October 24th, 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 Meredith Stone, a current member of Baptist Women in Ministry’s Leadership Team.
Meredith, tell us about your current ministry role and about your previous ministry experiences.
This past August I joined the faculty of Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. I teach ministry and scripture and also serve as director of ministry guidance. Ministry guidance involves supervising internship experiences for students, providing counseling for students in call discernment, coordinating placement services, and managing ministerial financial aid. I have previously served as Women in Ministry Specialist for Texas Baptists (BGCT), Teaching Pastor for Crosspoint Fellowship, and Admissions Coordinator at Logsdon Seminary.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
I began to sense a call to ministry when I was seventeen during the summer before my senior year of high school. That summer I struggled to let go of some of the previously imagined dreams and expectations that I and others had imagined for my life. Don’t get me wrong, they were good dreams. But it seemed a call to ministry would require flushing everything I had been working so hard to achieve (especially when I thought I may never be able to have a ministry job as a Baptist woman).
When I was at youth camp that summer, I finally found the courage to admit that ministry was something that had been stirring in my heart and mind. The camp pastor, Voddie Baucham, held a small group session for anyone trying to discern a call. I will never forget his words. He said, “If God has called you to ministry, then God is not calling you for tomorrow. God is calling you for today.” Now others may have taken that to mean they needed to leave everything else behind and run toward a formal ministry position. But to me, it meant that the God who was calling me could use me wherever I was. Whether or not I abandoned those career dreams, I could live as a minister that very day and every day after that in any circumstance, job, role, or occupation
As my ministry path has not taken traditional routes and I have not always been able to find ministry positions in the exact roles I felt equipped for or called to, I have held on to these words of a camp pastor. God has not called me for some ministry position I might have in twenty years, God has called me to be a minister today in whatever job, town, situation, or conversation I might find myself.
Who has inspired you in your ministry journey?
I am a person who loves both the academy and the church. I love to learn, reflect, and analyze, but I also love to care, serve, and live faith-life in community. While no one teaches that these sets of actions are mutually exclusive, sometimes the realities of the academy and the church create a functional dichotomy in which we feel forced to choose one or the other.
In a particular moment when I was feeling compelled that a choice between academy and church was imminent in my life, Dr. Molly T. Marshall visited Logsdon Seminary as a guest lecturer. As I listened her words over those two days and imagined the impact she has had on the community of God from both the arenas of church and academic institutions, she gave me hope and assured me that no choice was necessary. Dr. Marshall models what it means to be a bridge, or a translator, between academy and church, and she inspires me to try and do the same.
October 23rd, 2014
I have been in the “search mode,” looking for a ministry placement. A week ago a really amazing church contacted me about an open position and invited me for an interview. I was so excited that I called lots of family members and friends, but instead of hearing words of encouragement, many of them questioned my readiness for this position. Several of them told me I was not qualified and that the church really not a good fit for me. All their negative comments have left me uncertain about my gifts and abilities, and now I am confused about whether or not to even pursue this position. I don’t even know if I want to go to the interview.
With Friends Like These
Family and friends surprise us sometimes, don’t they? By failing to give support. By forgetting to support and encourage. By missing the moment for affirmation.
I know you are hurt and confused by their reactions, and they certainly have made it harder for you to remember your sense of calling, to keep believing in yourself, and to be faithful in seeking to discern God’s place. Friends and family who know you best usually provide one of the best gages of “rightness” of a decision. So perhaps you should pause and “hear” what they are saying as best you can. Do they truly sense that this position would be an unhealthy and hurtful place for you? Is God seeking to speak through them to you? Are they praying for you and with you and feel lead to discourage your interest? Ask them. Go to those who are your closest family members and friends and ask them about their concerns. You will never know their reasoning unless you ask.
A second consideration is that your friends and family might be jealous of your opportunity. They might be concerned that you will move further away or be too busy for them in the future. So go ask them. Ask them if their hesitation is about losing a closeness with you. Ask them if they are speaking out of their own desire to be near you. You will never know their reasoning unless you ask them.
A final consideration is that you need to be doing your own discernment work. Find a trusted mentor who has your best ministerial interest at heart—and ask for his insight. Seek out a pastor who knows and loves you and ask her about your readiness for ministry. Asking for advice outside your closest circles of family and friends may provide a more thoughtful and helpful response. But more important than anything else, set some time apart to be alone, to pray, to sit in silence and listen. Listen for God. Listen to God. Ask God for guidance.
Blessings on you as you ask!
If you have a question for Dear Addie, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The photo of Addie Davis is provided courtesy of Special Collections, Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.
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
I am currently serving in a church that is best described as toxic. The staff is dysfunctional, the personnel committee seems to be disinterested in creating a work environment that is nurturing, anytime I bring up any concern I’m automatically shut down, and I am fed up. I have been searching for jobs for many months now but am having a difficult time. I am starting to realize I may be stuck here for a while. What can I do in the meantime to survive my toxic work environment? Or should I just run for the hills?
Dear Fed Up,
I am deeply sorry that you find yourself serving in a toxic church environment, longing for a way out. You face a difficult decision—should you stay or should you go? Before you make this decision, I encourage you to talk through the issues with someone outside of this dysfunctional congregational system—a neutral party like a spiritual director, a counselor, or a mentor who will listen to your concerns and ask you the questions that God can use to bring clarity to your situation.
The word “toxic” is a powerful one. Is this church environment so toxic that the act of serving there is taking a toll on your health—physical, emotional, or spiritual? If so, leaving sooner rather than later may be the healthiest option for you. Yes, Jesus urged his disciples to take up their crosses and follow him, but he also instructed his disciples to shake the dust off their feet and exit a home or town where their words were ignored. Only you know whether or not you have reached that tipping point.
That said, I do find myself wondering if perhaps God has placed you in this congregation “for such a time as this.” What difference does your presence make in this place? Could it be that God has brought you to this church to be a catalyst for change? It is certainly frustrating when change seems to come at a glacial pace, but perhaps you are making more of a difference than you think.
Are you familiar with the family systems theory work pioneered by Edwin Friedman? Learning how a congregation operates as a family system may help you to better understand the dynamics that are at work within this toxic environment. A heightened awareness will not only be helpful for you as you navigate the minefield in which you are currently serving; it will also prove to be invaluable as you face challenges down the road in other congregations, for no church family is perfect.
Friedman emphasizes the importance of being a well-differentiated leader – a minister who takes responsibility for her own emotional well being, one who has clarity about her own life goals, one who can be separate while remaining connected, one who can manage her own reactivity.* Can you model self-differentiation for this staff, for the Personnel Committee, for the congregation?
As you seek to discern God’s will in the midst of this difficult situation, pay attention to the lessons that you are learning in the context of this particular ministry setting. What are you learning about yourself? What are you learning about God? What are you learning about your God-given call?
Pray. Meditate on Scripture. Journal. Talk to a trusted advisor. Rest. Play. Trust that God is at work in ways that you cannot yet perceive – in your life and in the church.
*Edwin Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (New York: Seabury Books, 2007): 14.
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.
October 10th, 2014
Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a Baptist woman serving in ministry, and today, we introduce you to Tambi Swiney, who is a new member of our BWIM Leadership Team.
Tambi, tell us about your current ministry position.
I am approaching my fifth anniversary serving as the associate pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. I was ordained by this congregation in May 2010.
What have been some of your “bumps in the road” as a woman minister?
I am blessed to be serving in a setting where my gender really isn’t an issue. The bumps in the road that I have faced related to my gender were those speed bumps and roadblocks that slowed my journey as I sought to discern how I could faithfully live out my calling. Early on, the lack of female role models in pastoral ministry clouded my imagination. I had never encountered a female Baptist pastor until I began seminary in my mid-30s. Later, mixed messages from those who claimed to be advocates for women in ministry but whose actions didn’t match their words confused me. I am grateful that God continued to put people in my life who urged me to keep moving forward and detour around the roadblocks. In the words of the psalmist, God brought me out to a spacious place.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
For the first five years after I graduated from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, I was engaged in what I liked to call “freelance ministry.” I was heavily invested in the student ministry as a lay-leader at church, I served on a volunteer basis as the spiritual emphasis coordinator for The Next Door (a transitional housing community for women coming out of incarceration), and I wrote Bible studies, commentary, articles, and devotions for a variety of publications. However, during my son’s senior year of high school, I began to sense that God was preparing me for a vocational transition. I helpfully provided God with a short list of things I was not interested in doing—first and foremost, I had no desire to serve on a church staff. A conversation with my church’s youth minister proved to be a turning point. Josh was familiar with the excuse that I offered whenever someone asked me when I was going to seek a position in a church. “You can keep saying that you don’t want to serve on a church staff, but you have to stop saying that you aren’t gifted to do it,” he advised. Josh’s words bore the sting of truth. In subsequent days, I confessed to God that I was open—albeit reluctantly – to serving on a church staff. Shortly thereafter, the next stretch of my path became plain. To this day I am grateful to Josh for affirming my giftedness.
Who has inspired you in your ministry journey?
My grandmother, Hattie Lou Brown, has always been my primary source of inspiration as I have sought to faithfully live out my calling. In every season of her life, she has given generously, prayed fervently, worshiped faithfully, served enthusiastically, and loved deeply. As she approaches her 95th birthday, although her health is declining and her eyesight is failing, she continues to find ways to serve others in Christ’s name. She recognizes needs, identifies resources, enlists volunteers, and empowers others to serve in the community, even while she is essentially homebound. Whatever she does, whether in word or in deed, she does it all in the name of Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).
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