October 22nd, 2014
I remember the day I told my husband Caleb we were expecting. It was one of the many snow days in a series of snow days we had in Virginia last winter. I’d gotten up early to take a pregnancy test and after I got over my own shock, I tiptoed back into our room and poked Caleb awake whispering, “Look at this!” He rubbed his eyes and turned on the light to see more clearly and read “Pregnant!” Holy goodness. We lay there for about an hour in a daze already dreaming of what this mysterious happening would mean in our lives. We prayed for our little bean and for ourselves and proceeded to carry our sweet secret into the world.
It would not stay secret for long, and wouldn’t you know it was the ministers at the church who uncovered our secret first? I really wanted to wait as long as we could to share our news. Mostly because I kind of liked having something so precious to just keep in the whispers among family, but my plans were thwarted! As soon as the staff realized that I knew they’d figured it out, we would exchange curious glances and smiles that I thought for sure to be dead giveaways.
Since I don’t work in a “traditional” ministry setting it has been very interesting moving forward in pregnancy. I am the “youth minister’s wife” at the church I attend. I have no shortage of eyes watching for belly growth and asking questions each time I come around. There are many curious youth, some who touch my belly lovingly and others who still seem to be in disbelief. In my job, I encounter many, many pastors and lay leaders. They all ask the same kinds of questions, how are you feeling? When are you due? Is it a boy or a girl? Do you have a name picked out? Typically, I politely answer the question for the thousandth time, give a smile and share that yes, we are very excited about this new life coming into our lives.
But, if I am totally honest, most church days, okay, maybe most days in general, all I want to do is hide under a rock and not come out until I can go home, or be around people who can see past my belly. I’ve realized how guarded I really am and how much I cherish and seek to protect some inkling of privacy in our seemingly public lives. I so appreciate that people “care” enough to speak to me, but I am tired of passing courtesy questions. I recognize that many women must feel this way in general, not just those of us in ministry, but I think we hold the unique position of being the “ones” that people watch more closely.
I do find it always wonderful that somehow now I am “in the club” so to speak. I’ve heard more stories about varied birth experiences than I knew before. The boys listen to me when I tell them to stop their shenanigans; I mean who wants to mess with the pregnant woman? But, for the record, even a pregnant woman doesn’t want to hear questions from church members like, “Are you dilated yet?”, “You haven’t gained any weight, oh except for maybe in your face!”, or even, “Wow, you don’t look pregnant at all!” Yes, I want to share my life with you, but maybe just not all of those details.
Thanks be to God, for the blessings (and curses) of ministry
October 22nd, 2014
A little over a year ago I was ordained by Central Baptist Church in Chesterfield, Virginia. I completed my seminary internship in that sweet community, and they supported my growth and my gifts as I walked semi-gracefully through my last year of theological education.
One Sunday following a worship service at Central, I made my way to my internship supvisor, Nelson Taylor. I didn’t even really know what I was going to say, but I casually asked, “So what’s Central’s process for ordination?” His eyes lit up, and he immediately ushered me over to the senior pastor, David Turner, and asked me to repeat my question. After a few moments, David replied readily, “So, are you asking to be ordained?” I paused for a breath and answered, “Uh, I guess so?” And that my friends, is how the formal process of ordination began for me.
I never expected to be ordained. In fact, early on in my discernment process, I was sure it wasn’t for me, but soon it became evident that I would join the ranks of ordained ministers in my family—my mother, sister, brother-in-law, husband, and father-in-law.
As my ordination day approached, I made all of the necessary preparations. I found the perfect dress—one that made me feel beautiful and confident. My family surrounded me for a weekend of celebration. We ate good food and laughed well around all kinds of tables. The worship bulletins were printed, and my worship leaders were present and prepared. Even though I was ready, I felt as though I would never be able to comprehend fully the mystery of that day.
I was awestruck that a community of people that I loved would honor me in such a way. I was overwhelmed by the kind words of affirmation, encouragement, challenge and blessing that poured over me as I knelt down before God’s people. I knew that mothers, aunts, spiritual leaders, saints of my faith journey who had already gone and nurturers of my faith surrounded me in spirit. I was excited and nervous to be at such a point in ministry. Am I really old enough for this? Am I a “good and faithful servant” of this magnitude? Can I continue to be a faithful servant as I journey forward? I remember being filled with pure joy, like the kind of joy that comes, for me, on the first crisp fall day when my hibernating boots make their way from the far reaches of my closet. Most of all, I felt completely undeserving of what transpired in the sacred space of worship.
Many times in my journey since that day I have felt overwhelmed by feelings of self-doubt and undeserved-ness. I wish I could say that I am as confident every day as I was on that time, but that would not be the full truth. Some days, I can barely squeeze enough confidence out to remember that there are others around me cheering me on and dreaming me toward a more rich understanding of God’s call on my life. I still find myself yearning to embrace more fully that deservedness is not a determining element of ordination. God calls, and the church and the minister answer together. And when the grace of the sacrament works as it should—we are all reminded just how much we do not deserve, but rather are gifted the daring spirit to answer a call.
Mary Beth Foust works as ministry coordinator at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia. Mary Beth is an avid yogi, runner and will never turn away good dessert. She and her husband, Caleb, live in Short Pump, Virginia, with their two fur babies, Moses and Wrigley Anne. They are excited to welcome their first daughter this fall.
October 21st, 2014
Deep peace, pure white of the moon to you.
Deep peace, pure green of the grass to you.
Deep peace, pure brown of the earth to you.
Deep peace, pure grey of the dew to you.
Deep peace, pure blue of the sky to you.
Deep peace, of the running wave to you.
Deep peace, of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace, of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace, of the shining starts to you.
Deep peace, of the Son of Peace to you.
–Fiona Macleod (1855-1905)
October 17th, 2014
Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features its blog series, THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE and introduces you to an amazing woman minister. This week we are proud to introduce Courtney Allen, a current member of Baptist Women in Ministry’s Leadership Team.
Courtney, tell us about your current serving in ministry?
I serve as the minister of community ministry and missions at First Baptist Church in Dalton, Georgia. I have the opportunity to build and bridge relationships across all sorts of boundaries and lead the congregation in engaging our neighbors down the street and around the world. Dalton has been an incredible community and congregation to love and serve! I’m grateful to be in a church that really does have missions woven into its DNA.
What do you love best about your current ministry role?
I have the opportunity to do exactly that I feel called to do each and every day at First Baptist, and that is an incredible gift! After seminary, it took a while for me to find a position that truly fit my call to ministry. I am grateful that First Baptist Dalton has both the theology and the resources to have a minister focused on relationships beyond the walls of the church that ultimately enrich and and transform the community of faith.
In any given day I can find myself in the fellowship hall around the table with working poor families and church members, at a hospital bed, in a courtroom, or a gathering of community and faith leaders. I give thanks for the flexibility of what “missions and community ministry” looks like at First Baptist and for the almost innate willingness for the congregation to partner and participate in missional life together in Dalton!
What is the best book you have read lately?
So . . . my sister often reminds me that I need to read less “serious religious stuff” and just enjoy some celebrity magazines at the beach. And she’s right. I certainly need to read more novels, memoirs, and imaginative stuff beyond the most recent ministry titles ordered from Amazon. That being said, the best book I have been reading has been The Art of Pastoring by William C. Martin. I have been reading a thought from this collection each morning when I get to my office. My colleague, Matthew Johnson, recommended the book to me and said, “This is the only thing I encounter that reminds me each day that I am not solely responsible for this venture we call the church.”
But, I still need some less serious stuff on my reading roster . . .
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
My friend, Carol McIntyre, shared this wisdom that she received from an older pastor as she began her first pastorate several years ago: “Never forget, you do not bear or carry the entire weight of the church on your back.” As ministers, we need to be reminded that church functions and depends on much more than our leadership, worry, or even energy invested, because God is it work among us, through us, and sometimes even in spite of us! No one person or pastor can carry the weight of a congregation’s burdens without the partnership of God, and I continue to be reminded that God is always doing far more than I can dream or imagine.
October 16th, 2014
Hard to believe, right? The executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry is not an ordained minister.
But it is true. I have never been ordained. It is a long story (I am fifty-two-years old, trust me, it is a long story), but the short version is this: I have long had a strong sense of calling, one that I have spent forty years exploring. I have filled multiple ministry roles, including serving on church staffs, teaching in two seminaries, and working for non-profit organizations. I have preached in scores of churches (mostly Baptist), officiated at weddings and funerals, and planned and led worship and communion.
Through all those years and experiences ordination never happened for me. My own theology, polity, and strong commitment to equality in Baptist life were contributing factors to my not being ordained, but location, timing, and closed doors also prevented ordination from naturally unfolding for me.
Growing up a Southern Baptist girl in Texas in the 1970s meant that I had no awareness that ordination would be possible. Actually, I had no awareness that ministry was a possibility either, even though I sensed a call from God as a twelve-year-old girl. As a teenager, I had no imagination when it came to ministry or ordination. Both were just too far outside the reality of my experience.
In high school, I knew of no women who were serving in official ministry roles . . . except for missionaries, and while I loved missions, being a missionary just never felt right for me.
But then my imagination was stretched. In college, I suddenly had a few female models for ministry, and I watched and prayed and wondered.
I served churches during the summers of my college years and then headed off to seminary, completed a Ph.D., and prepared myself to teach church history to college or seminary students.
The 1990s turned out to be painful years. By 1992, I was well educated and trained . . . and unemployed. Even with Dr. in front of my name, I bumped into closed doors, lived through some painful rejections, and experienced a good bit of anger, fear, and heartbreak. But in the midst of even my hardest days, grace kept showing up. Friends circled around me. Family encouraged me. Mentors gave me a nudge. Pastors prayed for and with me. God showed up and kept showing up for me, more often than not through acts of kindness by those whom I loved.
Finally in 1999 a teaching position showed up. My family (a husband and two young children) moved half-way across the country to North Carolina, and suddenly, I was a professor, teaching in a seminary, instructing ministers and soon-to-be ministers. Ordination could have happened for me then, but I was reluctant. I had no church that I loved enough to ask for ordination, and no church was asking me.
Fifteen years later I remain among the unordained Baptist women ministers. I have given thirty years of my life to service and ministry, but ordination still has not happened for me . . . yet.
But life brings surprises, unexpected graces.
One grace is my church. Three years ago I joined Cornerstone Church in Snellville, Georgia. Cornerstone has become my home, my heart. The people of Cornerstone have offered me places of service, a pulpit from which to preach regularly, kind support for my ministry with BWIM, and friendships that have shaped who I am and who I am becoming.
Another grace for me are the women who serve on the Leadership Team of Baptist Women in Ministry. Last February they circled around me at the end of our spring meeting. They reached out their hands to me, offered words of affirmation and care, and said, “Now is the time, Pam, for ordination, for your ordination.” They invited me to pray, to dream, to explore, and they nudged me a bit. They then reached out to my pastor and church, requesting that I be ordained.
It only took me six months to say yes. I prayed hard, worked through my reservations, talked with trusted friends and my pastor. I sought counsel from a spiritual director. I prayed some more.
There are long stories involved in the process, but the short version is this: You, yes all of you, are invited to the ordination of Pam Durso!
My church, Cornerstone Church in Snellville, Georgia, and the Leadership Team of Baptist Women in Ministry are pleased to invite you to a service of ordination at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia, at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 28, 2015. We hope many of you will join us there for a time of affirmation and blessing.
After all these years, with open hands and an open heart I am saying yes to ordination.
Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.
October 15th, 2014
You have probably heard the saying, “God doesn’t call the equipped, God equips the called.” Well, I think that’s a great way to describe my call story.
As a child, I grew up going to church and accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was about eight years old. In middle school, I got mixed up with the wrong crowd, but even then I never stopped believing in God. Shortly after I started going back to church, I attended a youth retreat, where I experienced God calling me to ministry for the first time. I was alone praying in my room, and I said something like, “Lord, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.” I then heard God’s voice telling me that I was supposed to become a pastor. That really caught me off guard. In protest, I replied, “I’m too young. I’ve made too many mistakes. Besides can’t you see that I’m a girl?”
You see, I was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist church, one that did not affirm women in pastoral ministry. So I kept this call experience to myself, thinking that either I had misunderstood or that God had somehow made a mistake. Yet even on that retreat, people said to me: “You’d make a great missionary.” “You should be a pastor’s wife.” In their eyes, those were acceptable ways for women to serve in ministry.
Fast-forward five years. I was working a couple of dead-end jobs, trying to pay my way through community college. I still had no idea what to do with my life. Then one day, during my daily devotional time, I cried out, “Lord, what do you want me to do?!” And God said, “I’ve already told you.” I knew exactly what that meant. I still felt unworthy of the calling, and I asked God to give me courage. I told my close family and friends that I felt called to ministry. No one was surprised. In fact, they were all very supportive!
A short time later I was offered a volunteer position as youth director. The ministry grew, and the church decided to hire me. They also gave me a “License to Preach” and changed my title to “youth pastor.” Eventually, I transferred to Asbury University, a Christian college in Kentucky. While I was there, I began pursuing ordination through the United Methodist Church (UMC). In 2010, I received my BA in Bible and Theology and began my studies at Wesley Theological Seminary. As a seminary student, I realized just how important my Baptist heritage is to me, so I withdrew from the UMC ordination process.
In searching for a more moderate Baptist church, I discovered Commonwealth Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Robin Anderson, one of Commonwealth’s pastors, took me under her wing and helped me get connected with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Baptist Women in Ministry. Through those connections I have meet several other people who have become influential in my life.
This past year, as part of my seminary education, I served as a pastoral intern at Commonwealth. Toward the end of my internship, Pastor Robin told me that the church council wanted to put together an Ordination Council for me, and just a few weeks ago, on September 28, Commonwealth Baptist Church ordained me to the gospel ministry. I am now even more excited to find the ministry position God has for me. Even with all of the bumps in the road that I’ve experienced as a Baptist woman called to pastoral ministry, the journey has been worth it all, knowing that I am living into God’s calling on my life.
Jessie Kearns has several years of ministry experience and is a recent seminary graduate. She was ordained on September 28, 2014 at Commonwealth Baptist Church and is currently searching for a ministry position.
September 30th, 2014
Center us, God, on you and you alone.
May the work or our hands, our minds, and our hearts be pleasing unto you.
— Alicia Davis Porterfield
September 25th, 2014
On Sunday, September 7, 2014, North Broad Baptist Church in Rome, Georgia, celebrated Priscilla Tunnel’s fifty years of ministry. Prissy was perhaps fated to a life of ministry. Both her grandmother and mother served as the president of the WMU of Georgia. If you go far enough back in Prissy’s family tree, you will find the hymn writer, Isaac Watts, who wrote When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and Joy to the World. Seems that a ministry of missions and music was in Prissy’s DNA from the very beginning.
The energy and enthusiasm that Prissy brings to ministry has always been part of who she is. A few years ago Prissy’s mother was watching a documentary about ADHD and Ritalin. She called Prissy over to her, took Prissy’s face in her hands, and said, “Prissy Jones, if they had this when you were a child, you would have been on it!”
While she was a twenty-year-old college student at Stetson University working on her bachelor of music in voice and choral conducting, Prissy took her first ministry position. That was fifty years ago this month. She served as the associate minister of music at First Baptist Church, DeLand, Florida for two years and then became the minister of music at First Baptist Church, Indialantic, Florida.
After graduating from college, Prissy moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she earned a Master of Divinity with a focus on education. While in seminary, she worked in social ministry, first as the Baptist Center assistant director at Broadway Baptist Church and then as the director of weekday activities at Gambrell Street Baptist Church. While in Fort Worth, Prissy also gave birth to her son Mark, a “seminary baby.”
Upon graduation, Prissy was appointed as a Southern Baptist missionary to Vietnam, serving there from 1970 to 1975. She has more stories than you can believe from those years, including having a root canal with no pain medication and conducting the first, and as far as we know only, performance of Handel’s Messiah in that country. Her time in Vietnam ended with her family refugeeing out of the country as South Vietnam fell.
Prissy was next appointed as a missionary to Costa Rica and served there for a year before returning to the United States to work as a home missionary for the North American Mission Board. She was the assistant director of Refugee Resettlement, working with the boat people who were fleeing Vietnam. Prissy spoke the language and had experience in social ministry so she was a natural fit for the position. This ministry led to her family adopting three Vietnamese refugee children.
Although Prissy left the mission field, missions has never been far from her heart. Through the years, she has led mission teams to England, Spain, Jordan, Thailand, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Peru, Honduras, and Ecuador. Many of those trips involved coordinating mission teams that led a VBS-type camp for the children of missionaries. Those camps took place during the annual missionary meetings.
Prissy spent the 1980s as the minister of children and families at Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta. From there she went to Franklin, North Carolina, where she served as the minister of music, senior adults, and children at First Baptist Church.
In 1997, Prissy was called as minister of faith development by First Baptist Church, Rome, Georgia. She served there for fourteen years, and in 2000, Prissy was finally ordained.
Prissy “retired” in 2011, but it did not take long for her to find her way to North Broad Baptist Church, where we put her to work, first as interim children’s minister, and then two years ago, we called her as our minister of music and children.
In addition to church ministry, Prissy has written children’s missions curriculum for the WMU and for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, served as a member of the coordinating council of CBF of Georgia, and mentored many ministers, including her work as a ministry coach for recent graduates of McAfee School of Theology. She is also co-author of Stories That Won’t Go Away: Women in Vietnam 1959-1975. In 2002, Baptist Women in Ministry of Georgia recognized Prissy as the Distinguished Church Woman of the Year. That same year she also received the Jack Naish Christian Educators Leadership Award from The Center for Christian Education.
This thumbnail sketch of churches and titles just scratches the surface. Behind the names of all of those churches are countless lives that have been touched by Prissy’s ministry. Individuals, children, and families who she has ministered to, counseled with, led in worship, and touched in countless ways. We give thanks to God for Prissy Tunnell and the way she has allowed God to work through her for the good of the kingdom.
Micah Pritchett is pastor of North Broad Baptist Church, Rome, Georgia.
September 23rd, 2014
Although we do not understand everything about you, let us be open to the ways that you reveal yourself in the daily occurences of our lives.
by Kate Hanch
September 19th, 2014
Today’s introduction is of Lynn Brinkley, a new member of Baptist Women in Ministry’s Leadership Team.
Lynn, tell us about your current places of service in ministry.
I have the blessed opportunity to serve in two diverse contexts: a National Baptist Inc. church, First Baptist Church in Clinton, North Carolina, and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship School of Divinity, Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. At First Baptist Clinton, I serve as an associate minister and was recently ordained by that church. I have numerous opportunities there to preach, teach, and use my gifts for ministry! At CUDS, I serve as director of student services, and I also teach an undergraduate Introduction to Christianity Course for Campbell’s Religion Department. I work closely with our student leadership, our chapel planning team, and preach frequently at various churches associated with our students.
Where have you served in the past?
Prior to coming to Campbell Divinity School, I served as the lead case manager at Cumberland County Communicare, a non-profit agency that works with at-risk youth. I also served as a campus police officer at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
What have been some of your “bumps in the road” as a woman minister?
Where do I begin? First, the road to ordination was a long journey, but I am so thankful that First Baptist Church Clinton affirmed me and my gifts. Second, I recently was invited to preach at a church and was told I needed to “preach from the floor” since the church had not “officially” affirmed women preaching from the pulpit. I preached a “tad angry” that night but it worked! The church voted the following Friday to affirm women to preach from the pulpit. Third, I have found that it is not easy being a woman (particularly an African-American woman) with ministry credentials. Where I am from, we talk about “haters!” No matter what you do, there will be people who will never celebrate with you, which is why it is always important to remember who calls you and who you serve. God gets the glory in all things, so never allow your “haters” to distract you from your purpose in life.
What advice would you give to a teenage girl who might be discerning a call to ministry?
Queen Esther fasted and prayed before she moved on her call from God. You have to place yourself in a position to worship God before you respond to the call. Listen to God’s still small voice for direction. When the call becomes clear say, “here I am send me,” and don’t allow anyone to block your divine assignment!