Why Baptists Need Martha Stearns Marshall Month by Kate Hanch

Kate Hanch (center) with Kathy Pickett and Keith Herron on the day of her ordination.

Martha Stearns Marshall Month, occurring in February, celebrates the voices of women in the pulpit. Marshall lived during the eighteenth century, and along with husband, provided leadership and preaching for Baptist churches in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, and even helped found the first missionary Baptist church in Georgia.

I first participated in Martha Stearns Marshall month in 2010 at Holmeswood Baptist Church, where I have served on staff for two years.  This year, I was honored to be the Martha Stearns Marshall preacher at Second Baptist Church in Liberty, Missouri. While I am blessed to be in a church and network of churches that regularly feature women in the pulpit, for many women, this may be the only time they get to preach for the entire year.  And for many people in our congregations, this may be the only time they hear a female voice preach God’s word.

I feel that sometimes, women who preach are held to different standards than their male counterparts—perhaps because of the novelty of women in the pulpit, or false stereotypes of women who preach. Do congregations and leadership take them as seriously as their male preachers?  Martha Stearns Marshall Month allows for these perceptions to be reconsidered and shaped differently.

The proclamation of Baptist women in the pulpit affects our theology more than we realize. When we hear people from all walks of life proclaim how God works through them and through scripture, we testify to a God who transcends our perceptions and our claims, proclaiming a God bigger than we can imagine.  We realize that while God transcends gender, God’s essence embodies both genders.  This truth connects with Scripture in creation—God made people in God’s own image.  When we allow the Body of Christ to function according to each individual’s gifts, we are challenged, encouraged, and participate more fully in the movement of a Triune God. The celebration of women in the pulpit does not mean that Christianity or the church is feminized—in fact, it means that the body of believers trust God’s working in the lives of fellow Christians—men and women.

To hear a variety of voices that study Scripture, take the context of the community seriously, and pray over their proclamation invites us to be more fully the body of Christ.  To pigeonhole women to certain roles and styles of preaching is to limit God’s power to work in our hearts.

Baptists must not perceive Martha Stearns Marshall Month as something obligatory to appease women or a denomination.  The potential for hearing different voices can spark the congregation’s imagination and sense of calling, particularly in the lives of young women. Had I not heard the voices of our female pastors in our church from the pulpit, had I not been allowed to preach on Youth Sunday of my senior year of high school, I never would have realized the possibility that I could be a minister or could preach.

As I preached at Martha Stearns Marshall day at Second Baptist, my mentor and supervisor filled in for our Senior Pastor, who was sick.  She presided over a baptism, delivered a well-prepared sermon on short notice, and led in the ordaining of two women deacons.  I am grateful for both colleagues and a community of faith who embraces the fullness of God’s transcending nature, allowing us all to live out our God-given gifts and call.

Martha Stearns Marshall month testifies to a Bible where women announce the good news of the Resurrection, risk their lives for God’s people, and serve together with males in proclamation of the Gospel. As Paul exclaims in Romans 10, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim the Good News!”

Kate Hanch is the pastor of children and creative communication at Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri.

Patiently Waiting by Tammy Abee Blom

I was pushing the double wide cart, juggling my list and pen and had zero kids in tow. Because the pantry and fridge were bare, I was in the midst of the “buy one of everything in the store” grocery run. As I checked items off the list, I noticed an elderly couple ahead of me. With cart, purse and two people, they had managed to block the entire aisle. There was no way around them and I couldn’t turn around because they were parked directly in front of the cereal that I had to stock up on. I waited. The couple didn’t move. I bounced from foot to foot hoping the movement would get their attention. They didn’t even look up from the envelope that they were rifling through. At this point I was curious how long this conversation would last and decided to wait it out. Suddenly the man turned to select an item and noticed me. He asked, “Oh have you been waiting? Thank you for being patient with us. I appreciate it.” I didn’t expect him to thank me for giving him to time to do what he was doing. I was surprised by his appreciation of my patience.

Later that day, the girls were getting out of the van and Eve spilled the contents of her backpack. Items rolled out of the van onto the garage floor and then her water bottle disappeared under the van. I sighed heavily. While Eve shoved items into her backpack, Audrey waited in her seat. She didn’t push her way out of the van or nudge her sister to move along. She just waited. Eve turned to her and said, “Audrey, thank you for being patient with me.” Twice in one day, I heard someone thank another for being patient.

What is the difference between being patient and waiting? I wait all the time. I wait for the school bus to arrive. I wait for phone calls to be returned. I wait for kids to brush their teeth. Waiting is an integral part of my life and yet, I have observed that patiently waiting is very different from just waiting. Patience is so valued that people will thank you for it. Patience allows the other person the gifts of time and space. The elderly man was thanking me for not curtly saying, “Excuse me” while I reached around him to grab the cereal. Eve was thanking Audrey for not complicating her chaos by climbing over her. Patience puts the other person first. Patience values the needs of others over my needs. No wonder people thank you for it. Patience is a rare gift!

When I have been on mom duty for twelve hours and all that stands between me and some down time is teeth brushing, patience is not my first choice. However I have noticed plenty of other times during my day when I can patiently wait. I view patiently waiting as living out my belief that we are all created in the image of God. I want to honor God’s creations by giving them time and space, by putting them first. I fail more often than I succeed. However, patiently waiting challenges me to treat all as children of God. And I like giving gifts. While I patiently wait, I think, “This is my gift to you.” I acknowledge this is a work in process but it is one that I am enjoying.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

What Love Means by Missy Ward

Katie has a smile that could light up the darkest room. You would have never known about her smile a year and a half ago. Last fall, I was walking through the local produce market in Uganda when I saw three of my English as a Second Language students from a distance, and I happily walked over and gave them hugs and kisses on the cheeks. One of my students introduced me to Katie, a thirteen-year-old girl. Katie said a solemn hello. For the one moment that she glanced up at me, I saw profound sadness. I did not know the details of her story, but I could sense her deep pain. I learned later that Katie’s parents were killed right in front of her. Katie and her brother were as a result orphaned at the ages of thirteen and fourteen. Their childhood was forever turned upside down because of the war in their country. Orphaned and alone, they turned to a neighboring family, who invited them to relocate to Uganda with their family.

I met Katie one month after she arrived in Uganda. Although Katie was clearly traumatized and experiencing pain, she decided to attend the Center of Hope, a community center for refugees near her home. During the first month that Katie attended classes, she sat quietly, barely talking or looking up. During class breaks, while the others students were playing on the swings or with the Frisbee, Katie sat alone, far away from the other students. She sat on the swing with her eyes to the ground. I, along with several of her classmates invited her to join us in our game of Frisbee, but Katie adamantly refused. She had been so hurt and broken that these invitations fell on deaf ears.

Slowly, over time, Katie’s brokenness was transformed into hope. About six weeks after she first attended the center, she decided to join our game of Frisbee during class break. A few minutes into our game, I saw Katie smile for the first time. I will never forget that moment. Her smile filled my heart with joy. It reminded me of the transformative power of God’s love and hope. Katie, although still healing from trauma, began to see what love means. She began to understand that her community, our community, loved her as our family. This love and community allowed her to begin to understand the transformative power of God’s love.

Over the last year and a half, Katie’s life has been transformed. Katie still attends English classes at the Center of Hope. These classes have empowered her with an education, a precious opportunity that was not available to her in her country. Katie now smiles because she understands that she is deeply loved, supported, and cared about by the Center of Hope’s community. Katie smiles with the assurance of knowing that God loves her as God’s daughter. Katie smiles because she has seen, heard, and experienced the transformative and restorative impact of love. Katie smiles.

There are many more refugees like Katie who are neglected, marginalized and without hope this Valentines Day. Please consider partnering with Refuge and Hope this Valentines Day by becoming a financial partner of $14 a month in honor of those who are alone, neglected, without hope and love today.

The Center of Hope is a community center for refugees living in Kampala, Uganda. The Center currently ministers to 150 East African refugee students through ESL, computer, sewing, and sports classes. Students also have opportunities to participate in a weekly Bible study and worship service. The Center of Hope is a project of Refuge and Hope International, which seeks to minister to people affected by war and conflict in East Africa. All ministry projects focus on empowering local leaders, holistic development and sustainable change. Refuge and Hope is directed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Field personnel who are serving in Uganda.

Missy Ward has volunteered at the Center of Hope as a English teacher for seven months of the last year . She is currently a third-year student at McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia. 

Small Comforts from the Heart by Tammy Abee Blom

It is really very simple. Peel the apples, and then cut into chunks removing the core. Cook with a ¼ cup of water. Add sugar and spices. Enjoy warm. That’s how I make applesauce. This past fall I started making applesauce for my girls. I had a small amount of time and apples that needed to be used. I decided to make something simple. The reviews were glowing, and homemade applesauce became much requested.

My mother made applesauce for her five kids and husband all winter long. It was such a staple on our table that it never occurred to me that homemade applesauce would be so coveted at my house. It is apples cooked with a pinch of sugar and spices! It is simple, easy and comforting. Not fancy! But my girls love it.

As I served up cups of applesauce this weekend, I realized that the girls were asking for more than tasty cooked apples. On some level, they understand that homemade applesauce is a gift directly from my childhood.  My mom offered this humble dish to her family and, in turn, I am offering it to mine. It is simple gift given without fanfare. It’s just applesauce. Yet, my girls understand that it is the passing on of a gift I received as a child. And they clamor for more.

When we offer freely what has been given to us, we give heartfelt comfort to others. Our families, friends, and congregants know when we are acting out of our genuine, core selves.  They know when our words and actions come from a place of authenticity and humility. These heartfelt gifts create divine moments, places where our hearts connect with the goodness of God.  We may not name it, but we can sense it. And all of us crave relationships where comfort is freely given. These small comforts are not to be dismissed but celebrated. I remind myself that “It’s not just applesauce. It is warm, cozy comfort freely given and gratefully received.”

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Our Daughters by Pam Durso

I love my job. Seriously love it. Connecting with, encouraging, supporting Baptist women ministers brings me lots of joy, but I am aware that what I do–what Baptist Women in Ministry as an organization does–reaches beyond women who are currently serving, reaches even beyond women who are discerning a call to ministry. The work Baptist Women in Ministry does, indeed the work that we all do together–has to be forward thinking. We have to look to the future. Because I have a daughter, I am reminded just about every day that this work will make a difference for our daughters.

Our churches need to be open to our daughters–they need to be places where our little girls feel comfortable in the pulpit. As Baptists, we need to celebrate when our daughters dress up like preachers for Career Day at school. We need to welcome our teenage girls into the pulpit for Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching. We need to provide good reading material for our young girls and give resources that encourage them to use all their gifts. We need to put our daughters to work, painting the church walls and working in the community. We need to jump for joy when our little girls announce that God has called them to be ministers.

We need to . . . wait! The truth is we are doing all of that! And our daughters are responding to God’s voice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella is the daughter of Daniel Glaze, pastor of First Baptist Church, Ahoskie, North Carolina. She likes to sit in the pulpit and color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dorie is the daughter of Ruth Perkins Lee, minister of students at Auburn First Baptist Church, Auburn, Alabama. Dorie dressed up as a preacher for Career Day at school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2010, St. Johns Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina, invited Clara Kremer, Liz Solitario, and Amy Hammond to preach for Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend, Kitt, very much enjoyed the 2010 State of Women in Baptist Life report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teenage girls recently painted the sanctuary walls at my church, Cornerstone Church, Grayson, Georgia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda, daughter of Natalie Kline, associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Waynesboro, North Carolina, wants to be a pastor when she grows up.

I am so thankful for churches, parents, communities, and friends, who open doors to their daughters.

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