This is What a Minister Looks Like: Charity Roberson

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today, we are pleased to introduce you to Charity Roberson.

Charity, tell us about your ministry journey. Where and how are you serving now? Where have your served in the past?

Since March 2013, I have served as the equipping coach for the Baptist General Association of Virginia. In my role, I create leadership development opportunities for ministers through small groups gatherings and events. I also have the responsibility for planning two retreats, one for high school students and one for middle school students, plus Forum, a two-day training event for youth and young adult ministry leaders. I also preach, speak, coach, and lead retreats. I previously served as pastor of Sharon Baptist Church in Smithfield, North Carolina, and as Baptist campus minister primarily for North Carolina State University and Meredith College in Raleigh.

What do you love best about your ministry now?

I love the one-on-one work I do. Right now, I am working with a group of women ministers, coaching them through results from a workplace personality assessment. I especially love helping people understand who it is that God created them to be and then supporting them as they live with intentionally.

Who was the first woman minister you ever met?

When I was a girl, Wendy Minton worked at our association, planning Girls in Action events. Then in high school, my church called a new pastor. His wife had been ordained for her previous work in chaplaincy. My church, including me, deemed her ordination acceptable, because she “had to do it” in order for the hospital to let her work as a chaplain. However, the first woman that I encountered in a day-to-day ministry was Geneva Metzger, my Baptist campus ministry at University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Through campus ministry, I also got to know Wanda Kidd and other women serving in ministry roles.

What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?

I have had such great truth tellers in my life, but I can narrow my list of great advice down to two. While I was his intern, Bob Phillips, the Baptist campus minister at University of North Carolina, taught me the importance of having balance in my life. He said, “The students need ministry things that are all their own, that you are not a part of. And you need ministry that is outside of the primary ministry in which you serve. You need other ways of expressing your call.” I have always participated in ministry work in my free time, and as I transitioned into full-time ministry, his words helped me maintain balance and not allow ministry to consume my life.

The second piece of advice came from another former campus minister friend, who cautioned me not to put all of my trust and commitment in an organization, but rather to have confidence in my calling. Denominations, organizations, and churches can all disappoint us. They were all created by humans. Financial situations shift, power changes hands, and ministry focus and commitment fluctuates. As a result, people’s lives are affected, and sometimes, they lose their positions. My friend told me to be faithful wherever I was serving, but above all, to be faithful to what God had called me to do and be. I have been blessed for as I have sought to live out my calling God has given me opportunities for growth and development and has been faithful in providing what I need.

 

The Mystery of Ordination by Pam Durso

In less than three days, my family, friends, colleagues, supporters, and fellow church members will gather for my ordination. Many will make the trip to Atlanta for this special occasion in my life; some of them will travel long distances just to be here. I am a bit, well more than a bit, overwhelmed by that knowledge.

I have also been a bit overwhelmed by the question, “Aren’t you excited?” Wonderful, caring friends have asked me this question. Church members, students, and acquaintances have also asked me. And I don’t have a settled answer. I don’t know quite what to say. “Excited, not really” doesn’t seem appropriate. Neither does, “Nervous. I am rather nervous about the whole thing.” As one who lives in the world of words, I can’t even find ones to express how I am feeling these days.
My inability to articulate in any intelligent way has driven me to prayer, reflection, and some hand wringing. Okay, more than some. A lot of hand wringing. And here is what I am learning about ordination and myself.
Ordination, of course, entails words of blessing and the physical act of affirmation through the laying on of hands. Over the past fifteen years, I have attended and participated in countless ordinations. I have spoken words of blessings, prayed over, and laid hands upon dozens of women and men, and I have felt the power of the spirit, experienced God’s presence. I am grateful for those moments.
As I have pondered and prayed, I have realized that giving blessing comes easily and naturally to me. I cherish the opportunity to bless. But . . . I do not easily or naturally receive blessing. I hesitate to hear or accept words of affirmation, and my impending ordination has pushed me to admit this about myself and to begin working on myself. I am still in process of learning to open my heart and to live with a receiving spirit.
My second realization is that ordination involves much mystery, a concept which was beautifully expressed by Molly Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. In her article, “The Mystery of Ordination,” Molly noted that “In God’s mysterious calculus of grace, these [ordained ministers] lead and accompany God’s church as it makes its slow journey through history toward the City of God.”
There is much that I do not understand about this mysterious working of God through ordination. There is much that I have yet to learn, and to be honest, living into this mystery is a struggle for me. I am a concrete thinker, an organizer, an over-planner. I maintain careful control of my calendar, my emotions, and just about everything else that is controllable in life. But ordination, this mysterious gift of affirmation and “set apartness,” has challenged me and is challenging me to trust. To trust that God is at work. To trust that God is in this. To trust that my church and the BWIM Leadership Team were right in their request that I be ordained. And frankly, all that trusting has been hard, really hard.
So in the days remaining before my ordination, I have blocked out some hours to pray and to rest. I don’t want to miss what God has in store. I very much want to be ready to hear, ready to receive, ready to open my heart. And in these days, your prayers are surely appreciated!
Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia. 

The Family Business by Emily Davis

When I was senior in high school, I was asked to preach for Youth Sunday. I spent hours upon hours preparing for the sermon, and was as nervous as I could be. After the service, a lady in my church came up to me and said “you surely are going to follow in your mother’s footsteps”. I scoffed at the idea. Growing up with a mother as a minster, I saw all of the trials and tribulations of being a minister, as well as the amount of time spent at funerals, weddings, and deacons meetings,  rather than the soccer games, tennis matches, and dance recitals where all of my friends’ soccer moms seemed to be. There was absolutely no way that I was going to follow in my mother’s footsteps.

I have to admit that the first time I told my parents that I felt a calling into ministry, I was scared to death. As a high school senior, I applied to college with the plans of becoming a Pharmacist. Yet, when the summer before my freshman year of college rolled around I felt my calling into ministry, and I laughed as I looked back at those moments when I scoffed at the idea of ministry. It’s incredible how God can change things in the blink of an eye. I knew that while my parents would support me, there would also be a sense of sorrow in them wanting me to do something different outside of the church world where hurt was a common guest. It seemed as if, in a way, my mother knew all along that her oldest daughter would be joining her in the “family business” of ministers.

My thought-provoking and theology-challenging undergraduate years were spent at Wingate University, where my eyes were opened to see the other side of the spectrum. Growing up with a mother who was a minister, I never realized that there was a world that believed that women could not be ministers, yet I quickly realized that many of those who believed that way would be my colleagues for the next four years. Those challenges created a spark in me. Some would say that spark was just me being sassy, but that sassiness was embraced and loved by professors, friends, and eventually my male-dominated peers, as together we learned what it meant for us to all to be ministers.

As those four short undergraduate years progressed, I developed a different kind of relationship with my mother. There were countless hours spent crying on the phone with my mom, as I explained to her the hurtful things that my classmates said, the “bad theology” they were presenting, and my desire for several of them to see things through an open mind.

I am learning, even now, while I am serving in my first church, that those conversations still happen. Only now, I finally think I understand why my mother had spent so much time not only ministering to her congregation, but to me as well. While there were multiple times where my mother would show up late to my tennis matches because of the thirty minute drive it took to get home from our church, or because a member of her church had spent a little too long in her office showing off pictures of the most recent addition to their family, she still made time to minister to me. Even if it took twenty-two years for me to realize that, being on the track for ordained ministry myself, there is nothing more that I want than to become at least half the minister that my mother is.

My mother is the one who taught me that ministry is not always high moments; it is also low moments, those moments in which we are most desperately seeking grace, mercy, and justice or looking for a sign from God that we are doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. Having a mother as a Minister and being able to follow behind her in the “family business” is truly an act of God’s infinite mercy.

Emily Davis is minister of youth and young adults at First Baptist Church of North Wilkesboro, NC and is currently pursuing a Master of  Divinity at Gardner Webb University. 

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

Lord,

Increase my faith,

bless my efforts,

and work now and for evermore.

–Mother Teresa

Psalm 23: Walking in the Dark by LeAnn Gunter Johns

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff–they comfort me.” Psalm 23:1-4

Years ago, on the last night of a leadership camp that I was attending, our group decided to go on a night hike through a part of the woods that we had not yet traveled and then to camp out under the stars. Our leaders challenged us to do two things: leave our flashlights off and stay quiet. The dark woods were scary and unfamiliar, so I was eager to turn my flashlight on and let the bright light guide my steps. After several awkward moments of wondering where (or on what) my feet might land, I listened more closely to the words spoken by our leaders, “Give your eyes time to adjust. You don’t need the flashlight, you’ll be able to see where to go.” They were right. My eyes, after what felt like an eternity, adjusted to the dark woods. The moon provided all the light I needed, and my eyes were opened to a new way of seeing.

The “stay quiet” instruction might actually have been harder for me to follow. But in my silence, I heard beautiful sounds; it was like the forest was singing a song for us. I so wanted to talk about what I was seeing and hearing. But in order to see and to hear, I had to be quiet. Silence allowed me to pay more attention to the life that was happening around me.

I always think of that hike when I read Psalm 23. My camp leaders were the physical shepherds that night, giving us instructions and insisting that we trust them even though their ideas sounded so foreign. We knew that they would not lead us astray, but it was still so hard to believe what seemed to be impossible. Trusting in God as our shepherd can feel even more challenging. We may question whether we even heard God correctly. Yet, as the psalmist testifies, even by the still waters, the right paths, or the darkest valleys, God never leaves. Wherever we are on life’s journey, God is with us.

During this season of Lent, as we intentionally try to practice silence and become comfortable with the darkness, sometimes we will want to give up. We might want to share too soon of the discoveries that we are making. But instead, we must pay attention to what God is doing around us. My Lenten challenge to you this day: Open your eyes and give them time to adjust to the new revelations you find. Even in the darkest of valleys, find the strength to just take one step forward and take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone.

LeAnn Gunter Johns is a 2004 graduate of McAfee School of Theology. She has served churches in Georgia and California and now lives in Macon, Georgia with her husband, Barry and their two boys, Parker and Patrick. In her free time she enjoys cheering on the Stanford Cardinal and Mercer Bears, running, and drinking coffee!

This is What a Minister Looks Like: Taryn Deaton

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a gifted minister, and today, we are proud to introduce to you Taryn Deaton.

Taryn, tell us about your current ministry.

I am currently as the director of development for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C.

What job, positions, and experiences have shaped and prepared you for your present role?

For the first eight years of my career, I worked in alumni affairs for two major research universities. In those positions, I learned about building life-long connections between individuals and institutions. I had the chance to coordinate some really amazing programs and events through which people became more engaged with their university.

When I moved to Washington, D.C., I felt God urging me to learn a new skill set. I had an opportunity to take a job as a fundraiser (something I never thought I would do), and felt that God was telling me I needed to learn this skill not only for the immediate work but also for something in the future. As with my alumni affairs work, I quickly learned that fundraising is all about building long-lasting, authentic relationships.

During my first few years as a fundraiser, I felt a call to study and eventually found myself in seminary. I completed a Master of Theological Education degree at Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in May 2012.

When I felt the initial call to seminary, I really didn’t know where it would lead. But, I knew it would be interesting. And, I was right! A chance meeting with the BJC’s general counsel after church one Sunday started a journey that led me to joining the staff as their director of development in August 2012.

What has inspired you along the way as you have lived out your calling?

Despite growing up a Christian, it was not until I was well into my 30s that I truly began to understand what the priesthood of all believers meant and how that might translate professionally. I grew up in a church tradition that made me believe there was a hierarchy of callings with missionaries, ministers, and pastors at the top, people in “helping professions” below that, and at the very bottom were “secular workers” such as business people and lawyers. Not feeling called to full-time vocational ministry, I never really considered my day-to-day work a “calling” or a way to glorify and worship God.

As I began my work in fundraising, I struggled with how my faith and daily work were connected. This struggle led me to seminary, where my theological education gave me a chance to understand more fully my own, unique calling. Seminary gave me time to focus on and wrestle with where my faith and daily work intersect and to consider how God might use my skills, experiences, and professional background for the building up of the Kingdom, the issues I am most passionate about, and the types of work and workplaces that bring me joy.

What I love about working in development in a Christian atmosphere is that I get to invite others to join in the work that God is doing through the BJC with their financial support and involvement.

What advice would you give to a teenage girl who is sensing a call to ministry?

My dream for every young woman is for her to have a deep sense of self-confidence and an understanding that it is okay to be who she is. God made us all so very unique, with amazing gifts, talents, ways to look at the world, passions, and more. I think it is so important for the church to affirm this in young women (and young men).

I would challenge young women to think beyond the sometimes limited understandings of “call” and “ministry” and recognize that they can serve God in a variety of professions and workplaces. I have the pleasure of serving with women who minister as lawyers, directors of communications, administrators, and more. I would like to see liberation in our thinking about calling and ministry, and I would like to see the church encourage young women to follow their deepest passions into whatever career that might lead.

Ministry Manners: Pass the Salt

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)

I get it! Everyone is not a morning person. There are just some people you encounter on a daily basis that need space to wake-up. Allow them to get their morning java, diet coke, or energy drink. If not, you might encounter lions, and tigers, and bears—oh my!  But, even if you are not a morning person, there are some basic common courtesies you should follow “so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”

First, it is proper to greet persons the first time you see them with “Good Morning,”  “How’s it going?” or, where I am from…“What’s up, Dog!” (“Dog”-a term of endearment in the hood. Similar to Jesus calling the Syrophoenician woman a “dog.” –No harm intended). Therefore, when you encounter church or office staff, people in church on Sunday morning, friends in seminary, guests, the Walmart greeter, etc., try to extend a gracious greeting. If that is all you can handle at the moment then just extend your greeting and keep it moving! At the very least, be cordial enough to speak.

Second, it would be wise to season our tongues with salt before we preach the gospel— Why? For the same reason we put salt on our food—to make our food taste better. The better it tastes, the more we want! We need to put spiritual salt on our tongues, so when we preach the gospel, we preach it in such a way that it is desirous and full of spiritual flavor! We need to  preach so “salty” that those in the pews are hungry and thirsty to hear more about the Good News! Therefore, a preacher should avoid name-calling, venting church problems, or using inappropriate language or gestures from the pulpit, so that our proclamation is seasoned with glorifying God and not self.

Finally, the Golden Rule still stands. If you want to be shown respect, then respect others. There is a way to get your point across and communicate with others without being disrespectful. The root of a lot of church conflict is that people of the faith fail to put salt on their tongue before they speak! As a result, their speech is not loving and gracious, but cold and callous.

The Apostle Paul spoke to the Corinthians on the importance of speaking the truth in love. “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians13:1-2).

In order to serve God in excellence and model good ministry manners, we must be willing to greet others, speak the truth in love, and let our speech always be gracious.

So, would somebody please pass the salt?

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton.

My People by Jenny Hodge

“Who are your people?” is a question I am often asked here, in the Deep South. It is a way of establishing a connection–you never know, we might be fifth cousins twice removed. This is also a very important question as a single woman in the South, because given the lack of a spouse or children, family connections give others a sense of my place in the world. Unfortunately, in the past few years, “Who are your people” has become a difficult question for me to answer without feeling like I’m lying or creatively telling the truth. As a strong and independent woman, “my people” do not want me.

I am estranged from a majority of my family, both immediate and extended. The estrangement was caused by a generational cycle of abuse and domestic violence. As both a minister and social worker, I pushed back against the cycle. My sister and I were experiencing the damaging consequences of the family violence, and it needed to stop. We begged. We prayed. We tried to cultivate healthier relationships, but we were rejected and pushed from the family.

In her blog, E-Stranged, Fiona McColl writes that family estrangement is a disruption of familial attachments. In her experience, estrangement from one’s family system occurs for a multitude of reasons but is often treated as a “dirty secret . . . we cannot speak openly for fear of judgment or misunderstanding.” She contends that estrangement often produces feelings of shame that may further prevent an individual from believing they are free to share their lived experience with others.

There is truth to her words, especially for a young, single woman minister. Initially, I hesitated to share my story with others because of the shame I felt due to my lack of family. However, as I processed the grief with counseling and supportive friends, my sense of shame lessened. Yet, I still hesitate to share my story with those in my Baptist world.

Why? I have learned there is a double standard in how many Baptists process family abuse. Not that Baptists have the best track record in responding to abuse in general, but we do not know what to do if the abuser is an older parent or adult sibling. In the past few months, I have tried to share, appropriately and when asked, the reality of my life with a few Baptist colleagues and friends, and it has rarely gone well.

One colleague scoffed at the idea that I might never speak again with my parents. That person exclaimed, “Of course you’ll speak to them again–they’re your parents! You can’t never speak with them again. You’re too young for that.” Another mentor, knowing that no change had occurred in my family culture,  stated, “Life’s too short not to have family connection. You should work things out with your parents and siblings.” Then a friend said, “Don’t worry. Family stuff like that always blows over. You’re overreacting.”

Baptist churches and leaders have helped shape me into the person and minister I am today, just as my biological family did. Feeling shamed by Baptist colleagues and friends stings because it feels like a second rejection. My hope and request is that my Baptist family would seek to understand and not criticize a young, single woman minster who does not have an expected answer to “who are your people?” Your affirmation and support as “my people” are more important than you know.

Jenny Hodge is the director/missionary of Together for Hope-Louisiana through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Louisiana. Jenny lives in Lake Providence, Louisiana, where she loves watching individuals and/or groups exceed their own expectations when serving with others.

 

 

Why Martha Stearns Marshall Month Matters by Megan Hurst Carter

My stomach was queasy, and my hands began to sweat. Today was the day! Today was the day that I had been waiting for, the day that I did not know I needed. Today was the day I stood behind the pulpit for the first time as the “preacher.”

As I waited for the service to begin, sitting in the empty church office, I glanced over my sermon notes one last time. I felt confident in the material, but I was still befuddled that I, Megan, was about to preach a sermon to a real congregation. I was elated and nervous! I took a few minutes to reflect on my ministerial journey up to this point. I thought about all the people and experiences that helped me get to this place, but my mind stuck on one specific event.

I was casually working at a booth for my alma mater, Carson-Newman University, during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly. I was greeting guests, listening to people relive their glory-days, and encouraging young people to attend the school. Then a man, a very kind man, introduced himself as alum. He asked my husband and me about our connection to Carson-Newman, and when he learned we were seminary students, he asked about our ministerial journeys. During the conversation, the man and I realized that we were from the same hometown, and he immediately said, “You should come preach at our church!” I politely declined and informed him, “No, you want my husband to do that. He is a much better preacher than me. He has a lot of experience, and I have never preached before.” By this point in the conversation, my husband had stepped behind me and was pushing me toward our new friend. The two of them agreed that I needed an opportunity to preach. I cannot describe all of the wonderful, freeing emotions I that felt in that moment. They believed in me! These two preachers affirmed my gifts and encouraged me to preach. There was no reason I should have hesitated, but I did. A flood of emotions rushed over me when I finally was offered this opportunity to preach. How can I preach? I have never preached before, I am not skilled. I assume this is how many of the early church mothers and fathers felt when God asked them perform important tasks.

That kind man, Rev. Ed Sunday-Winters, empowered me and furthered my ministry. He invited me to preach in February, during Baptist Women in Ministry’s Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching. Rev. Sunday-Winters had never heard me preach, but he believed in me, and he believed that both women and men are called by God to preach the gospel. I will always be indebted to this kind pastor for believing in me and for providing my first opportunity to preach. He unknowingly connected me to the sisterhood of women who have felt the power of someone believing in them and leaving room not just at the table, but in the pulpit. And on that special day in February 2014, I joined that sisterhood, and now I  am honored to say that I am a Martha Stearns Marshall PREACHER.

Megan Hurst Carter is a third-year student at McAfee School of Theology and serves as associate pastor of youth at Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

O Lord,

This is our desire,

to walk along the path of life that you have appointed us,

in steadfastness of faith,

in lowliness of heart,

in gentleness of love.

Let not the cares or duties of this life press on us too heavily;

but lighten our burdens,

that we may follow your way in quietness,

filled with thankfulness for your mercy,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Maria Hare (1798-1870)