pulpit, but was looking for the right people God wanted me to be with," she said.

"I just believe this was a divine appointment," Cox added. "This is an awesome group to pastor."

Cox and her husband, Lemeul, who is also a minister, are the parents of three grown children and many grandchildren.

As she begins her first pastorate, Cox is enjoying the support of her congregation and colleagues in the ministry. She has been invited to join a local pastor peer group in the community and at a recent meet-and-greet event at her church, pastors and deacons from area churches stopped by to welcome her. The church is also planning a Pastoral Installation service for her at 4 p.m. Feb. 24.

The pastor preaches Sunday mornings at 11 at Macedonia, which is located at 1052 Barton St. in Conyers. The church also offers Sunday School, known as Life Chapel, at 9:30 a.m. and its Soul Cafe Bible study on Tuesdays at 7 p.m.

This week the new pastor is preparing to host some of the church deacons and their wives for dinner at her home in Covington.

She jokes that she is "feeding them physically and spiritually."

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Loganville. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.