Fresh Winds by Pam Durso

Being “in charge” has some priviledges–including getting a good seat during worship. I got to sit on the front row during the Baptist Women in Ministry worship service last Wednesday, and I saw things that some folks there may not have opportunity to see as clearly.

I watched Rebecca Caswell-Speight, minister to children and families at Broadway Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky. She stood beside the communion table as one of our servers. In a sling wrapped around Rebecca was her sweet daughter, who was content and smiling all during communion and the worship service.

By the end of communion, Rebecca’s older daughter needed to stand by her mom, and so she did. And that snapshot will stay with me–the snaphot of a young mother minister standing by her daughter, holding her other daughter.

I am thankful to churches who call, support, and encourage young minister mothers!

(Photos courtesy of Norman Jameson, Associated Baptist Press, and Emily Holladay, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.)

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

Being a Bridge by Pam Durso

I have had the privilege of serving for the past two years as executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry. Describing what I do to those I meet has sometimes been challenging—especially to the strangers that I sit by on airplanes. A few weeks ago I found myself once again trying to explain the work of BWIM—but not to a stranger. My daughter, Alex, and I were in West Texas visiting relatives, and one of my favorite cousins stopped by to see us. And in a wonderful, gracious way, my West Texas Baptist cousin asked me about my work, my cousin who most likely has never met a woman minister in his life.

So I began carefully explaining my role, telling about the vision of Baptist Women in Ministry, talking about advocating and supporting . . . and then I paused for a minute and looked over at Alex.  She sighed and said, “Mom, you are a bridge.”  I love it when my fourteen-year-old is smarter than I am!

Alex helped me put into an image what Baptist Women in Ministry is all about. BWIM is a bridge—connecting women with other women, connecting women with churches, connecting women with resources, connecting Baptists who affirm the gifts and calling of women together. For twenty-eight years, BWIM has been a bridge, and last Wednesday, June 22, I had opportunity to join with others in Tampa, Florida, at our annual gathering. We joined together in bridging our lives, our callings, our hearts, and our love in the worship of the living God.

In the next week, I plan to share with you about our gathering–the worship, the fellowship, and the lunch. And if you were able to attend the Tampa events and you have memories of the day that you stayed in your heart, I invite you to share those with us!

Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Emily Holladay and courtesy of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship).

Finding Mentors in Unexpected Places by Christy Foldenauer

The first time I visited my seminary library, which is esteemed as one of the best in the country, I was underwhelmed. The problem wasn’t with the books, the organization, the staff, or the systems. Quite simply, I felt totally out of place.

Nevermind that my undergraduate work was over a decade ago. Nevermind that I couldn’t remember how library cataloging worked. I found these deficits surmountable, with a bit of work.

In the reading room where I settled in for several hours of work, I joined six men. Five of them could have been my grandfather. None of them acknowledged my presence.

“Where are all the women?,” I thought. Just then I saw one! She settled in to a seat in the library lobby, and through the glass doors, I could see her pull out a Christian romance novel. She checked her watch. She was waiting for her husband to finish his work.

I took a deep breath and hunkered down with a dark blue commentary to begin my first exegetical paper. Several moments later, my focus wandered, and I saw for the first time the exquisite oil paintings lining the upper half of the wall in the reading room. There were double-digit men. There was a painting of one woman. I felt for her.

Sometimes, I feel I am her.

When I have that feeling, I’ve learned to venture into the stacks. It seems unlikely that I’d stumble on women there, but I do! Loads of women! Their wisdom fills the pages of many books. Their insights are profound.

Last night alone I was mentored by a nun who spoke to me for an hour about creativity. I followed that up with a session about becoming a stronger woman with a counselor whose knowledge astounded me. She showed me things I’d never considered before. She asked me some very hard questions. I’m still grappling with her this morning, and glad I do not have to pay by the hour for her guidance. I’m meeting these women on the printed page, where they bare their souls and their passion spills out through their words. They are profound and gifted. They are gutsy and inspiring.

The women of the library may be less celebrated (for now) than their male counterparts, but their work is speaking to me. These brave women are mentoring me, though they may never know it. Their written work is shaping my ministry.

Yes, I’ve found my place at seminary, kneeling between the towering stacks. Perhaps one day I’ll also be found in their midst, as a woman with something to say to future generations.

Christy Foldenauer is a speaker for retreats and services and a student at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Learn about her ministry and read her blog.

Sing Your Part by Tammy Abee Blom

“The time has come Oh Lord for us to leave this place. Guide us and protect us and lead us in thy grace. . . .” This closing prayer is sung weekly by the congregation at our church. It is a unifying, uplifting communal blessing. Until one Sunday, I noted that the choir was not in place because the women’s ensemble had sung that day. The closing prayer ends with a four-part Amen. My mind went on alert and wondered if the worship leaders had planned for this. What was going to happen when we got to the Amens?!

“God bless us and return us to this fellowship once again.” Altos sang, “Amen.” And then all the tenors scattered through the congregation sang, “Amen.” Then the sopranos and basses sang. Though not in their standard places of service, all the choir members sang their parts. Relief seeped through my anxious spirit. I had worried in vain.

The example of the choir members who sang out their parts whether robed or sitting in the pew got me to thinking about how we are to serve no matter where we are. If you spend your day encouraging people through pastoral visits, be sure to carry that encouragement to the preschool teacher who cares for your child and the waitress at the restaurant who helps get dinner on the table. In all aspects of your life, use your gift. Sing your part.

I am one of those people who operate with a plan A, B, and C at all times. For me to flourish, I need to cover all the bases. Therefore, I am frequently devising plans for circumstances that never occur. The choir reminded me that God’s people are often among us and very willing to sing out in our time of need. Once this moment had occurred in worship, I found myself paying attention to the many times a day that someone steps up and takes care of a situation. When I expect people to live out of their giftedness and skill set, I no longer need so many alternate plans.

Not because it is the end of the worship service but because it is the blessing, I anticipate our congregational closing prayer. I am thankful for the choir who showed me that doing your part is not reserved for a time and place. They have inspired me to “sing my part” throughout my daily life.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, mother of two amazing daughters, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.