Now that I’ve reached the age of 42 (oh, all right—52), I hope I’ve gained a little perspective on life. And as I look back on my life and career, I am so grateful to the women in ministry who have supported me, encouraged me, and mentored me. There have been many but two stand out. When I was 23, I moved to Chicago to work as an intern in an African-American, Lutheran Church in the Cabrini-Green community. At the time, Cabrini-Green was the per capita second poorest neighbourhood in the United States. I was verynervous about beginning my ministry at Holy Family Church. I had no idea what to expect nor if I would be able to fit into a church and community so different from what I had experienced growing up. The associatepastor of Holy Family was an African-American woman named Maxine Washington. She remains to this day one of the most gifted, energetic, dynamic pastors (male or female) I’ve ever had the privilege to know. During my year in Chicago, Maxine took me under her wing and taught me, challenged me, inspired me, and motivated me to continue to pursue my calling and develop my gifts.
Following my years of study, I began my first full-time ministry as a solo pastor in a small community just west of Philadelphia. I had spent yearsstudying and preparing for ministry and this was the point, I knew, where the rubber would meet the road. I had a thousand questions about my abilities and giftedness. Did I have what it took to be a pastor? Would I be able to lead a church to reach out to its community and live up to its calling in Christ Jesus? Did I have the leadership ability to challenge and inspire people? Could I be an effective pastor to those going through crises? Did I have the wisdom and discernment to be able to traverse the minefields of church conflict without getting blown up?
During those critical first years of ministry, I had the privilege of meeting an older woman in ministry named Beth Congdon-Martin who had enduredthe battles of pastoral ministry for over twenty years and had the scars to prove it. I asked her if we could meet together regularly. She agreed and through those difficult first years she advised, counseled, and prayed for me.
As I look back, I don’t know if I would be in pastoral ministry today were it not for these two godly women. Of course, there are many other female pastors whom I have had the privilege to know and work alongside. I think of Joyce Hancock who, when I was a teenager, worked as the Christian Education Director of First Baptist Church in Dartmouth and went on to enjoy many years of faithful service as a missionary with Canadian Baptist Ministries. I think of Carolyn Steeves, whom I got to know during the years she spent working in pastoral ministry at The Journey Church and, currently, is serving as senior pastor at West End Baptist Church in St. John’s, Nfld. And, of course, I think of my own Minister of Discipleship here at First Baptist, Sandy Sutherland, who has been involved in pastoral ministry for many years and, in her time with us, has already left a lasting mark on our congregation. I am grateful to God for each and every one of these pastoral leaders (and many more I could mention if space permitted). Each of these women is so much more (but certainly not less) than their gender and each gives indisputable proof to my firm conviction (backed up by Scripture) that God’s Spirit is no respecter of persons but calls whom He wills for the ministry of His Kingdom. Thank you, Lord, for the leaders, male and female, whom you have, and continue to, raise up.