This is What a Minister Looks Like: Ka’thy Gore Chappell

Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a Baptist woman serving in ministry, and today, we are pleased to introduce you to Ka’thy Gore Chappell.

Ka’thy, tell us about where and how are you currently serving in ministry?  

I serve as Leadership Development Coordinator with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina.

 What have been some of your “bumps in the road” as a woman minister? 

Some “bumps in the road” for me as a woman minister have included the assumption that ministry is a “way station” until marriage or motherhood came along.  Another “bump” was the lack of recognition as minister when surrounded by men who had the title of minister or Rev. and I (with same credentials) was labeled as director or Ms.  Other “bumps” include the reality that women ministers have to constantly attempt to “think like a man” in order to function in staff meetings, deacon meetings and committee meetings.  The list could continue . . .

What is the best ministry advice you have ever received? 

My best ministry advice was to love church people + there are two sides to every story + write thank-you notes + work two parts of the day—not all three parts of the day.

Who has inspired you in your ministry journey?

The people who have inspired me in my ministry journey include my mother, my missions leaders, and Sunday School leaders (who were all women). They all taught me to find out what God wanted me to do, then, do it!

That Which Makes Me Thankful by Pam Durso

Yes, this is a list! My top-ten list of things that make me thankful today.

1. I am thankful that I only have to cook a turkey once a year. Touching a raw turkey creeps me out so I am extremely thankful that my turkey is all nicely washed and patted and oiled and spending quality time in my oven.

2. I am thankful for my dog, who cleans up after me when I cook–he always saves me from lots of mopping.

3. I am thankful that my family has low expectations when it comes to Thanksgiving food and that the two guys who live at my house will eat almost anything without complaining.

4. I am thankful that the line yesterday at Honeybaked Ham was only two blocks long instead of four! (And I hope the daughter at my house who will NOT eat most anything I cook but who loves ham is thankful that I waited in line for thirty-five minutes on a chilly, windy day).

5. I am thankful that I have a husband who regularly cooks dinner but am also thankful that he won’t be cooking today. While my culinary skills are limited, his are . . . well, you know.

6. I am thankful for a son who willing goes to the grocery store with me, even on the day before Thanksgiving. And I am thankful that he is tall enough to reach the items on the top shelf (I get so tired of climbing up the shelves). (And Alex just informed me that I am thankful for her . . . that she is willing to make a last-minute run to the grocery store for the whipped cream that I forgot yesterday).

7. I am thankful that Food Network publishes Alton Brown’s recipes on the web!

Pam and the Turkey8. I am thankful that I have a dishwasher. Time has not eased the pain of having to wash all those pots and pans at Grandma’s house. There is not enough lotion in the world.

9. I am thankful for my 1970s avocado-colored electric knife that belonged to Mom. It doesn’t scare me as much as it used to so my turkey will be carved today instead of hacked.

10. I am thankful for Ashley, who taught me the word “listicle.” I am thankful that I am generally not a listicle-kind of person! But today, on Thanksgiving, I am thankful that there is much in my life that would find its way to a serious Thanksgiving list if I should ever make one!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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

 

 

AN ADVENT DEVOTION: Waiting in Hope by Molly T. Marshall

This devotion is based on Isaiah 64:1-9 and Mark 13:24-37, two of the lectionary texts for November 30, 2014–the first Sunday of Advent.

Pleadingly, the prophet writes, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down . . .” (Isaiah 64:1). If writing today, he might put it this way: “We desperately need you to show up, O God! Where are you in the midst of bloody Ferguson? Do you care about the countless drones launched by our government?”

This reading from the Hebrew Scriptures for the First Sunday of Advent begins with lament over the sin of the people and the seeming absence of God. Written during the time after the destruction of Jerusalem and prior to any rebuilding of the temple, this text offers frank acknowledgment that the covenant relationship between God and the returning exilic people is gravely threatened. If only God would perform mighty acts as in the past at Sinai, then the people would be able to believe anew and turn from iniquity.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a similar struggle as he reflected on God’s lack of intervention during the Holocaust. God had delivered Israel from Egypt; why would God not come to the aid of six million Jews? He concluded that God desires that Christians mature and offer themselves in God’s place, for in Christ God has been “pushed out of the world and onto the cross.” And yet, when he faced death himself, he did so with radical trust in the faithfulness of God. Like the prophet, he believed that God “works for those who wait” (Isaiah 64:4b).

Waiting in hope is an active spiritual practice. It requires a fundamental trust in God’s faithfulness and the humility to allow the mystery of God’s work to unfold over time. Trying to force the Holy One to function now, as in prior days, displays a desire to control God; it also demonstrates an unwillingness to perceive God in the surprising ways God may choose to reveal divine intention in the present. So we act in God’s stead, trusting the guidance of the Spirit.

The Gospel lesson offers a bracing warning: keep awake!  Be on the watch!  Mark’s apocalyptic text suggests that humans do not have unlimited time to do the work of God. Like in the earlier text, the destruction of Jerusalem figures prominently.  Over and over in Scripture, God’s people must reconsider the grounding of their identity; it cannot be in place or possession, rather it must be in God. And our diligent actions as mature Christians illustrate God’s faithfulness in contexts that might otherwise be deemed hopeless.

St. Augustine offers a perceptive insight to guide our action:

Hope has two beautiful daughters

            –anger to see things the way they are

            –courage to change them to the way they should be.

Attentiveness is the only faculty that gives us access to God, according to Simone Weil. During this Advent, let’s be on the watch to balance anger and courage as we wait in hope, for God will show up.

Molly T. Marshall is president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Shawnee, Kansas. 

 

 

 

Double Messages by Irene Vinyard Bennett

“If God wants you in seminary, you’ll wash dishes, or whatever, to pay for it.” When I told my pastor God had called me to ministry and I needed help to prepare, his half-hearted response surprised me.

Double messages that blessed and cursed were the norm in my Baptist church in the post-World War II Deep South. God loves the whole world, but God loves black people in their place; God has no favorites, but whites are privileged; God calls everyone to Christ’s work, but females are different; God equips and empowers everyone, but women cannot be deacons or pastors; God gives children to women and men, but females are caregivers and home managers. When my male peers heard God’s call, each one was immediately asked to speak in worship. When I shared my unspecified call, our pastor left me on my own. My church had already applauded my ministering—singing; playing the piano; teaching adults, teens and children; and chairing youth committees. The pastor didn’t deny God’s calling me, but he also offered no support.

My call surprised me. In a 1961 state Baptist Student Union worship service, God spoke to me without notice and spoke so strongly that I felt compelled to respond. I said to my BSU director at the altar, “God is calling me and I don’t know what that means, but I will go anywhere, any time, and do anything.” That call in my sophomore year of college has never left me.

Without ordination, I served for years as a seminary-equipped church educational minister, wrote for the Baptist Sunday School Board, and trained church leaders for the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1981, my Florida pastor offered me ordination, but the power of double messages prevailed.

Born from a church split, my childhood church had emphasized the biblical concept of church unity. After any divided church vote, the pastor would say, “The chair will entertain a motion for unanimity,” implying that dissenters become supporters when God leads. I heard a double message that blessed and cursed. I heard unity matters at the expense of “loyal opposition,” “minority rights,” or oppressed and marginalized people. So not wanting to divide my Florida church, I declined ordination. Instead, I became an advocate for women pastors.

In the early 1980s, ordaining women became a “hot potato” SBC issue. In New Orleans in 1982, I added my voice at the Woman’s Missionary Union dinner when there was a call for support for women ministers. In Pittsburg in June 1983, I joined Women in Ministry, SBC (now Baptist Women in Ministry) in its first meeting and became a member of its steering committee. In 1984, a large urban church search committee withdrew its ministry invitation to my husband, because I said I would accept ordination if another church offered. No church ever did.

In 2006, I discovered two Baptist traditions to bless recipients of God’s initial calling. Some churches grant men preaching licenses before seminary and ordination afterward. Other churches expect men to graduate and then to ask to be ordained. I knew only the former, so had waited decades for a church to offer ordination. Upon learning our church practiced the latter, I requested ordination. On April 24, 2006, First Baptist Church of Augusta, Georgia, wholeheartedly affirmed my forty-five-year response to God’s call.

Since then I have ministered with a multi-cultural church in Hong Kong and automatically contest all double messages (James 3:9-10). I wait for God to surprise me again when the church-at-large finally hears God’s call to bless, not curse! May it be so.

Irene Vinyard Bennett is volunteer minister with university students at Kowloon International Baptist Church, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

Lord,

For the ways in which you’ve graced my life this week, I give you thanks and praise.

I especially thank you for growing my garden and my life.

Give me the strength and wisdom to be faithful in tending both my outer and inner gardens.

Keep me from doing your job, from trying to force growth to meet my private timetable.

I offer up to you my need for quick results and my obsession with self-measurement.

Help me to be gentle and patient with myself and my garden.

For I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

— Harriet Crosby

 

This is What a Minister Looks Like: Andrea Dellinger Jones

Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces you to a Baptist woman serving in ministry, and today, we are pleased to introduce Andrea Dellinger Jones.

Andrea, what does ministry look like for you right now?  

Ministry looks demanding for me right now, but that is pretty typical for fall. For six years I’ve been serving as the senior pastor of Millbrook Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. My husband, Brent Jones, and my perky nineteenth-month-old daughter, Anne Elyse, keep ministry fun for me, even in the challenging seasons. Home visits, for instance, are twice as much fun now. I gladly take Anne Elyse with me and let her do some caring, as well. My church has been wonderful that way, giving me a necessary degree of flexibility to be both a pastor and a mother.

Although fall is always demanding, it follows a delightful break in the usual rhythm at my church. Summers at Millbrook are different. They’re not necessarily slower, just different in ways that I welcome. Our church hosts a Summer Scholars Series every year in which we invite area professors and ministry experts to teach our adults during the Sunday school hour. Some of these great minds also preach in worship. From June to August, I serve primarily as a ministry host for these scholars and a facilitator for this learning experience.

As fall looms, I start preaching more often and preparing myself to help lead our Wednesday night gatherings. Several special events have already found their way onto our church calendar this year, like our next Parent and Child Dedication Service. That service will include the cutest new twins in Raleigh. We’re also organizing an Animal Blessing in the garden near our prayer labyrinth. We’re crossing our fingers that our Jewish friend and her skateboarding dog will show up again this year. Only one fall wedding marks the docket so far. Weddings can generate excitement, especially when they involve two new members of the church.

New initiatives sparked my interest this summer, so I’m hoping to implement two fresh ministries this fall. One initiative is a wellness program that will include a “30-Day Challenge,” and the other is a Reading Buddy program at Millbrook Elementary across the street from our church.

Tell us about where and how have you served in the past?

Five churches in the last fifteen years have given me a chance to serve. A picture of each one of them sits behind a frame in my office. I’ve got good memories of all these ministries. Most of these churches offered me employment while my husband and I finished our education.

During seminary, for instance, I was the youth ministry intern at Second Ponce de Leon in Atlanta, Georgia. I preached my first sermon in that church, albeit in a sparsely-attended evening service held upstairs somewhere. Later I served as the youth minister at North Broad Baptist Church in Rome, Georgia. That congregation also ordained me.

After graduation from McAfee School of Theology, Brent and I got married and moved to Athens, Georgia. He pursued his master’s degree in history at University of Georgia, while I served as the youth and children’s minister at First Baptist Church in Commerce. My ministry there coincided with a long interim pastorate, and I learned valuable lessons in leadership serving as the church’s only full-time minister.

Two years later, we moved to Virginia, where Brent studied history at the University of Virginia. He churned out his Ph.D. while I served as the minister of Christian formation and children at Chestnut Grove Baptist Church. That thriving little church predates this country and still stares straight at the Blue Ridge Mountains. In Virginia, I also earned my D.Min. from the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

Brent and I finally moved to Raleigh in 2008, when Millbrook Baptist called me to be their senior pastor. I’ve been banging on their pulpit ever since.

Who was the first woman minister you remember meeting? Who was the first woman you heard preach?

One of my favorite college professors, Darren Middleton, encouraged me to meet Linda Serino during my junior year at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Middleton knew that I was discerning my calling and trying to plan my next move after graduation. Rev. Serino was a chaplain at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and she was the first ordained woman I met. She was also a Baptist!

Dr. Middleton also advised me to “go hear a woman preach.” He even suggested a woman nearby. I took his advice one Sunday morning and attended Germantown Presbyterian Church, where Louise Lawson served as senior pastor. She offered a powerful and somewhat providential sermon on the “Feeding of the Fifteen Thousand.” Rev. Lawson’s sermon noted that if the 5,000 men fed by Christ in that story each had a wife and just one child with them, there would have been at least 15,000 people who ate that day. She asked, “How much greater does the miracle of God become when everyone is counted?”

I took her point home and never forgot it for it became personal for me. The miracle of the gospel is greater when women (like me), and our children along with us, are “counted” as we proclaim it.

What advice would you give to a teenage girl who might be discerning a call to ministry?

Begin to establish your support. I have heard several people describe serious decision-making as an internal conference call with the many advisors we hear in our heads. I am not talking about the voices of mental illness; these are the voices of mental health, and they usually include parents, friends, and people we respect. A few enemies always chime in, as well. You definitely want more friends than enemies on this call. Gather people around you who act like Jesus acted. Hang out with people who know you well and know God better. Stay close to people who can deliver a hard message gently. For me, these people have been family members, other ministers, a ministry coach, certain professors, and godly lay-leaders in my home church. God usually speaks softly and seldom, but these are the people who have amplified God’s voice for me.

Pick at least one major in college that can get you a job outside of church work. The church in America is enduring a strange period of transition. Churches don’t have the money they once had. That may be a good thing for Christianity; it’s too soon to tell. But if God ever calls you to a ministry that makes very little money, you will need to eat somehow.Choose a double major or minor in the humanities or social sciences. These kinds of courses teach you to think about the world and express yourself in ways that won’t be matched by science, math, engineering, or business courses. This kind of knowledge is essential to ministry, but it helps you make better grades in seminary too. Try to enjoy the shift from your church’s simple reflection format, where everyone comments on what the text “means to me,” toward the serious study of the Bible and the thinkers who have spent their lives trying to square it with other kinds of knowledge God gives us. In other words, don’t wait until seminary to begin your transformation toward intellectual and spiritual maturity.

Lastly, be the pastor you wish you had. Start right now. Even without a position or a pulpit, you can strive to be holy. You may have to keep defining that word for yourself – holy. Start by admitting it means more than just purity or sexual abstinence. Holy also means the opposite of self-righteous. Being holy starts with God’s own forgiveness, of course, but then it makes you odd in ways that are pleasing to God. God knows being “holy” works this way, but God won’t change that fact, either. That’s because God knows people are watching. They notice our intent to live one way instead of another. They notice when we are just, merciful, and compassionate. They remember when we indulge ourselves too much. They see what we post on Facebook. If you’re considering a call to ministry, for heaven’s sake, be careful on Facebook!  Live in a way that leaves you few regrets on the day God finally calls you to Christian ministry.

 

Dear Addie: Surrounded by Incompetence

Dear Addie,

I am new in my ministry position at a small church, but I quickly discovered that several of the key lay leaders, the ones in charge of financial details and decision making, are … well, they are incompetent. They haven’t done their job. They don’t keep good records. They don’t seem to comprehend any simple accounting practices. They can’t provide reliable information and are of no help with budget planning or management. So I am wondering how to “fire” lay leaders without splitting this church. Any thoughts?

No One Ever Told Me This Would Happen.

 

Dear N.O.E.T.M.T.W.H.,

First things first. It is impossible and unwise to fire volunteers, especially when you are a new minister in the church, and even more so when you are in a small congregation. It just isn’t worth it for the church family or for your ministry. The better route to go when you discern a deficiency in leadership  is to add some people to the mix who have the skills to not only get the job done, but to teach others how to do the job well. With smaller congregations, it takes everyone doing something to get the work done.

In church ministry, we often encounter volunteers who have no idea how to do what they are doing, but they love the church family and recognize that there is a need so they answer the call to serve. May we be grateful for willing hearts! May we be patient with them, remembering we are all community together. An ideal church world does not exist in which there is competency in everything, but somehow we must manage to limp through it and to proclaim the love of Christ.

If you have tried adding more people to the mix but cannot make that happen, the reality is that sometimes you just have to ride things out, but you ride it out together. Start small with your expectations, and start cheerfully. Determine what financial information the church absolutely needs to improve the ministry. Pray toward that and ask God to help you see with clarity how you can draw this out of the people. Always be affirming in genuine ways. Most of the time people in the church are trying their best and are hoping for the best for their church family.

There are times we have to let go of our expectations of how things should be done. We can keep asking for financial reports so that we can make good decisions and be faithful leaders of God’s people, but if the reports do not come, we have to keep leading and making decisions the best we can. It can be an interesting journey of trusting in God for ministers who have to make ministry decisions based on something other than hard fast financial reports. You can embrace this reality as a blessing or as a curse.  But be encouraged by remembering that somehow the church has made it this far.

On that note, talk with church leaders about how they have made it this far, keeping the records like they have. Perhaps the leaders are nervous and concerned too, but perhaps they just do not know how else to do it. Over time, help them tweak the process to make it better for God’s glory, but take baby steps. Money makes people nervous, and anytime we highlight people’s deficiencies, it really makes people nervous. Be kind and generous and very patient. And remember—it is a blessing to serve the people of God!

Prayers for you, my sister,

Addie

 

If you have a question for Dear Addie, please send them to dearaddie.advice@gmail.com.

*The photo of Addie Davis is provided courtesy of Special Collections, Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.

Thinking Theologically about Perfectionism by Amy Finkelberg

I don’t know about you, but I do not like doing things at which I am not very good. Sure, I’ve heard all the same trite sayings you probably have heard, such as: “You have only failed when you have failed to try.” But somehow these quotes don’t make me feel like being any more daring. All I think when I hear them is “Blah. Blah. Blah.” People can extol the virtues of failure all they want, but the truth of the matter is that failure hurts. A lot.

On the other hand, doing things successfully makes my heart sing. When I was in school, nothing looked as beautiful to me as a big red “A” on a paper or test. Even now, I like for things to be done “right,” and when I see someone doing something “righter” than I can (which is not unusual) it’s easy for me to put myself down.

I am not sure where I got this drive toward perfectionism, but I know it didn’t help that I memorized Matthew 5:48 before I understood the difference between literal and figurative language. In this verse, Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I understood this verse to mean that I was supposed to do things right—all the time. From being a good girl to a good student, I knew that Jesus expected me to aim higher than high.

As I matured as a student of the Bible, I began to understand Matthew 5:48 a little differently. Context helps. In the preceding verses, Jesus challenges his followers to love their enemies. Jesus knows his disciples cannot be perfect, but he does expect them (and us) to imitate the perfection of God’s all-embracing love as best we can. Jesus’ strong challenge to practice perfect love must be balanced with a deep and sure knowledge that God’s love is freely given. Salvation really is by grace.

A couple of years ago, I came across this powerful quote from Anne Lamott:  “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” Since reading that quote, I have been trying to go a little easier on myself and quiet the harsh criticisms of the “Perfecter.” Not long ago I decided to take things one step further and do something that would give me lots of opportunities to face my fears of  failure. I would learn to play a sport.

I have never had much eye-hand coordination, so all of my life I’ve avoided sports like Charlie Brown’s Pig Pen avoids baths. Lately, though, my husband Arty has been teaching me the art of softball. I am now the proud owner of a Rawlings leather glove that has pink stitching, and I can even catch a softball with my lovely glove—sometimes. I can also make contact with the ball when I’m up at bat, although during this part of my tutoring sessions Casper, our little Maltese, has to take refuge inside since where the ball will go when I hit it is totally up for grabs.

Anne Lamott also said, “Perfection is shallow, unreal, and fatally uninteresting.” If this is true, then I am one deep, real, and enlivening-ly interesting ball player. I “fail” a great deal during practice sessions, but I also laugh a lot. I am enjoying where I am and looking forward to where I might go—not just in playing softball but also in living life. It may seem silly to think that softball could be a spiritual discipline, but for me, for now, it surely is.

Amy Finkelberg is associate pastor for adults, Northminster Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi.

 

 

 

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

O God, we pray this day

for all who have a song they cannot sing,

for all who have a burden they cannot bear,

for all who live in chains they cannot break,

for all who wander homeless and cannot return,

for those who are sick, and those who tend them,

for those who wait for loved ones and wait in vain,

for those who live in hunger

and for those who will not share their bread,

for those who are misunderstood,

and for those who misunderstand,

for those who are captives and for those who are captors,

for those whose words of love are locked within their hearts

and for those who yearn to hear those words.

Have mercy upon these, O God.

Have mercy upon them all.

— Ann Weems

This is What a Minister Looks Like: Jessica Prophitt

Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a Baptist woman serving in ministry, and today, we introduce you to Jessica Prophitt.

 
Jessica, tell us about where and how you are currently serving in ministry?

I am currently serving as an U.S. Air Force chaplain at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia.

Where and how have you served in the past?

In the past, I have served as a hospital chaplain at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina and the VA Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia. I have also served as a recreation ministry intern at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain. Before becoming an active duty chaplain at Robins, I was a reserve chaplain at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina, and also a stay-at-home mom to my now fourteen-month-old son, Ian.

What have been some of your “bumps in the road” as a woman minister?

There have been two areas that have been the greatest challenge for me as I have pursued ministry. First, it was difficult to gain the necessary experience I needed to be competitive for the job I wanted. The Air Force requires that a minimum of two years full-time civilian ministry experience be completed in order to be considered for active duty. I had only one year of full-time experience, and getting the needed experience was a challenge. Second, my husband and I have recently switched roles. He now stays home with our son and finds ministry fulfillment in part-time opportunities, and I am the full-time minister. As I live and work in a world where our situation is unique, sometimes I find it difficult to remember that it is okay to be a mom, a wife, and career woman. In my military world, I am both an officer and a wife, but not an officer’s wife, which often confuses the social norms (even confuses me) as my husband and I try to make friends and become accustomed to our new world.

Who has inspired you in your ministry journey?

As I followed my call into ministry and eventually into the military, I found myself more and more inspired by the men who supported me and the women who were pioneers in arenas that where traditionally male dominated. I think it took a lot of courage to stand beside their sisters and help them fight for a place at the table. Today, I am inspired by the many chaplains that I work with who stand beside me in ministry, including some hold theological and personal beliefs that minimize women’s roles in ministry. Yet these chaplains support, encourage, and mentor me in my role as a new, young, female chaplain. I cannot write about the men who inspire me without mentioning my husband. He has graciously and courageously supported my call even though it has meant that he must put his full-time ministry aspirations to the side for the foreseeable future. For my husband and for all the men who have supported their wives, daughters, sisters, and co-ministers in their calls, I give thanks and pray that I can be so gracious and courageous.