"I have been a Sunday school student, a Sunday school teacher, a member of the Men's Choir, even the church custodian," he said. "Now I am pastor, pastor of my home church. It's quite an evolution. It's quite an honor."
Most of McCowan's life has been spent at First Baptist, and, given the track record of the church's pastors serving long tenures, it looks like most of the rest of it may be, as well.
"I grew up at First Baptist," he said. "In fact, my mother began bringing me to Sunday school before I was potty-trained."
His mother, the late Georgia McCowan, a homemaker and head cook at Kentucky School for the Deaf, and his father, Archie, a retiree who worked at Whirlpool and Phillips and Sons Service Station, were both devoted and active members of First Baptist Church. They passed on their love of the predominately African-American church to their son. He apparently also inherited their humility.
"My parents taught me that God is bigger than all of us, that we should respect that and try to get away from our natural human instinct to think of ourselves first and always," he said. "My experience has been to serve God and others and not exalt myself."
Running from the call
As McCowan grew up, he began finding more ways to exalt his Lord and his church by serving both. He was an active Sunday school member and teacher and youth leader. He loved to sing and offered his talents to the church's music program, including membership in First Baptist's noted male group, the Men's Chorus.
But McCowan, at least as a younger man, did not see his Christian service going beyond that of a dedicated and devoted lay person. However, friends, family members and fellow parishioners at First Baptist believed he should go to another level of service - as a minister.
"People told me that they saw me as a preacher," he said. "They would say, 'Ron, you belong in the ministry. You need to stop running from the call.'"
While he did put the idea in the back of his mind, McCowan pursued a career on the railroad. At a young age, he went to work for Norfolk and Southern, and he stayed with the company for 37 years, until his retirement in December.
During a 10-year period, from 1992 to 2002, McCowan held a second job - custodian at First Baptist Church.
"Holding that job just about filled out my resume of activities at the church," he said. "When I'd tell people I served in almost every capacity at First Baptist, I really had. I'd tell people I'd even served as church custodian. I had served in about every role and program except minister."
Of course, that service was to come. In the meantime, he had married the former Pamela Welch and the couple raised three sons, Kevin McCowan, 39, of Arlington, Texas, Troy McCowan, 34, and Derrick McCowan, 33, both of Danviille.
McCowan's spouse and children have been active members of the church as well, but his activity finally went to that higher level, beginning in August 1999. The Men's Chorus was performing a concert at Centennial Baptist Church in Harrodsburg when the "call" came and he answered it.
"In my head, I heard this voice telling me, 'You can sing all you want, you won't be heard unless you adhere to my will (and answer the call to the ministry),'" he said.
In October 1999 the Rev. Richard Hill, longtime pastor of First Baptist, issued a preaching licence to McCowan. He then enrolled at Simmons Bible College in Lexington in 2002 and, after two years of study, earned a bachelor's degree in May 2004. Later that year, he was ordained and began serving as associate pastor at First Baptist. One of his points of interest as associate pastor was the development of the church's ministry to jail and prison inmates.
Interim pastor in 2005
When Hill retired in July 2005, McCowan was named interim pastor, a post he was to hold while church leaders conducted a search for a replacement for Hill. When the searched ended with McCowan's selection, he was both honored and, yes, humbled.
"There are not many ministers who are able to serve the churches they grew up in and, thanks to the leaders of this church and to God, I was given this very special opportunity," he said.