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Mover and Shaker of the Month: Janet Ramos, Philly’s First Female Pastor

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by John Fey

68% of Philadelphians identify as Christian, the largest faith group in the world. Home to historic churches around the city, Philly is an epicenter for Christian teachings, worship, and community services through the leaders of these churches.

Janet Ramos, one of the city’s first female pastors, has been preaching to her mostly Spanish-speaking congregation for over 40 years. Her Evangelical church, Iglesia El Faro Inc., has been around for 26 years, with Ramos spreading the Gospel to her congregation through preaching and charity.

At 68 years old, Ramos has the same passion for speaking the Gospel that she did 40 years ago, which, she recalls, specifically began on November 20, 1980. Being one of the city’s first female pastors, it took some time for the male pastors in the area to accept Ramos. After seeing her preach to her congregation, they saw she had what it takes to speak the Word of God.

As time went on and Ramos continued to preach, she found that her ministry was strongly supporting her and her mission. They gave her the strength to push forward and continue to make her community a better place.

Ramos preaches to a mixed congregation of men and women. According to her, Latino churches are very rigid in their thinking and ideologies; a female pastor can be considered taboo in some Latino congregations, especially those that are more traditional As the years went on, she became more lenient in her teachings so as to connect with her church more. “God accepts you for who you are,” she said. 

So as to not cause any division among her congregation, Ramos does not interject politics, seeing the mixing of church and state as counterintuitive to her message. “Just live the Word of God,” she said. 

Iglesia El Faro, Inc. has been directly helping the Philadelphia community they are seated in through providing food to those in need and participating in charity events that help people of all ages and backgrounds.

Over the course of Ramos’ career, her biggest accomplishments come from her ability to serve the children in her congregation and having her own children take part in the ministry. Her daughters Vivian, Leticia, Maria, Rebecca, and her son Daniel, help her mother run the church and oversee the logistical parts of the family operation, including teaching, media, and music.

“She is a woman of faith,” says Vivian. She has witnessed her mother and her family grow the church from a small congregation into the large part of the Philadelphia Latino community. “God,” she says, “has been able to open the door,” for her family and her mother. 

As the years have gone on, Ramos has been looking to the future of her church and what will happen when she eventually steps down. She says she is waiting for God to tell her when to retire, but until that time comes, she will be in the city, preaching and helping those in need.

Her son, Daniel, thinks her mother will be preaching for a much longer time. “We know she has more work to do,” he said. 

After 40 years in her field, Ramos still practices what she preaches, contributing to her community and spreading the Word of God to all that will listen. Her ministry exemplifies her service and her impact on the Philadelphia community. She has dedicated her life to working for, as she put it, “faith, social activism, and community.”