Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a remarkable woman minister, and today, we are pleased to introduce Angela Reed.
Angela, tell us about where and how your are currently serving in ministry and where you have served in the past.
My journey into vocational ministry began in the mid-1990s when I was a passionate, but inexperienced twenty-three-year old. I became the assistant pastor of a Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Three years later, my husband and I switched places. He accepted a call to full-time ministry, and I became a minister’s spouse and active volunteer. Over the next six years, we had two children, and I completed my M.Div. degree. Along the way, I trained in spiritual direction and began to serve as a director in my congregation and in the community. These years of ministry were very rich for us, but my love for learning could not easily be quenched. I went on to PhD. studies in Practical Theology (Christian Education and Formation) at Princeton Seminary, completing the program in 2010. With the ink still drying on my diploma, I hopped in the car with my family, and we made the trek to Waco, Texas, where I joined the faculty of Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. I direct the seminary’s spiritual formation program and teach practical ministry courses in formation and discipleship.
What do you love best about your current ministry?
Frankly, I could not have written a better job description for myself than the one handed to me five years ago. While I had a wonderful experience in pastoral ministry, I am most at home guiding a classroom of future ministers in discussion on topics like the process of Christian transformation, spiritual companionship in ministry, formational practices for congregations, and historic traditions of Christian spirituality. I love engaging with students who ask great questions and share ideas and life experiences that enlighten my own understanding. What I love just as well is the one-with-one conversations with students who allow me to catch a glimpse of their personal relationships with God. I love to listen and ask questions as they describe the joys and challenges they encounter in everyday life.
A third thing I love (and occasionally hate!) is the work of research and writing. The perfectionist in me wants every idea and word to be perfect, but when I am most in touch with who I am as God’s child, I genuinely enjoy writing books for ministers, imagining that they are sitting across the desk from me, joining me in conversation about some aspect of ministry that I am attempting to address theologically. One other aspect of my work that I appreciate deeply is its flexibility and seasonal nature. There are intense moments during the semester when I pour myself into people and projects, and then times in between semesters when I can read, reflect, write, and spend more time in prayer. The schedule helps to keep me balanced so that I avoid burning out. It also allows me the flexibility to care for my family throughout the year and to work at home during much of the summer when my children (ages eleven and thirteen) are out of school. I am truly grateful for the ebb and flow of academic life.
Who has inspired you and helped you along the way in ministry?
I thank God that this list is a long one, but I will name only a few key persons. I must begin with my mother who modeled for me the strength and grace of a woman with gifts for leadership who could teach, study, and care for a family while also being active in a congregation. Once upon a time, she suggested that I could become a doctor if I chose to. She meant one of the medical variety, and we shared a good laugh over this memory when I graduated with a doctorate in Theology. Both of my parents supported my sense of call to ministry and encouraged me in my studies even when some other family and congregational members had doubts. Somehow they managed to shield me from those doubts, especially in my early twenties, and I am grateful for this today.
My husband is another who has helped me, often sensing the calling before I did myself. He has willingly accompanied me from place to place as I completed my education and settled into a faculty position. Other inspiration came from two female college professors who taught courses in practical theology and were gifted ministers. As I got to know them, I began to dream of the possibilities.
I have also had four different spiritual directors in the last fifteen years whom I have met with regularly. Their passion for God and knowledge of the spiritual journey has been an inspiration. In many cases, I would enter into a spiritual direction session feeling weighed down by responsibilities and decisions, and leave with peace, believing that God would help me to take another step or grow in some aspect of my character. Finally, I must mention my seminary colleagues who are a regular inspiration to me. My personality leans toward the extroverted side, and the academic life can sometimes feel solitary. The passion of my colleagues for their areas of study, the knowledge they share with me, and their energy for the work urge me on when I grow weary or begin to drag my feet. Finding a community of colleagues that provide mutual support has been absolutely essential for my development as a minister.
What advice would you give to a teenage girl who is sensing a call to ministry?
In my late teens, I imagined myself as a missionary or perhaps the spouse of a minister. These seemed to be the primary ministry leadership options available to women in my home community. When I went to college, I discovered that there were other options. If I were offering advice to a teenage girl interested in ministry, I would say this: Explore your sense of call, even if it means beginning to look beyond your immediate context and any limitations you find there. If you enlarge your social circles, you may find people who can understand and appreciate what interests you and give you opportunities to study and serve that help you to clarify the call. Don’t be afraid to approach women whose work you find compelling and ask them about their journeys into ministry. Relationships like these can be a life-line in challenging times. Many of us further along in the calling process rejoice at the opportunity to be an advocate.
Along the way, continue to attend to your own spiritual growth and character formation. Christian maturity is the most important aspect of fitness for ministry. Natural gifts and practical skills are important, but they fall flat if the character within is not on the way to becoming formed in the image of Christ. And keep in mind that you are loved by God for who you are, not what you do. (Yes, I teach Christian formation, and my priorities are coming through!) May God bless you on this journey.