THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Kate Hanch

Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Kate Hanch.

Kate, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I felt a distinct, almost mystical-like call to ministry when I was sixteen, and haven’t wanted to do anything else since. I majored in religion in college and went straight to work on my M.Div. at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. I’ve tried (at times more successfully than others) to consider every job as a preparation for ministry. I often prayed in college: “Let everything I do be an act of worship toward you, O Lord.” I still believe this. Since the time of my calling, some of my jobs have been as administrative assistant, a bank teller, a childcare worker, a cashier, a student activities assistant, a children’s and communications pastor, and a seminary and undergraduate instructor. These positions have taught me empathy, compassion, and organization. Along this journey, in church life, I think I’ve filled in teaching for Sunday School in almost every age group (from preschool to adults), set up chairs, decorated for Vacation Bible School, and preached sermons. Each position and job, both paid and volunteer, shaped me as a minister. (And, if we think about it, aren’t all followers of Christ ministers?) Currently, I am pursuing a Ph.D. in theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. I teach adjunctively, work at a small non-profit organization, and serve on the leadership team at my church.

What are your hopes and dreams for living out your calling in the future?
I’m constantly discovering my call anew. I perceive my academic calling and ministry calling as intertwined. My goal in pursuing a Ph.D. in theology is to foster thoughtful theological action and thinking that leads to flourishing in the church and the world. As I’m reminded by liberation theologians, our theological commitments often mean life or death (manifesting spiritually, emotionally, and physically). That is, what we believe about God and one another affects how we prioritize, live, and act in the world, from the smallest decisions to the big ones. In ministry, I want to help people realize how the Holy Spirit is present and active in their midst, and encourage their participation in the work of the Triune God. In academia, I hope to listen to and highlight the voices that have been overlooked by traditional systematic theology. This is a tactic I’ve learned from Womanist and liberation theologians. For instance, I’ve presented papers on the theology of Julian of Norwich, Anne Dutton, Jarena Lee, Zilpha Elaw, and Sojourner Truth. Their voices depict a God who desires all persons to flourish and often serve as correctives to the theologies of their day. I hope to live out this calling wherever and however it manifests—in the church, the classroom, and the world.

What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Myself, honestly. It can be easy for me to turn inward and disengage when I’m frustrated, or when many doors seem to be closing. When I encounter something difficult, I want to procrastinate. I often lack the self-discipline required for graduate studies. I have difficulties being vulnerable and authentic. I still confront imposter syndrome in both ministry and academia. The fears of inadequacy, the sense of pretending, the worry of being discovered as a fraud—these feelings have inhibited my ability to be present to and for others. Maintaining good friendships has helped me face these weaknesses. Community helps me realize that my shortcomings don’t mean that I am a failure.

Another challenge in ministry would be the inherent sexism that often does not announce itself boldly, but presents in more insidious ways. For instance, it manifests in the form of persons remarking on my appearance rather than the content of my ideas, or lip service to women in ministry without a consideration of larger systems which push against that ideal. I have often not been bold enough to call it out when I see or experience it, which I regret. I’m grateful for preceding generations of female ministers who have done the groundwork in calling out and resisting such sexism, and still more is to be done.

Who has inspired, encouraged, and affirmed you as you have lived out your calling?
How much am I allowed to write? This would take a small book, and I’m only sharing a part. My parents, knowing the ministry journey would be difficult, encouraged me anyway and demonstrated what hospitality and curiosity look like. The churches where I grew up—Centertown Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Jefferson City—had wonderful Sunday School teachers and pastors who loved me well. My youth minister, Melissa Hatfield, demonstrates a sense of humor, justice, and compassion in her approach to ministry. In seminary, Holmeswood Baptist Church—both the clergy and congregation—was a great teaching congregation. They gave me the space to test new ideas and make mistakes. My mentors, Kathy Pickett and Keith Herron, gave me permission to experience the full range of ministry—the beautiful, the mundane, the difficult. Kathy’s own call story still sits with me and inspires me, and our conversations promoted a deeper self-understanding. Keith encouraged me to apply at Garrett for my Ph.D. I sat in their offices as we worked out conflicts, planned worship, and discussed pastoral care. I consider them dear friends today.

On my journey in academia, I received another mystical-like experience while sitting in Molly Marshall’s constructive theology class at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, when she and another student affirmed my questions and prompted me to consider further studies. Molly was the first woman with a Ph.D. in theology whom I had met, and her commitment to both the academy and the church was something I wanted to be and do. As a student, she, along with the whole community at the seminary, offered me opportunities to test both my ministerial and academic gifts.

My friends and family have encouraged and affirmed me, even if they do not live in ministry or academia worlds. For instance, when I was ordained, some friends from college, from a former job, and extended family members showed up for the service. They were not necessarily familiar with Baptist ordination, and some did not attend church regularly, but they were present with me and ministered to me.

Dreams Do Come True: BWIM’s Mentoring Program by Pam Durso

Sometimes dreams do come true. Mine did . . . last week.

About a year after I began serving as executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, I began dreaming of forming a mentoring program. I knew that women ministers needed supporters, encouragers, and mentors if they were going to be healthy and stay in ministry for the long haul. In 2011, I first shared my dream with the BWIM Leadership Team and talked them into starting small—and I also talked them into being the first mentors. (If you know me, the last sentence will not surprise you).

That fall, seven Leadership Team members formed mentoring groups, which consisted of three to four “new” ministers. Each group was unique—some were formed based on geographic proximity; others formed based on shared ministry experiences; and still others formed around seasons of life. The groups included pastors, mothers in ministry, and “outside the box, non-traditional” ministers. Several of those groups continue to this day. Some lasted a few years, but each group met the needs and fulfilled its purpose.

In the years since, new Leadership Team members formed new groups. My dream was slowly unfolding, but this way of building a mentoring program had limits. We could only organize one or two new groups each year, and only women ministers known to the BWIM staff or the Leadership Team members were included in the program. But the biggest drawback of our informal program was that there were no funds available to bring group members together—for them to see each other, sit by one another, and share in conversation and fellowship in person, and that, that was my big dream!

bianca groupAnd it came true last week in Cullman, Alabama, thanks to a generous grant from the Forum for Theological Exploration. We received the grant last year, and the money allowed us to develop a more formal application process and reach out across the country and across Baptist life to invite women new to ministry to participate. The grant also allowed for better technology for group meetings (we are loving ZOOM), but best of all, the FTE funds made possible a retreat.

So last Thursday, twenty-four members of our five mentoring groups gathered at the Sacred Heart Monastery, including two groups for new pastors, one for associate ministers, and two for outside-the-box ministers. On our first afternoon together, I realized and said out loud that this gathering was my long-time dream come true. And by Saturday afternoon, I realized that the reality was so much better than any of my dreams.

dorisanna jennifer silasWe all spent time praying, laughing, talking about sisterhood, sharing stories, discussing healthy practices for ministry, affirming and blessing each other, walking on the labyrinth, visiting the monastery’s cemetery, eating meals and snacks (chocolate, of course), and rocking baby Silas who came to the retreat with his minister mom (babies are always welcomed at BWIM events). The added bonus was our time with the sisters of Sacred Heart. They invited us into their sacred space and shared their prayer times with us. Sister Elizabeth, who is the director of their retreat center, talked to us about the content and rhythm of the prayer services and explained to us how to join in and participate. Her hospitality and kindness lingers with me—and with all those who were in Cullman.

I look forward to sharing in the days to come some of the beauty of our time in Cullman, but for now I leave you with a blog written by Emily Hull McGee, who shared her reflections on the retreat and also shared her sweet baby boy with all of us.

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

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Patty Villarreal

Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week we are thrilled to introduce Patty Villarreal.

Patty, tell us about your current ministry role and share with us what it looks like to be in that ministry.
I am currently serving as a social work instructor for the Baptist University of the Américas (BUA). Celebrating my eleven year anniversary with BUA as an adjunct professor, I am privileged to share with the students my knowledge, experiences, and training I have received as a social worker for more than thirty-nine years. Even though they may not all become social workers, it is a joy to see students become enlightened and equipped in their paths on their journey as professional helpers.

I also serve as the development director for the Latina Leadership Institute (LLI). Under God’s guidance and with Dr. Nora Lozano, a systematic theologian and professor at BUA, we started the LLI, a training ministry to equip and nurture Latina leaders in the U.S. and Mexico. We celebrate ten years this year, and we were awarded a 501c3 status last year. This is a new role for me. I am learning so much about the role of development in non-profits.

As a member of Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, I was surprised to be nominated and then blessed to be ordained in 2013 as the first Latina deacon. I was asked the year before to consider deaconship but my personal cultural biases kept me from seriously considering it. I had been trained that a woman could never be ordained by the church and even less, serve as a deacon or a pastor. My pastor and members of the church, lovingly nurtured me through my biases and helped me accept the call to serve as a deacon. Currently, I am serving as chair of the education committee and as a member of the church choir. I love the professionalism that our music leader expects of choir members. My skill and abilities have increased as a choir member!

Share with us your ministry journey.
My leadership mission statement is : “to maximize the potential of God given abilities and rights in children and women by serving as an agent of change to eliminate barriers that limits these gifts.” My calling and development as a social worker and ministry leader are intertwined.

I was raised in low-income ethnic neighborhoods. As a mission pastor’s daughter, we lived in the community we served. I remember a childhood of playing in unpaved streets, dusty back lots and walking to school crossings into nicer neighborhoods and paved roads. My African-American friends lived nearby, usually meeting up with us as we walked to school. Even as a child, I sensed something unjust in inequality of people and neighborhoods. It was the same situation as we moved several times to various pastorates my dad served.

When I began my university studies at Howard Payne University, I declared a major in elementary education, thinking I would be a classroom teacher. By my sophomore year, I felt a need to make a difference outside of the classroom. I wasn’t sure what a social worker did exactly but the pursuit of a social services career was clearly what I wanted to do. Within a year after graduation, God opened the door to begin my social work journey.

Buckner Baptist Benevolences (now Buckner International) provided a foundation and platform to serve ‘unto the least of these’. Now thirty-nine years later, it is a joy to serve as an agent of change and empowerment for the underserved. It may be a quiet voice or an “outspoken” voice that I use to maximize potential in people or speak out against injustice that creates barriers to their potential. I praise God that He has used me to serve as a leader of many “firsts” – first Latina or first Latina LMSW in a variety of leadership positions or initiatives that have been influential both in the faith and secular community that led to the advancement of others.

Tell us about one person you look up to in ministry and how their ministry has impacted and shaped your ministry.
It has to be my parents who are at the core of my leadership development by showing me that God loved me, wanted the best for me, and gives me the capacity to do whatever He calls me to do. They modeled servanthood and faithfulness in the joys and challenges of ministry. They have supported, encouraged, and motivated me as I have pursued my career and leadership journey. Especially with all the experiences as a social worker, I know I am truly blessed to have been raised by strong, healthy Christian parents!

The Friendship of Women by Pam Durso

Last fall I picked up a thin little book titled The Friendship of Women: The Hidden Tradition of the Bible. I admit that I rarely pass up a book that includes women in its title, but this one also had the word friendship. Lately, I have been fascinated, if not obsessed, with this idea of women’s friendships and sisterhood. So of course, I bought the book. Plus its author, Joan Chittister, is someone I have read before and admired.

Last week I was in an airport and then on an airplane, and I had that gift that travel often gives–time alone to read. I finally had the chance to read The Friendship of Women. It is only 89 pages and not heavy reading, but Chittister’s words gave me much to think about, much to ponder, and much to share. Three of her quotes that have settled into my heart are these:

“Friendship extends us into places we have not gone before and cannot go alone.” (xiv)

“Real friends are the ones who take us into their lives with the ease of family and the warmth of love…. They offer what women say they look for most in a relationship: encouragement, support, and  a sense that they themselves are worthwhile human beings. Real friends are simply there for us, no matter the pressure, no matter the pain. They are home for us when no other home is open.” (52-53)

“Acceptance is the universal currency of real friendship. It allows the other to be the other. It puts no barriers where life should be. It does not warp or shape or wrench a person to be anything other than what they are. It simply opens its arms to hold the weary and opens it heart to hear the broken and opens it mind to see the invisible. Then, in the shelter of acceptance a person can be free to be even something more.” (55)

Rarely do I have “holy moments” while sitting on an airplane, but last Wednesday, I did. I began to think of those friends who are “home” for me, and I marveled at the ways in which God had provided me with women who have opened their arms, opened their hearts, opened their minds, and welcomed me into their lives. As I flew over God’s good earth, I began thanking God for friends, the ones who nudge me toward better paths, new adventures, and deeper connections. I hope in your journey that you too have found “real friends,” sisters who share life with you! They are a sacred gift from God!

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

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Aurelia Pratt

Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we’re thrilled to introduce Aurelia Pratt.

Aurelia, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I became heavily involved in ministry while in college at Louisiana Tech University. The LA Tech Baptist Collegiate Ministry has long had a thriving student-led ministry, and there were many ways to grow and serve. I was a small group leader to freshmen for a couple of years, and I also oversaw the facilitation of the small group ministry as well. I traveled abroad for summer missions multiple times and served as President of the BCM my senior year. By the time I graduated, I had become accustomed to having ministerial commitments on campus or at church nearly every day of the week.

Following college, my husband and I moved to Texas so that I could attend Truett Seminary and Baylor University’s Master of Divinity/Master of Social Work dual degree program. If I’m honest, I arrived at Truett extremely burned out. On top of the burnout, seminary elicited questions and challenged my paradigm in many ways. So, even though my time at Truett was a highlight of my life that was full of happy memories, deep experiences, and rich friendships, it was also a confusing time for me spiritually. It took a while to understand that I didn’t have to choose between having an intimate relationship with God and engaging my faith critically. I am still learning exactly how to live in this tension each day.

While I was in seminary, I never really knew where the future would take me. I only knew that I wanted to devote my life to being a person of God and that serving people in some capacity made me happiest. So when people would ask me about my “calling,” it was always a little awkward. Still, I always had faith that the right doors would open and as they did, I would walk through them. I simply had to pay attention. My final year of seminary, two very unexpected callings revealed themselves to me: church planting and preaching. These are both things I never thought I would do (these are things I even said I would never do!), but these are the doors God opened for me. Whether I walked through them or God pushed me is debatable, but it was probably a little of both!

After I completed my degrees in Waco, I moved to the Austin area with my husband who was already commuting here for work. Through a number of amazing circumstances and events, which I can only describe as God-breathed, I now find myself working and doing life among a small, amazingly authentic congregation at Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas. I have been with this church since its inception in 2012, overseeing the spiritual formation programming and regularly preaching, but mostly learning how to be a better person of God in this broken, but beautiful world.

I’ve said before that calling is a lot like holding a water balloon in your hand. You can’t hold it too tightly, and its form is constantly changing as it rolls across your palm. I never want to think too concretely about how God has “called me” or where God will lead me next. Instead, my hope is to simply live in the present moment, trusting that a posture of listening is enough.

What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
The way some people in the congregation serve even when they don’t have to, even at great sacrifice. And the children. I am inspired by their imagination and sense of wonder.

What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Unreasonable expectations. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s my job to think about the things of the church every single day. Other people are probably slightly less obsessed with the happenings of the church.

Also, our church is small – small enough to really feel like an extended family. Family means family – good times and bad. It’s a challenge for me not to run from the bad. It’s a challenge to give grace every single day.

Who has inspired, encouraged, and affirmed you as you have lived out your calling?
First and foremost, my husband who has supported and empowered me wonderfully.

Second, Kyndall Rothaus who told me I could be a preacher. I am thankful for the example she has been to me, and I cherish her friendship.

Finally, my church, who ordained me. These people teach me how to be a better minister, but mostly they let me be me: sass, quirks and all. I am so lucky to get to do ministry in an environment that embraces authenticity and openness.

The Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force: An Update by Pam Durso and Stephen Reeves

Clergy sexual misconduct is one of those “not talked about” challenges that churches encounter, and it happens far more frequently than we might imagine. In 2008, The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church defined clergy sexual misconduct as “a betrayal of sacred trust.”

It is a continuum of unwanted sexual or gender-directed behaviors by either a lay or clergy person within a ministerial relationship (paid or unpaid). It can include child abuse, adult sexual abuse, harassment, rape or sexual assault, sexualized verbal comments or visuals, unwelcome touching and advances, use of sexualized materials including pornography, stalking, sexual abuse of youth or those without capacity to consent, or misuse of the pastoral or ministerial position using sexualized conduct to take advantage of the vulnerability of another. In includes criminal behaviors in some nations, states, and communities.

As you can see, clergy sexual misconduct encompasses numerous behaviors—all of which need attention. Most Baptist congregations do have established policies and procedures with regard to abuse and assault of children, but few Baptist churches have guidelines that address clergy sexual misconduct with adults. As we know, Baptist denominational bodies and networks are loosely connected organizations with no official codes of conduct or approved policies for clergy members. Most Baptist bodies have no specific instructions about how to deal with clergy who assault or harass parishioners. Baptists also have no hierarchical structures or systems that mandate education for clergy members or churches, nor do Baptists have a denomination-wide way of investigating violations or monitoring violators. But the seriousness of clergy sexual misconduct demands a diligent response, especially by freedom-loving, autonomous Baptist churches.

Because of the prevalence of clergy sexual misconduct and because of a grand hope and commitment to fostering healthy churches, we (Pam Durso and Stephen Reeves) began talking and strategizing in late 2015 about how the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Baptist Women in Ministry could work together to assist ministers, church members, partner organizations, and congregations to address the issue. In April 2016, we gathered a group of concerned Cooperative Baptists for face-to-face meeting with the intent of forming a Task Force. It soon became clear that this fellowship-wide initiative, working alongside a partner organization, is the type of endeavor for which CBF’s Ministries Council was designed. Stephen spoke with the council’s then-chair Emily Hull-McGee, who quickly blessed the effort and helped to recruit potential Task Force members from the council. Next, the idea was presented and formally recommended by the Ministries Council at their meeting preceding General Assembly in June. We invited a few more to join the Task Force, and in July, we all met via phone conference call to begin laying out a plan. The Task Force had another face-to-face meeting in October and again added several new members with specialized experience.

The Task Force now is comprised of two attorneys, two pastors, four church staff members, four social work degrees, two seminary professors, two leaders of CBF partner organizations, one pastoral counselor, and several survivors and/or family members of survivors. Those serving are:

Anne Cronic–minister of music, Central Baptist Church, Newnan, Georgia
Pam Durso—executive director, Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia
Jennifer Hawks—associate general counsel, Baptist Joint Committee, Washington, DC
Jenny Hodge—youth minister, Churchland Baptist Church, Chesapeake, Virginia
Jay Kieve—coordinator, CBF of South Carolina, Anderson, South Carolina
Nina Maples—senior associate pastor for pastoral care and leadership development, Highland Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky
David Pooler—associate dean for baccalaureate and graduate studies at Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland’s School of Social Work, Waco, Texas
Micah Pritchett—pastor, North Broad Baptist Church, Rome, Georgia
Stephen Reeves—associate coordinator of partnership and advocacy, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Decatur, Georgia
Terry Rosell—professor of pastoral theology in ethics and ministry praxis, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Shawnee, Kansas, and the Rosemary Flanigan Chair at the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Missouri
Bob Searl—pastor, North Stuart Baptist Church, Stuart, Florida

Members of the Task Force agreed to serve a two-year commitment with at least one face-to-face meeting per year and three to four other meetings via conference call. The Task Force in November formed two sub-groups—one to collect and distribute best practices policies for churches and one to address and formulate educational resources for churches, ministers, and seminaries. These sub-groups reflect the three primary missions of the Task Force:

  1.  To collect and compile best practices policies that can be distributed to churches and partners via CBF and BWIM networks.
  2. To raise awareness through educational opportunities (workshops at General Assemblies, gatherings of state CBF and BWIM groups, seminary connections).
  3. To provide recovery services resources and information.

In the next few months, we will be sharing resources on both the CBF and BWIM websites and providing resources for churches, ministers, and eventually seminaries. The Task Force is committed to helping Baptists create healthy churches and partner organizations and to ensure the presence of ethical, honest, trusted ministers and leaders. We know this work requires hard conversations, intentional education, and consistent attention from all corners of the Baptist world, and we welcome your assistance and feedback along the way.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia. Stephen Reeves is associate coordinator of partnership and advocacy, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Decatur, Georgia.

Seven Ways to Organize Support for Ministry by Eileen Campbell-Reed

Support for ministry – from both peers and experienced mentors – is essential for those who wish to thrive. Whether you are a chaplain, pastor, minister of music, youth director, or minister by any other name, you can make use of your place and experience to organize more peer support for women in ministry. It is easy to wish that someone might take the lead. But as South African poet, June Jordan put it: we are the ones we have been waiting for.

I hope the following suggestions will spark your imagination for how to build the support you and your sisters in ministry need.

    1.  Make connections with friends. If you’re a minister serving in an isolated area, you can start by reaching out to gather your friends through the usual channels. Pick up the phone. Email a friend. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Take the direct message approach. Invite a friend to meet with you over coffee or lunch. Tell them about your longing for support in your work. Ask what they hope for. Then make sure you listen to what your friend in ministry tells you. Your strategy has begun.
    2.  Leverage Your Position. If you hold a position in any religious organization then think about how to leverage it for the good of other women in ministry. Here’s one approach that has worked in Tennessee in the past. The TN Cooperative Baptist Fellowship provided a very small stipend to three women in different regions of the state. Every month each woman gathered other women in her area for a meal. Having a key person who’s paid a small amount of money for their time and who is already committed to the cause is key to making this strategy work. Two other keys to making it work included keeping the mealtimes simple and open. Meeting on a monthly basis, people simply want to catch up, share stories, and laugh (or cry) together. Additionally, it also helps to have some kind of structure or deepening question to take people beyond the simple “hi-how-are-you?” level of engagement. Here are a few examples of deepening questions I used recently: what kind of risks in ministry do you feel called to take right now? What kind of support do you need to take that risk? What area of your ministry could use a creative boost at the moment?
    3. Retreat Annually. Another model of support is one successfully maintained in both Georgia and North Carolina: an annual retreat anchors the support network of women in ministry. This approach works in these two states because they also have an organization or board of women who keep activities and communication going between retreats and alongside other gatherings (like state CBF meetings). Both of these states also present annual awards, scholarships, and recognition that help people with a sense of belonging to the group throughout the year and also attracts ministers and students from across the state.
    4. Hire Someone. Yet another model is the one in which an existing organization – for instance, a state CBF – hires a woman and one aspect of her job responsibility is to support and offer resources to women in ministry. Sometimes these women also organize events and provide communications to network and connect women in ministry. This is also proven to be successful at times past or present in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina.
    5. Organize a Conference. Sometimes events of interest emerge as the most effective connecting point for women in ministry. Preaching conferences, spiritual retreats, and educational events are labor-intensive. The do not necessarily provide the lasting or ongoing connection that some women crave. However, they can provide a good space to meet, network and lay groundwork for more lasting structures of support. In Texas, this approach has been successful in bringing together women from a wide geographical area.
    6. Network Ecumenically. In some places, the only way to sustain a gathering of women serving the church and other ministry settings is to reach out for support across denominational lines. Women in ministry across every denomination face similar needs for support. They often experience isolation, particularly in rural areas. Video chat and social media are important for keeping women connected with friends over great distances, being able to meet face to face is a tremendous encouragement.
    7. Go to School. Yet another successful form of support for women in ministry has been the school related group. A number of seminaries like Baptist Seminary of Kentucky and colleges like Carson-Newman University have formed support networks for women called to ministry and their allies. The key to making these work seem to be having school staff, faculty, and/or a community minister who are able and willing to be a steady presence as a sponsor. Sponsors can make space for students to gather and lead the ever-changing group of students. Sponsors can also help to stabilize structure the support from the school as well as nurturing the budding calls to ministry of younger women.

Bringing it All Together
Currently in middle Tennessee, we are taking an approach that draws on the best of all of these elements. The gathering is called Scholastica, named for the sister of St. Benedict, who began an order of women called to serve God in the fifth century. Scholastica is ecumenical in its make up. We gather monthly during the fall and spring semesters (September through April) for lunch and conversation on Fridays. Most months we focus on conversation, networking, and relationship building, accompanied by a good meal. We help make the conversations go beyond the surface by providing a provocative idea or several deepening questions.

Once each semester, Scholastica sponsors a keynote speaker who comes to address a particular topic focused on women in ministry. Scholastica is cosponsored by three organizations: Central Tennessee, Tennessee CBF, and Scarritt Bennett Center where the group meets monthly. We draw in women from a wide variety of denominations and locations around middle Tennessee. Some of the participants in Scholastica are students at Central Tennessee and Vanderbilt Divinity School. Others are seasoned ministers and women exploring a call to ministry.

The pathways to support women in ministry and contribute to their thriving are numerous. Perhaps it is time for you to lead. Are you the one you have been waiting for?

Eileen Campbell-Reed is co-director at Learning Pastoral Imagination and the author of Anatomy of a Schism: How Clergywomen’s Narratives Reinterpret the Fracturing of the Southern Baptist Convention. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Vallerie King

Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week we are thrilled to introduce Vallerie King.

Vallerie, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
God called me to the ministry when I was sixteen-years- old. It took me many years to answer the call, but after graduating from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1985, I followed my calling. I was ordained by my home church, Takoma Park Baptist in Washington, D.C., on Pentecost Sunday in 1985.

I have an undergraduate degree in music. I have a Master of Divinity degree with a minor in Christian Education. Because I possess skills in both music and education, I have served several churches in dual positions.

My first full-time ministry position was with University Baptist Church in Carbondale, Illinois, as their minister of education and music. I also served two churches in Northern Virginia. I was called to Fairfax Baptist Church as associate pastor with an emphasis in youth and music. I also served First Baptist Church of Clarendon (now the Church at Clarendon) as associate pastor working with education, youth, and music. I served my home church, Takoma Park Baptist Church, as an associate pastor before being called to Emmaus Baptist Church in Providence Forge, Virginia, where I currently serve as pastor. I have pastored Emmaus for sixteen years. When I came to Emmaus, I felt like I had found the place where I truly belong.

Tell us about the early years of your ministry and the challenges you encountered.
I ams blessed to call Takoma Park Baptist Church home, a church that has a long history of accepting and affirming women. This diverse congregation is made up of white and black, old and young, professional and working class, male and female members all serving the Kingdom of God together.

During my second year of seminary, Takoma Park licensed me. In my last year of seminary, the chair of deacons called me and asked me when I would like to be ordained. Takoma Park is dually aligned with the Southern Baptist and the American Baptist Churches, USA. I was ordained under both those denominational standards. I was blessed, but I painfully watched and listened to many women colleagues as they struggled to find a church that would ordain them.

My first ministry struggle came at my first full-time church. I was on the field for two weeks when the annual meeting of the Nine Mile Association was held. Before the meeting even began, a man stood up and asked that the University Baptist Church be removed from the association because they had hired an ordained woman. That motion went to vote several weeks later. Our church prevailed, but by a very thin margin. There were only three ordained woman in Illinois Baptist life when I moved to Carbondale.

Another challenge came when I preached my trial sermon at Emmaus. The sermon was scheduled for the week after the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000. That was the year the SBC passed a resolution against women serving as pastors. I was not sure how the resolution would affect Emmaus and my coming in view of a call as pastor, but the Holy Spirit went before me. On that weekend, on the front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch was an article about the SBC resolution. The article included an interview with James Flaming, who at the time was pastor of First Baptist Church Richmond. He spoke strongly in favor of women ministers. That article answered any doubts Emmaus may have been struggling with.

Shortly after being called to Emmaus, an editorial appeared in the Religious Herald condemning Emmaus for calling a women as pastor. I was called a witch and other names. After that article was published, other editorials were published that spoke in favor of women and of me. Emmaus handled the unfavorable publicity with grace.

Along the way, what have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My greatest joy in ministry are the people I have served. Some of my dearest and most treasured friends are the Christians I have come to know in each of the churches I have worked in.

I am single, and I have developed a special affection for the children and youth I have known through the years. I have watched them grow up and have children of their own. This has been a great joy.

It is a privilege to bless a child when he or she enters the world. It is a joy to baptize a new Christian. It is a joy to marry a couple in love. It is a marvel to watch people mature in their Christian walk and make a real difference for the Kingdom of God.

When you enter the sacred space of a person’s life, when you stand beside them in times of their greatest joys and deepest sorrows, there is no greater privilege. It is truly holy ground.

What advice would you give to young ministers about staying spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy?
I would freely confess that I may not be the best model of spiritual, emotional, and physical health, especially the latter. But my advice is this:

I stay spiritually healthy through prayer and personal devotion. In addition, I belong to a Centering Prayer group that meets weekly. I spend one week every year at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky, where I pray and practice the discipline of silence.

During my tenure as pastor at Emmaus, I have taken two sabbaticals. The first was for six weeks, which I spent at the Abbey of Gethsemani. This was a very transformative experience.

Emmaus was blessed to receive the Lilly Foundation Clergy Renewal Grant for 2015. This generous grant allowed me to take a twelve-week sabbatical. I traveled to England and France. This opportunity gave me a fresh perspective and recharged my ministry.

I stay emotionally healthy by participating in several groups. I belong to a local clergy group made up of those serving churches in New Kent County. I participate in the Dover Pastor’s Peer Learning Group. I am part of a Women Pastors Support Group that meets monthly. We have developed a special bond through the years and I can share my deepest pain and struggles. They are all dear friends.

As I stated earlier, I belong to a Centering Prayer Group where I found deeply committed Christians from various religious backgrounds. They also have become dear friends.

My best friend lives in Carbondale, Illinois, and we talk by phone once a week. Music, art, and nature inspire me. I love to attend live opera!

I attempt to stay fit physically by belonging to Curves. My physical health is the area that needs more time and attention.

What if We Tried a Little Amplification? by Pam Durso

“Amplification.” It was not a new word to me, but it was a new use of the word.

Back in September 2016, the Washington Post ran a story about female staffers at the White House, who had adopted a meeting strategy that they called “amplification.” The story goes like this . . . and it is a familiar one for women in all professions, but even more so for women ministers.

Back in 2009, when President Barack Obama took office, the majority of his staff was male, and the few presidential female staff members often found themselves excluded from meetings—not invited to the table or welcomed to the conference. When those women finally did make it into a meeting, their voices were ignored.

Does that sound familiar? All too often women ministers have been overlooked, discounted, or even snubbed, and when the invitation finally arrives to participate, our voices are unheard. Recently, I was in a meeting with fifty or so religious leaders—the majority of those men were executives of denominations or faith organizations. There were only a handful of women in the room. I sat quietly at the table—I am a listener by nature, but after a while, I wasn’t listening to the words spoken, I was listening for female voices. Somewhere along the way, I realized that none of the women, all of whom are also leaders in their faith groups, none of those women spoke up. The men dominated the conversation, and when finally a woman made a comment, she was hesitant and spoke very briefly. I left that meeting greatly disturbed—not because what had happened was a surprise to me, but disturbed because the women present that day were exceptionally brilliant and gifted. Some of them make their living by speaking or preaching. And yet at that table, they did not feel comfortable enough to offer their opinion.

This is where amplification comes in. After President Obama took office, his female staffers began talking among themselves. They recognized their shared dilemma of not being heard. So together they adopted the amplification strategy. They decided that when a woman spoke up at a meeting and offered insight or made a suggestion, another woman would immediately repeat the first woman’s words and give her credit—her name would be called and her ideas affirmed. Their strategy encouraged the women to speak up–to share their opinions. The strategy also forced the male staffers and even the president to recognize the women’s contributions.

One of the female staffers noted, “We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing.” The president noticed, she said, and he called on women more often. During his second term, women made advances. Their voices were heard and taken seriously. Their speaking on behalf of one another and affirming each other’s words and ideas helped change a male-dominated environment.

After reading the Washington Post story (thanks to my friend, Tambi Swiney, who told me about it), I started wondering what amplification would look like if we as women ministers adopted it as our strategy. What if we spoke out on behalf of each other? What if we publicly affirmed each other’s words and gifts? What if we intentionally credited each other and spoke the names of those with good ideas out loud? What if we boldly recommended one another to pulpit committees, conference planners, book editors? What if we amplified our minister sisters?

What if . . . what if we formed a sisterhood committed to amplification?

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