THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Maria Stinnett

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and this week, we are pleased to introduce Maria Stinnett. 

Maria, tell us about your current ministry.
Currently, I serve as the associate pastor for children and communications at Third Baptist Church in Saint Louis, Missouri. Third Baptist is a dynamic faith community in the mid-town district of Saint Louis. In this position, I guide the church’s ministry with children from birth through sixth grade and their families, including Sunday School, Children’s Church, Vacation Bible School, and camps. Additionally, I manage the internal and external communications of the church, including newsletters, website, and social media.

For me, this position is beautiful blending of two passions in my life: communications and children. When I was in college, I had a difficult time choosing between two majors: communications and elementary education. I settled on a major in communications, but often found myself in the children’s classrooms during Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I have served as children’s minister in three congregations, and my role at Third Baptist is the first opportunity that I have had to blend both of my passions into my ministry position, which is a gift to me.

What do you love most about being a minister?
In my ministry, I love being able to walk alongside the members of my congregation and community as they experience God. It is an honor for me to be able to see how the Spirit works within each of us as we recognize our identity as God’s beloved children and life into that identity. More specifically in children’s ministry, I delight in theological discussions with the children. I love to hear the questions children ask about faith (and life). Throughout my ministry, the questions and observations of children have helped me to grow in my understanding of God. I remember one elementary aged child who asked me, “Why did God send a son and not a daughter?” That question opens a wide space for reflection and discussion for both children and adults.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered along the way in ministry?
As a single person, ministry can often be isolating. Each of the congregations I have served has taken me hundreds of miles away from my biological family. But this challenge compels me to develop relationships that become like family in the communities I serve. This tapestry of relationships includes church members, friends, and colleagues.

What practices and disciplines keep you renewed and refresh your spirit?
Again and again, I find myself returning to some of the ancient disciplines and practices to renew and refresh my spirit. Some of the practices I use regularly are breath prayers and lectio divinia. When I have the opportunity, I find walking a labyrinth to be centering. I have also found that taking Sabbath time each week is vital to renewing my body and refreshing my spirit.

Dating and Ministry: Uncharted Territory by Mary Alice Birdwhistell

Throughout my first few years of ministry, I have become well acquainted with both the joys and the challenges of being a single minister. However, when my boyfriend and I began dating last year, I quickly realized that I was not prepared for what to expect in this new season of life and ministry. When I asked a group of women in ministry for advice about dating while serving on church staff, I received blank stares. I scoured the Internet and my favorite blogs, but I found very little online about ministers and their dating experiences. Either I was entering into uncharted territory, or no one was brave enough to share openly about their experiences. Or maybe a little bit of both. Whatever the case, the following blog is my attempt to enter into this seemingly uncharted territory and to share a bit of my story with you.

Since there was (and is) so much overlap between my personal and professional life, I knew that I would need to explore other ways outside of the church to meet a potential partner. I was pretty skeptical about online dating, but with a dose of hopefulness, I signed up for Match.com. After a long summer of missed matches and no real possibilities, I was about to close my account when a handsome profile picture caught my attention, and I received a thoughtful message. Little did I know that he lived just minutes away from me, we had mutual friends and colleagues, we shared interests and values, and he worked right around the corner from my church.

Early on in our time of dating, I felt torn between wanting him to experience worship and church life with me at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, where I serve, while not wanting him to feel pressured to attend Calvary. (He was attending another church at the time). Calvary was and is such a significant part of my life that I wanted to share it with him, but I also knew that, for better or for worse, once he came to Calvary, the cat would be out of the bag!

He began coming to Calvary on the Sundays that I preached (about once a month or so), and it didn’t take long for people to figure out who he was. Each Sunday, larger groups of people gathered around before or after worship to meet him. Although it was a bit overwhelming for him as an introvert to meet so many people who already knew his name, it also signaled to him that this was a church that cared about me deeply, and they were eager to meet the man who had stolen my heart.

I can’t tell you the number of people at church who asked me to go to coffee or lunch during those first few months of dating, and upon sitting down for a meeting in a coffee shop or restaurant, I quickly discovered that they really just wanted the inside scoop on my love life! Several people had even checked him out online or through mutual friends and wanted to let me know that “they approved.” I was a little caught off guard by the number of people who expressed disappointment that I hadn’t told them personally that I was dating someone, but once we started dating, word traveled so quickly. I also feared that if we broke up, people might have the same expectation that I have a personal conversation with them about that, too. While sharing parts of my dating life with the church was exciting and hopeful, it also meant opening myself up to the possibility of sharing an experience of deep hurt or sadness or embarrassment with them if things didn’t work out. I was taking a risk by sharing this part of my life with the congregation, that’s for sure. However, I also felt like it was the only way for me to be fully authentic with them, and I don’t know how to be a minister any other way.

As my boyfriend puts it, we have had many “free dates,” just based on the generous dinner invitations, concert tickets, and home-cooked meals we received in that first year of dating. One family learned that he was from Maryland and prepared a beautiful seafood dinner for us, complete with all of his favorite dishes. When it came time for him to meet my parents (who live in Kentucky), he felt well prepared because he had already been through about twenty similar scenarios (i.e. interviews) with families from church. After serving at Calvary for over five years, these people had truly become my family. Not only was this dating relationship significant for me, but I soon realized how significant it was for them, too. I was surrounded by big brothers and sisters, moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers who were carefully but lovingly welcoming someone not only into my life, but into their lives, too.

One Sunday, I was receiving new members in the back of the sanctuary during the response time as is our tradition at Calvary when he walked up to me. Giving him a confused look, I whispered, “What are you doing? Church isn’t over yet!” He smiled and said, “I know . . . I want to join the church.” I was speechless. I had been so focused on not wanting him to feel pressured to become part of my church, that I didn’t even consider that he might actually want to become part of our faith community.

I have loved seeing him find his unique place at Calvary, which he now calls his church and not just mine. He’s not “Mary Alice’s boyfriend,” but he has his own identity and relationships and places of ministry to which he feels called. And I love it.

Sure, we can’t go on a date without running into someone from church. It never fails. One Sunday, we had just had our first major fight the night before, and I found myself greeting people at church that next morning only to be asked, time and time again, “How are things going with him?!” Sometimes, it’s hard being in the limelight.

But to me, the gifts of dating and being on church staff have far outweighed the unique challenges. When we commit ourselves to walking alongside a community of faith, they become part of us, and we become part of them. And so when a part of us changes, or grows, or develops in some way, it only makes sense that the community of faith changes, or grows, or develops in some way, too.

Psalm 139: Thought by God, Remembered by Us by Griselda Escobar

Where can I go from your spirit?

Or where can I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning

and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light around me become night,

even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as they day,

for darkness is as light to you.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

that I know very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,

when none of them as yet existed.” (Psalm 139:7-16, NRSV)

I have been meditating on Psalm 139 and what it means in my workplace as labor and delivery chaplain. This passage speaks of the child formed in every womb–the child born full term, the one born with mental or physical disabilities, the child born early that fights to survive, and the child who leaves before the time arrived. All of these children are mentioned in this passage. All of them were created by God, with purpose, and all of them have impacted, transformed and changed lives.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. As a chaplain, I participated in a service of  remembrance for families who have experienced by pregnancy and infant loss.  At the service, I received a wonderful gift–the gift of grief, as God revealed it to me. As I was in the service, I was reminded of my own loss. I always planned to have more children, but when I lost my womb, the children I had imagined and dreamed about were gone.

Naming my grief has brought healing to my heart as I have accepted that I, too, have lost. I, too, can grieve. I, too, am comforted by God. I can’t imagine the grief or pain of those among us who have carried and then lost a baby, but in my pain I know that God does. God can comfort them as God has also lost a son; God loves them and can carry them through grief.

This month we remember our lost children because they have changed us, and, as this passage says, they were thought into existence by God.

Father of mercies and God of all comfort, you have promised to comfort those who mourn, to heal the brokenhearted and bind our wounds. You have promised rest when the burden is too heavy and give us hope in the midst of darkness. We pray for all parents whose children are with you declaring your promises upon their lives at each moment of their grief journey. Guide us as family, church family and friends to be your comforting presence, open ears and arms when they are needed. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
 

Griselda Escobar is a chaplain with Christus Spohn in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is married to Allan Escobar, who is also a chaplain for Christus Spohn,and they have a nine-year-old son named Elijah. They enjoy spending time together as a family.

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Danielle Glaze

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today we are pleased to introduce Danielle Glaze.

Danielle, tell us about your current ministry?

I serve at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina. I am in my ninth year as the Christian education director. I write and edit curriculum for all Bible study classes, serve as a substitute for all age groups, and complete other tasks as required. This past year I have moved to part-time employee because I now am attending divinity school. In addition to church and school, I serve through my own teaching ministry, Manna Teaching Ministry, which provides community Bible studies and day peace retreats for women.

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way in living out your calling?

The challenges have been numerous. One of the greatest challenges is having my call affirmed and supported by the male leaders in my church’s district. My being licensed to minister was supported and encouraged by my pastor. However, some of the male leaders in my church and in the church district still have an issue with female ministers. The ordination of women in my district, I believe, is not a priority.

A second challenge is that being ordained empowers me to carry out the ordinances in the church, but it does not necessarily create opportunities for me to serve. Churches in my district do not call women to pastor churches even though some pulpits sit open. I have had to redefine what it means to be a “pastor” in this season of my life. The lack of opportunities to serve fully continues to be a challenge.

Another great challenge is being a single mom as I minister. I have two children, a daughter, Camille, who is a junior at Appalachian State, and a son, Daniel, who is a junior in high school. Unfortunately, my call and my divorce collided! My children have had to walk this call with me. I have had to insure that in the midst of a heart-breaking divorce that I still live God at home. My children have, in essence, answered the call with me. I have had to consciously balance life, reminding my children and myself that they are my first call and priority. I diligently strive to shield my children’s walk with God from church issues. I do not want the non-Christ-like behaviors that sometimes happen in church to taint their view of God. In order to protect them, I become a mama bear. My desire is for them to enjoy their worship experience and journey with God.

I realize this is my call, yet it has become a joint venture. My children are my greatest cheerleaders. They have done a wonderful job of being super supportive, encouraging, and loving. Daniel is most often my one familiar face when I preach at churches. He is my road partner, armor bearer, and my protector. His presence makes me smile for so many reasons. Camille is so quick to tell me that I “rock,” and she and her friends will quickly call me for guidance or Bible questions. The actions of my children confirm that I have answered the call to teach and preach God’s word.

Who or what has inspired you in your life as a minister?

The “what” that has inspired me has been the persistent stirring of God in my life. God has been developing me my entire life. The tipping point came as I realized that there was something else I was supposed to be doing. Teaching was no longer fulfilling, and I heard God calling me to teach His Word. Six months after saying “yes,” my world imploded. My marriage of over twenty years ended in divorce. I did not see it coming, and I know that it was surely the enemies’ plan to take me out. God became my very breath and movement. He has truly been what has kept me here and keeps pulling and stretching and growing and empowering me.

God has sent some awesome sisters to walk this journey with me. The women of Macedonia’s Bible Study allowed me to walk through six years of sitting at God’s feet with them. The women of the Northwest Women’s Bible Study, a group of women from seven small rural churches, were ravenous for God’s word, and they too allowed me to learn with them.

Several fellow sister ministers have walked with me in my church, but three sisters have especially been there for me. One of those sisters is Rev. Alicia Porterfield, whom God has allowed to walk ahead of me in so many areas that He is calling me to. She has been my twice-a-month lunch partner, my sounding board, my prayer partner, and my laughter-as-medicine friend. Alicia is an awesome author, interim pastor, mom, and wife, and she so freely shares her gifts with others.

Another of those sisters is Evangelist Jonette Camp, who God sent to Campbell Divinity School at the same time he sent me so we would both have someone to walk this journey with. We met at orientation one year ago, and as God would have it, we had enrolled in the same classes. We quickly became prayer partners, cheerleaders, and as we call ourselves“The Dynamic Duo.” We have “Holy Ghost power” activate moments (envision the old cartoon Wonder Twins bumping fists, lol). Alicia and Jonette have truly been for me the iron that sharpens iron, which requires friction to work. We bump up against each other, challenge each other, hold each other accountable, and love each other truthfully. What wonderful gifts they are.

The third woman who has inspired me is a senior sister who participated in the Bible studies I led. She has such wonderful insight, and she has so graciously become a benefactor for my education and says that she can see how pregnant with potential I am. What an overwhelming gift of love to have someone see you as God sees you even when you can’t.

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

Sweetheart, hear God, trust Him, and move. He won’t fail you . . . it messes with His reputation. Journal your experiences so in those dark, “I can’t do this” moments you can look back and see all that God has done and how much you’ve grown. Make sure to protect your worship and your spirit. Be careful who you listen to, make sure you are studying for yourself . . . not just in preparation for preaching and teaching. You can not serve on empty, and you can only be the best vessel when you are connected to the Spirit. Be kind to yourself, love yourself, know how valuable you are to God already. It is not about your performance. Pray and allow God to lead you to the right friends and supports. They will be the most unlikely people.

Be willing to let some people, places, and assignments go no matter how hard it is. That is where faith grows. When you really need to know what God thinks about you, read Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT):

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

This text always reminds me how special I am to God and I can just see Him in the heavenly bodies singing about me! Know that you are that special also.

The Balm of Communion by Sara Robb

As sunbeams irrepressibly shower their joyous light on the world, I welcome the sweet nostalgia of lazy, sun-kissed afternoons spent picking berries for a cobbler and puddle-hopping after a storm. And then I recognize the bitter irony in the fact that as I walk into the building ahead of me, fresh from a stroll down memory lane, I am headed to see one of my church members whose memories have, at best, become impaired, fragmented shards of present and past realities, and at worst, completely non-existent.

I never know what I will find when I enter her room. On a “good” day, I’ll find her–the woman I met when my sweet church first called me. We met when I called to introduce myself and wish her a happy recovery from surgery. As we said “goodbye,” she said “I love you.”
“You do?” I asked, a little tentatively.
“Oh, yes! Honey, you are the answer to our prayers and I love you! Sight unseen, I love you!”

On other days, I find a younger version of her: newly married and worried about her husband, or a few years into parenting a teenaged daughter. In those times, I’m a neighbor or a friend dropping by for a chat, both roles that in some way encompass my work as a pastoral caregiver, anyway.

As God’s mercy would have it, however, in the act of sharing a blessing of prayer and remembering Christ together through Holy Communion, she’s all there and all in, whoever she is. She grasps tightly to my hands in prayer, acknowledging sadly that she can’t physically take the elements anymore because of aspiration risks; graciously accepting, instead, an anointing with a balm I made myself.

And we sit together in silent, grateful prayer that there is still one place where dementia in all its horridness does not get the final say. The joy of the sacred intersects with this sorrow of humanity in Holy Communion, in hands clasped in prayer, in the smell of anointing balm, deliberately crafted with its recipients in mind.

The essential oils of grapefruit, bergamot, and rose perfume the air, leaving a sweet and holy scent that will remain, and remind. And, for a few moments, dementia is rendered ineffective in that place of quiet rest near to God’s own heart.
 

Sara Robb is associate pastor of ministry with aging at Scott Boulevard Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia. She blogs regularly at sarainrealife.

Psalm 150: The Final Hallelujah by Griselda Escobar

Praise the Lord
Praise God in his sanctuary;
Praise God in his mighty heavens.
Praise God for his acts of power;
Praise God for his surpassing greatness.
Praise God with the sounding of the trumpet,
Praise God with the harp and lyre
Praise God with tambourine and dancing,
Praise God with the strings and flute,
Praise God with the clash of cymbals
Praise God with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 150, NIV)

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in a symposium on the topic of diversity. During a break, I visited with a seminary friend, and she introduced me to a seminary friend of hers. We took a picture together, because we represent three different cultures–a beautiful reflection of the diversity and harmony that is depicted in Psalm 150.

The psalmist paints a picture of worship through the harmony of diverse instruments. As the picture is described in this call to worship, I can hear the harmony of the different instruments and imagine God delighting in all the sounds. Unlike the call for Israel to worship with dance to the timbrel and harp in Psalm 149, Psalm 150 calls for worship with dance and with the trumpet, the harp, the lyre, the tambourine, stringed instruments, the flute, loud cymbals, and high sounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. (Psalm 150:6)

The call in Psalm 150 is not to one people group, but to all. God is worshiped not only in the harmonious music that the diversity of this psalm creates, but also in the diversity itself. The ultimate worship is that which reflects God in God’s fullness, in which God delights in all of creation. In diversity there is complete praise, the final Hallelujah, the Amen.

Creator God, Thank you for creating us in your image. You are reflected in each one of us and are fully reflected in all. Lead us to worship you through our lives by how we love you and how we love one another, Amen.

Griselda Escobar is a chaplain with Christus Spohn in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is married to Allan Escobar, who is also a chaplain for Christus Spohn,and they have a nine-year-old son named Elijah. They enjoy spending time together as a family.

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Pam Foster

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today, we are pleased to introduce Pam Foster.

Pam, where are you currently serving in ministry?
I am  director of pastoral care and chair of the ethics committee at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

Tell us about your call discernment process and what led to your service as a chaplain.
While caring for my mother through her thirteen-year illness and subsequent death, I discerned a call to vocational ministry. I had always been active in a local congregation as a teacher, preschool administrator, and volunteer, but this was a call to more. I first received a call to go to seminary. I was not clear, at that point, what my vocation would be, but during my time at seminary, I used my field education class for one unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) at a local hospital. During that field experience, I recognized what God was calling me to do. I fell in love with healthcare chaplaincy. While completing my Master of Divinity, I also completed a year of CPE residency. After graduation I went to work as chaplain for an inpatient hospice unit, which averaged about eighty deaths a month. I spent almost four years there and also serving as an on-call chaplain for Cook Children’s. Just when I thought I could no longer do two jobs I was asked to join the full-time staff at Cook Children’s. I have been here ten years, never imagining that I might one day be the director.

Who have been sources of inspiration for you along the way?
There was a dear woman of God who was director of my third grade Sunday School, Mrs. Faye Hutto, who taught me about the Bible and of God’s love for all. She helped me believe that God had a plan for my life, and I thought I was supposed to be a missionary doctor. I smile now when I think of where I am and how God took that longing of a young girl’s heart and made a dream come true. My large-hearted husband, Glen, who never questioned my call, never questioned my need for yet more schooling, and supported all the hours that my training took is my greatest blessing from God. I am privileged to stand on the shoulders of praying, caring women and men who modeled God’s love and grace in tangible ways. Two women took on the formidable task of helping me be ordained in a congregation which had never ordained a woman. They prayed for me, loved me, encouraged me, and stood firmly beside me through the tumultuous journey. I now walk alongside a staff who meet families on perhaps the worst day ever and know that God called us to this work, equips us for this work, and allows us to plant seeds we may never see harvested.

How do you keep yourself healthy–physically and spiritually?
First, I have learned that the God of my childhood is not the only God I know. I can talk to God now in ways I would never have imagined. Frankly, lament is an important part of my spiritual health and well-being. I have seen children treated in ways that no child should ever be treated. I have wept with families who love their children and are broken hearted when learning of a disease that is not curable. Knowing I can cry to God and encourage patients, families, physicians, and staff to do the same is very comforting to me. God lives here with us, making peace known through God’s presence in so many ways. I enjoy sunshine and fresh air. Touching the dirt to grow plants makes me smile, and I have fallen in love with Pilates. In my neighborhood is a Pilates studio that demonstrates God’s grace in their acceptance of my body and its strengths and challenges. The instructors there are non-competitive, encouraging, and unfailingly kind. I love to go, in part, because I cannot think about anything else while I am concentrating on breathing in and out with my exercise–such a freeing experience!

Psalm 27: Orphan to Daughter by Griselda Escobar

“Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” (Psalm 27:10, NIV)

Psalm 27 is believed to be a military psalm written by David at the time he was fleeing from King Saul. When he wrote “though my father and mother forsake me,” he was referring to the dearest people to him, the last to desert him. Abandonment of parents is presented here as the last and complete abandonment.

As I read this passage, I couldn’t help but think about a young woman named Marlene, whose childhood resembled a war zone. Marlene’s mother died in childbirth. She never knew her father, and she was rejected by her maternal grandparents, because they saw her as the reason for their daughter’s  death. Growing up in an orphanage, Marlene experienced different kinds of abuse and neglect. After finally being able to escape the orphanage, she traveled through several countries to arrive at the United States, with the hope that she would one day find parents and a family. When she arrived to Texas, Marlene lived in the streets for several years until she met a family who opened the doors of their hearts and home. They eventually adopted her when she was of sixteen. She now has parents and siblings.

With the support of her family and church, Marlene was able to go to school. She  now has begun a ministry for children and the homeless in her city. On a day that she celebrated all the Lord has done in her life through her family, she posted Psalm 27:10 on Facebook, thanking God for parenting her through her adoptive parents.

Directly or indirectly, we all know children of absent parents, and we know parents who have answered a call to parent children who need them. As we pray Psalm 27, we remember them, for they are all our children.

Loving God, you are our father and mother. Thank you for your unfailing, everlasting, never ending, always and forever love. Thank you for answering Marlene’s prayer and for answering the prayer of many who need you through our arms and physical presence. Lead parents to children who need them and lead all of us to love as you do. Amen. 

Griselda Escobar is a chaplain with Christus Spohn in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is married to Allan Escobar, who is also a chaplain for Christus Spohn,and they have a nine-year-old son named Elijah. They enjoy spending time together as a family.

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Phyllis Boozer

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today we are pleased to introduce Phyllis Boozer.

Tell us about your current ministry role?
I serve as the coordinator for the Baptist Fellowship Northeast (BFN), one of the eighteen states and regions for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. BFN covers nine states from Pennsylvania to Maine. I have served in this role now for three years, accepting the position when the previous coordinators retired. I have no official job description, but I feel my most important role is to communicate with the churches and individuals in the Northeast to keep everyone in the loop as to what is happening in CBF and in the Northeast and to support the churches and individuals through prayer, visits, phone calls, and email communications. Another of my tasks is planning our fall retreat and spring general assembly. One aspect that has been very rewarding this year is supporting two new church starts that we have here in the Northeast.

Tell us some about your journey to your current place of leadership of Baptist Fellowship of the Northeast?
My journey as a servant leader began about thirty years ago when I was first elected as a deacon in my church. In those days, it was a bit controversial to have a female deacon, and being a deacon was not something that I had sought or even thought about. But one of the church staff members told me that he thought is was time for us to have a female deacon, and he thought it was a perfect role for me. As I prayed about this, it became clear that God was leading me in that direction, and I felt affirmed in this role. I have served as a deacon since that time, and as the chair for a number of terms. When the opportunity was presented to me to serve as BFN coordinator, my first response was, “but I am not seminary trained,” which did not seem to be a concern for those who asked me to serve. I accepted, and the rest is history!

Who have been sources of inspiration for you along the way?
Both of my parents were leaders in our church and role models of service for me. When I was elected as a deacon, I received notes from several of the individuals from the church where I grew up, affirming my selection. There have been pastors and staff in my current church who have encouraged me to step out and assume leadership roles. And of course, many of my CBF family have shown me what it means to be the presence of Christ in the world. I treasure these relationships.

What have been some of the best moments, the highlights, of your leadership of BFN?
The relationships I have made with the people in our region, both pastors, staff, and lay leaders, give me hope and inspiration. I feel like so many in the CBF leadership are like family to me, and I look forward to times we have to be together. A highlight for me was the opportunity to attend the Baptist World Alliance in South Africa this past summer. I have also been a part of a group who represents CBF, in partner with BWA, at the United Nations. The idea of forming together has become a clear focus for me as I journey together with CBF and our partners.

Confessions of a Pregnant Preacher by Aurelia Pratt

Exactly one month after Emily Hull McGee was elected as the twelfth pastor of First Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I stood alone in my bathroom, staring down at a positive pregnancy test.

From there I proceeded to do everything opposite of how I’d always imagined. Instead of sweet nothings, I whispered R-rated language in shock. Instead of planning a clever way to inform my husband, I sent him a text without thinking twice. I cried for an hour out of excitement, but mostly out of fear. Then I told my sister-in-law and she gave me the wise advice to calm down and “proceed as normal, minus the margaritas.”

While I was surprised by my reaction, the coming weeks affirmed that I simply wasn’t prepared. One simply can’t prepare for something so miraculous and mysterious as pregnancy. I wasn’t prepared for the many physical symptoms or for how hard it would be to keep our exciting news quiet. I wasn’t prepared for the torrent of emotions or for how much surrender would be required of me. I definitely wasn’t prepared for how it would affect me as a pastor.

On one hand, I was excited that my future child would know by my very example that they could do anything or be anyone with no limitations. On the other hand, I fought the urge to cancel all my preaching dates immediately. I mean, come on. A pregnant preacher? How odd is that? I pictured myself waddling up to the pulpit with a big belly and an aching back, and I thought “no one wants to see that.” I convinced myself that being pregnant would somehow lessen me as a preacher.

It was Emily Hull McGee who stopped me in my tracks; Emily who had preached in view of a call at a historic Baptist church where only men had previously served as senior pastors. Emily preached that sermon nine months pregnant, and that blessed congregation embraced her, calling her to be their new pastor.

Emily and her congregation blazed a trail that day, making me realize it was time for me to step up and blaze the trail as well, despite how vulnerable it felt doing so. A woman preacher only seems strange until you’ve experienced one. Why should a pregnant woman preaching be any different?

So here is my confession: when I’m alone I say things like this for self-empowerment: You are literally growing a human! Your organs are shifting, making room for a miracle. You bear the weight of another being; there are two heartbeats within you! This doesn’t make you weak. This makes you incredibly powerful!

I tell myself these things, and lately I am finding it easier to believe them. But I couldn’t have done it without Emily or without her congregation, who unabashedly accepted her. And perhaps another woman couldn’t do it without me. So here I am–big belly, achy back, swollen feet and all, powerfully blazing this trail, one waddle at a time.
 

Aurelia Pratt is the pastor of spiritual formation at Grace Baptist Church in Round Rock, Texas. She is a founding member, who also regularly participates in the preaching rotation. Aurelia has a Master of Divinity degree from Truett Seminary and a Master of Social Work from Baylor.