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Student’s goals went from pediatrician to the ministry


Justin Ritter grew up in Walterboro, graduating from Colleton County High School in 2008. Upon his graduation, his desire was to go to college in order to become a pediatrician. Little did he know he was seemingly destined for a loftier position.

“I grew up in Walterboro, and have been attending Bethel United Methodist Church all my life,” Ritter said. Ritter was also involved with the church’s Wesley Foundation. He was participating in a retreat at Lake Junaluska in Waynesville, North Carolina, and it was there that he came to a decision to become a children’s doctor.

After he graduated from Colleton County High School in 2008, Ritter, a son of Joey and Melanie Ritter of Walterboro, enrolled at the College of Charleston with a desire to become a physician. “I majored in Biology, and got a four-year degree in three-and-a-half years.”

But, while at the college, Campus Minister Lisa Hawkins informed Ritter that he was eventually going to be a minister. “She told me I was going to become a minister one day, but I told her that I was not going to become a preacher.”

But Ritter was persuaded to try his hand at preaching, and he spoke to his first congregation at a United Methodist Church at Folly Beach. “My responsibility was doing the scripture lesson and the sermon, and the response I got was overwhelmingly positive. That’s when I thought I need be to doing this.”

Ritter now plans to enroll in the seminary at the Candler School of Theology (a part of Emory University) in Atlanta, Georgia in the fall. He will attend classes for six years, and then will become a provisional minister. “Then the elders will vote to determine whether I become an ordained minister, and I’ll go to wherever they send me.”

Ritter noted that when he completes his education, he will not be going into a profession, so to speak. “This is not a job, it’s a calling,” he said. Since his first preaching experience at the Folly Beach Church, he has preached at an Adna Methodist Church Revival near Islandton, and First Baptist Church and Doctor’s Creek Baptist Church in the Walterboro area. Currently Ritter is the Programs and Youth Director at Bethel United Methodist Church, he also helps with summer youth groups, the Methodist Youth Fellowship, and Sunday school classes at that location.

During Ritter’s last semester in college, he was attending classes in the fields of both science and religion. “I found myself in back-to-back classes, the first being an evolution class and the latter a class concerning the Old Testament. I thought that taking two classes in a row on two separate creation stories was kind of ironic,” Ritter said with a smile.