Role Models for Ministry by Christy McMillin-Goodwin

When I was four years old, my family moved from Atlanta, Georgia, after my dad finished Georgia Tech, to Columbia, South Carolina, where he began his first engineering job.  My parents had been raised in Baptist churches and when they arrived in Columbia, they begin visiting Baptist churches. They visited several before they stumbled upon Greenlawn Baptist. They eventually joined that church because the preacher could preach a very good sermon. Greenlawn was not the closest Baptist church to home, but, in their opinion, was the one with the best preacher.

At some point, Greenlawn begin to hire women to serve on staff, as ministers of education and youth and as minister of music.  At first, the women were not ordained. Eventually, our church saw fit to ordain them. As a child I saw women help lead worship each week; women were in charge of important committees; and women were elected deacons. For much of my growing up years, two out of three ministers were women.

At the time, I thought that was how all churches did church—all roles were open for women’s leadership. Was I wrong!

While in high school, I was sent to Florida as a summer missionary. The church I served in was a wonderful church, but I quickly learned that in that church a woman had her place. It was okay for me to work with the children and teenagers and even to play the piano (horrors!) but to speak from behind the pulpit was not allowed. The only speaking I was allowed to do was to share my testimony of how I became a Christian.

Then when I attended college I discovered that many of the women who lived on my dorm hall had also been raised in Baptist churches, but their churches were very different from mine. They had difficulty understanding my call to ministry. While we shared many of the same beliefs, they could not accept me for who God had created me to be. During college, however, I did find a home at First Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. The staff there welcomed me into their church and into their lives. The teachers of the college Sunday School accepted me (and my calling). The church nurtured my faith and encouraged me to continually seek God’s invitation for my life.

I write this brief testimony of my calling to ministry to challenge all Baptist women in ministry to find ways to support girls, teenagers, and young women who feel called to the ministry. I was lucky enough to find role models at my home church and during college, but many young girls and women do not have an encourager or mentor. I would not be where I am today without the many women (and men) who supported my calling.

Who do you know that God may be leading into ministry?  How can you encourage them?  You may never know the impact you may make on some young women’s life—but she will!

Christy McMillin-Goodwin is minister of education and missions at Oakland Baptist Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

New Friends and Laughter by Pam Durso

Seems like I have made lots of friends in the last year. Working for Baptist Women in Ministry, well, it has opened doors to wonderful new friendships, including a friendship with Susan Sparks. Susan is the pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York. It makes me proud to know that we have a Baptist woman pastor in the big city of New York! And I love knowing that we have a preacher among us who is brave enough to wear a colorful T-Shirt in the pulpit–while preaching!

But Susan is not only a gifted preacher and minister, she is a comedian. No, really! She does stand-up comedy! And not only is Susan a Baptist preacher and a comedian, she has a law degree and was a practicing attorney before she felt called to ministry and went off to seminary.

So Susan is now a pastor, and recently, she became a published author. I got my copy of her Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor a couple weeks ago.

But I was among the fortune few who had the opportunity to preview the book. I sat at my computer one evening and read the entire manuscript. If I had been reading it in book form, I would have said that it was one of those books that I could not put down, but since it was on a computer screen, I guess I would have to say that it was one of those books I could not turn off.

After reading the manuscript, I wrote this endorsement: “Laugh Your Way to Grace is more than a delightfully written book; it is a Saturday afternoon conversation with a favorite friend at the neighborhood coffee shop. Imagine sitting in a big comfortable chair; sharing moments of laughter, a few tears , and some honest questions about God and faith;  and wishing hard that the time didn’t have to come to an end—and that feeling is what you will experience  when reading Laugh Your Way to Grace.  I hope that this is just the first installment in an ongoing Saturday afternoon conversation with a new favorite friend, Susan Sparks.”

I thought you might enjoy reading a snippet of the book, and so here are a few paragraphs from the Introduction:

“Many of us have been lulled into believing that humor is inappropriate in spiritual realms. Sometimes it’s seen as disrespectful or even blasphemous. I can understand that. I was raised in a church where you would walk in, sit through the service, then walk out three inches shorter, bent over from all the guilt. Not exactly a wellspring of joy or laughter. Of course, the question we must ask is this: Inappropriate according to whom? (Hint: If this were multiple choice, God would not be included in the answer choices.)

I am not saying that laughter is the only face of God. However, if we are made in the image of the divine, and if a core element of human beings is joy, then one face of the holy surely must also be joy. Granted, it is one that is consistently ignored, but it is a core element nonetheless.

This book is not an attempt to teach people how to have a sense of humor or to train future standups (although I do teach a class on standup comedy for clergy, brave soul that I am). Nor is it an attempt to put a glib spin on every event of our daily lives. I wrote this book for one simple reason: to remind us of our inherent ability to laugh.

Look, not everyone feels like being funny. You may not even feel happy. But somewhere deep down, your humanity yearns for joy and, if allowed, your heart will respond. Laughter is the gift that you received at birth, the one thing you were able to do freely when your age was in the single digits, the gift that may fade but never fully disappears. Laugh Your Way to Grace is intended to give you permission to reconnect with your own sense of joy and hope—a deep life force that you were given a birth and still carry within.” (xv-xvi)

You can order the book from Skylight Paths Publishing!

The Couch to 5K Plan by Charity Roberson

Today, my “This Is What a Preacher Looks Like” T-shirt journeyed with me to the gym.  I woke up this morning knowing that today was the day and wondering if I had it in me.

I have never been a runner.  My body is not really built to be running around, but about a month ago I decided to take on a new challenge.  As a part of my overall goals for getting healthier I started the “Couch to 5K” plan.  People kept asking me: “What 5K are you training for?” It never really occurred to me to train for a specific 5K. I just wanted to see if I could run.  I’ve been going to the gym regularly for the last year but needed to take more steps to be healthier.  This was just a new challenge.

The first few weeks I was not sure if I was going to make it.  Or to be more specific, I wasn’t if my knees and ankles were going to make it.  But with the help of biofreeze and my chiropractor, I made it.  And running got easier and easier, and I really began to look forward to the days when I was supposed to run the plan.

Today was a great challenge.  I felt poetic putting on my “This Is What a Preacher Looks Like” T-shirt.  Not taking the moment too seriously, I added my socks, the ones that have monkeys saying, “Holla!”  I felt ready.  And I did it. I ran twenty minutes non-stop today.  But today was not the end of the program. Within a matter of weeks I will still be expected to run thirty and then forty-five minutes.  But, today I hit a new goal.  I’ve never run twenty minutes in my entire life, at any weight or age.  I grew up doing church activities, not athletic activities.

On a chalkboard by the front door in my home, I have the words, “Live with no fear.”  Two women have given me words of wisdom over the last few years.  Wanda Kidd once told me that I exuded fear in the way I live my life, especially my love life.  I needed to “live with no fear.”  I don’t think she realized how much I have taken those words to heart.  Suzii Paynter told me recently when sharing advice for all women: “We need to allow God to dream big dreams for us as women in ministry.  Those big dreams have not been fostered in us.”

In the last few years, I have chosen to not just allow life to happen to me.  I want to be intentional with how I approach my life and my ministry, and now, my health.  Too often, especially as women, we get so caught in our busy lives that we just allow life to happen to us.   We forget that we have a choice, maybe not about all of life’s circumstances, but how we will respond and the new experiences we will create.

For me, running is a tangible example of achievement in a world of slow personal growth and ministry of which I may never see the benefits.  It is a reminder that I am capable of more than I ever thought I was.  I mean . . . I am a woman in ministry.  I can handle just about anything.

Charity Roberson is the Raleigh Area Baptist Campus Minister, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Not As Planned by Carolyn Blevins

As a newlywed in the late 1950s, I enrolled at Southern Theological Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in order to become a good “pew person” as my minister husband became a pastor. His income from serving a country church and our meager expenses allowed me the luxury of going to seminary with him. For the first time in my life I was going to school for the sheer joy of learning. And I decided that while my husband studied I would study too and be trained to be a good Sunday School teacher and church leader. It would be smart to get a degree while I was learning, I concluded.

For two years I learned from some of the best professors in Baptist life. By the time my husband graduated he had decided to become a professor instead of a pastor. Still I knew that I would be a good pew person wherever we went to church—no problem.

Fifteen stay-at-home-with-four-children years later I got a call one warm August afternoon asking if I would teach a religion class at the college where my husband taught. It seems the school had more freshmen enrolling than available classes. “No” I replied, explaining that I had not looked at my seminary notes in fifteen years. The voice on the other end of the line replied that my class would be meeting on Tuesday and Thursday, and he hung up!!

I panicked. I grabbed the old files and prepared like crazy. Thirty years later I retired after teaching full time in that same religion department.

My seminary learning has been useful to me as a “pew person.” However, the way I used my education most was not at all what I had planned. I hardly think my story is unique.

(Note from Pam Durso: Carolyn Blevins, through her teaching career, influenced thousands of students, and through her research and writing, especially her writing on the history of Baptist women, she inspired and encouraged the next generation of scholars to continue and expand that research. The point of greatest disagreement I have had with Carolyn over the years is that I think her story is wonderfully unique! And yes, I pestered her until she wrote this blog post.)

Carolyn Blevins served for thirty years on faculty at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee.