September 19th, 2014
Baptist Women in Ministry is pleased to introduce you each week to an amazing woman minister. This introduction is made via an “interview” format and is titled THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE. Today’s introduction is of Lynn Brinkley, a new member of the 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!
September 18th, 2014
In the last few months I have watched as women ministers that I know and that I love have been called by churches, and I am so happy for them. But I am also so jealous of them. I love my current ministry position and don’t want to leave it, but I keep thinking… “That could have been me. I could do that job. I am as qualified as they are.”
I didn’t even put my name out for these church positions, and to be honest, I don’t really even want to have those positions, and yet I feel so angry and jealous.
I hate feeling this way!
Green With Envy
Your honesty is refreshing. We Baptist women ministers too often do not admit, even to ourselves, that we are envious or that we struggle with anger. Even fewer of us will speak about those feelings. But I suspect that most every woman who serves in ministry has experienced such feelings. So what should we do with them?
Acknowledging the dilemma is a great place to start. Realize that we live in a competitive society. From childhood, we were taught that winning, achieving, and succeeding are valued. We learned and were often told that “beating out” others somehow made us better. Those lessons are not easily forgotten—even if we are now adults and are called to be ministers of the gospel and expected to love everyone, to work for justice, and to treat all others with kindness.
Added to the already disturbing complexity of living in a competitive society is the reality that in our Baptist world positions available to women are more limited than they are for men. As women, we often compete against each other—sometimes against our closest friends—for the few spots that are available, and because of the smallness of our Baptist community, we generally know exactly which women are applying at a church to which we too have sent a resume. We know the names of the other women “on the short list.” Whether it is fair or not, whether it is healthy or not, we are pitted against each other to vie for those coveted places of service. While this reality is true for Baptist men as well, their opportunities tend to be wider and deeper than for Baptist women.
So some practical advice: Give voice to your feelings. Admitting to yourself and perhaps even confessing to a few close and trusted friends will help you begin to more readily recognize these feelings and be able to understand what is happening when jealousy creeps up unexpectedly on you.
Refocus your jealousy into positive thoughts and actions. Refocusing will help you slowly to move away from those feelings. Remind yourself that you are HAPPY, that you are CELEBRATING with your women friends who have been called to new positions. Tell your friends and colleagues the news. Say it out loud, “I am so thrilled for her. She is a gifted minister, and this church will be blessed by her leadership.” Send her a note, an email, a text—expressing your support.
Cultivate habits that preempt jealousy. Become a strong supporter of your sisters in ministry by encouraging their work. Be proactive in sharing good news about their accomplishments, their successes. Offer to be a reference for those seeking a position. Write letters of gratitude for the work of your women minister friends and send those letters to their supervisors or congregations. Speak out on behalf of your friends when you hear critical words or jealous words from others.
Finally, hold on to the truth that to be the body of Christ in all its fullness, we need each other. We need our sisters in ministry. They are a vital component of our journey, and jealousy robs us of healthy relationships with them.
Blessings on you in your journey!
September 17th, 2014
Last spring when Wilcox County, Georgia, made the national news for hosting its first integrated high school prom. Folks around the country were flabbergasted that almost 60 years after “separate but equal” was deemed unconstitutional and schools were integrated, this kind of thing still happened. Thankfully, the story became news because four students decided it was time for a change. They led money-raising efforts, and the school sponsored a prom for all students for the first time in decades. It turned out to be a great success.
The headline about the Wilcox County prom caught my eye when it popped up on my computer screen. But unlike some of my friends who commented about it on Facebook, I wasn’t shocked at all. You see, Wilcox County borders my home county of Ben Hill, and it hadn’t been but fifteen years since I attended a segregated prom myself. In my county, as in Wilcox County until last year, the high school did not hold a prom. Proms, homecomings and other dances and social events were sponsored and planned by private groups. The white prom was on Friday night, and the black prom was on Saturday night. Occasionally a black student would show with a date to the white prom, but generally, the crowd at each event looked pretty homogenous. And nobody, myself included, really questioned it.
Now, I am embarrassed to confess this: I attended a segregated prom, and it didn’t even bother me.
Sometimes when we grow up in a place, particularly when its a place or people we love, we become so entrenched in the way of life there that it’s hard to see its shortcomings.
In my town, racial divisions were the norm.
My neighborhood and my church were white middle-class, exclusively.
White people voted for white candidates; black people voted for black candidates.
White people did business with white people, and black with black.
We were not cruel about it; we just accepted it as the way things were. I did not condone the inherent prejudice, but I did not speak up against it, either. So in 1998, I went to my senior prom with all of my white friends and had a great time without ever noticing what was wrong with this picture.
Is there anything about your own past life that makes you a little bit ashamed? I imagine that there are others of you who wrestle with parts of your own heritage, or even struggle with how those flaws still pop up from time to time in your own way of thinking and living.
What is it about you that needs to be changed? What part of your past lies deep within you and still shapes how you see the world?
Maybe it is something that haunts you every day.
Or maybe it is something that still lies unquestioned.
Maybe it is too uncomfortable for you to talk about.
Perhaps you are even scared of it, afraid that it might bubble to the surface if you don’t keep it suppressed.
Is it a prejudice that you were taught as a child? A stereotype about people of another race or ethnicity or religion or sexual orientation or class? Do you harbor resentment towards someone who hurt you? Is it greed? Are you quick to point out the faults of others without looking deep within to see your own?
How do we change those dark parts of ourselves?
Sometimes our lives are interrupted, even rudely interrupted, by people and events that awaken us to our own inadequacies. When that happens, don’t be stubborn about it. Pay attention. Sometimes those rude awakenings, while hard to endure, can become gifts to us. Change is not usually easy. But the growth that comes from it can be life-giving.
Or, you don’t have to wait to be rudely interrupted. You can take charge of your own growth. Take the time to read a book or watch a program about a culture you don’t understand. Reach out to make a friend who is different from you. Spend some time in prayer or meditation or therapy wrestling with some of the demons that lie deep within you, and ask God for healing.
Julie Long is associate pastor and minister of children and families at First Baptist Church of Christ, Macon, Georgia. This post is an excerpt of a sermon she preached at her church on August 17, 2014.
September 16th, 2014
The Lord is here.
Let us in the stillness of our hearts pray
that we may have the consciousnesses of your presence
and listen to your voice.
Let us in the stillness of our heart pray
that you will reveal to us the things that hinder our peace.
Let us in the stillness of our hearts pray
that we may be filled with your Holy Spirit
and empowered to witness fearlessly against evil
Let us in the stillness of our heart pray
to be conscious of what it means
when we say “Thy Kingdom come.”
September 12th, 2014
Today, Baptist Women in Ministry is pleased to introduce a new blog series, one that we have titled THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE. Each Friday, we will “interview” a woman serving in ministry, and going first in this fun series is Mary Alice Birdwhistell, a new member of the Baptist Women in Ministry’s Leadership Team.
Mary Alice, tell us about your current ministry position.
I serve as associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. Some days I spend my time at a hospital bedside, or a dinner table, or a baseball game, or a pulpit, or a local elementary school, or my purple office at church (yes, it’s purple!), or the corner table at my favorite coffee shop. The chance to share life with a beautiful congregation and community is a gift. Yes, it can be challenging, demanding, and messy work. Ministry is never 9-5. But it is an honor, and I consider each of these spaces of ministry to be incredibly sacred.
What have been some of your “bumps in the road” as a woman minister?
Most of the bumps in the road I have experienced related to my gender and my calling have been internal. It took me several years to work through the muck in my mind that was holding me back from living out who God was calling me to be.
I was afraid of what other people would think who might not understand my calling. I doubted whether a Baptist church would ever call me. I questioned what the Bible said about women, and what these texts mean for us today. I struggled to visualize myself in a role that, for the majority of my life, I had not seen women filling.
All of these thoughts and insecurities flooded my mind. However, I also began to receive the wisdom and affirmation of thoughtful professors. A beautiful congregation welcomed me into their fold, and although I could not see myself as a pastor, they saw me as one of their pastors. Over time, the whispers of the Spirit became stronger than the doubts of my mind, and I was given a strength that was greater than my own to pursue this calling God had planted within me.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
Courtney Allen began one of our recent BWIM mentoring sessions with the following statement: “We have to let God do God’s work with God’s people. Our job is to faithfully and compassionately walk alongside them.” I jotted it down on a sticky note and have looked at it every day since.
It is easy to feel the need to carry the weight of our churches on our shoulders and to become overwhelmed by situations that are not ours to carry. Our calling is to keep pointing to God and to faithfully and compassionately come alongside people wherever they are in their journey.
Who has inspired you in your ministry journey?
When I was a junior in college, I heard Julie Pennington-Russell preach at an event in Atlanta. It was one of the first times I had heard a woman preach, and I was drawn to the way her warm personality so genuinely communicated the gospel message. Julie gave a name and a face to a calling I had always felt within my soul but had struggled for so long to visualize for myself. Little did I know that the same church that had called Julie as their pastor would call me as one of their pastors just a few years later.
I had the opportunity to mentor with Julie at First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia, during my time in seminary. Through watching her live our her calling in such beautiful ways, she instilled in me a hope and a courage that I could do this, too. It is a gift to call her a mentor and friend in this crazy, beautiful life of pastoring that we now share.
September 11th, 2014
On Sunday, September 7, North Broad Baptist Church in Rome, Georgia threw a party to celebrate a 50th anniversary. Friends, family, and church members all showed up. There was a really big cake, handwritten cards, and lots of laughter.
The celebration was in honor of Prissy Tunnell. For the past fifty years, Prissy has served as a minister of the gospel–she has served in ten churches, four states, and three countries. She has ministered alongside church members with enthusiasm and joy. She has inspired, encouraged, and mentored younger ministers. And she has loved her family (as is evidenced by the fact that five grandchildren showed up for her party).
I am thankful, so thankful for Prissy’s fifty years of faithful service of God and God’s people. And I am thankful for the years ahead–as Prissy continues to serve with joy and enthusiasm at North Broad!
Blessings on you, Prissy Tunnell!
Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.
September 10th, 2014
The letter is tucked in my Bible. The stationery is a piece of lined paper raggedly torn from a notebook. It is wrinkled and had been folded many times to fit into a pocket. What strikes me every time I try to read it is how many times the word “sorry” appears. My heart breaks each time I read the first words: “I am [a] sorry man.”
He was a man who could not seem to apologize enough, but he was not a sorry man. He was a father who cared deeply for his children and his wife. But he felt like a sorry man because he did not have the money to feed them or keep the electricity on.
He came to our church one Sunday morning, making his sons sit quietly and be still through the worship service. Afterward he asked for help. His English was limited. My Spanish was not any better, but I wanted to hear as much of his story as possible.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched his sons. At first, I thought one had sat down to play on the ground, but I realized he was trying to repair one of his shoes, a flimsy flip-flop that was breaking apart.
In our simple two-language conversation, the father told me about searching for farm work. He handed me the letter, hoping it would help with communication.
Later, as they left the church, the littlest boy was trying to keep up while also keeping his flip-flop on.
As tiny and poor as the boy was, he was rich compared to the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing horrors of violence and exploitation that most of us can’t imagine in Central America and seeking the safety and hope of our country. This boy’s family was together and reasonably safe. Hope existed for a better time.
A recent headline reported that at least five children no longer had such hope. They were deported from the United States back to their native Honduras and had been murdered in the ongoing violence there.
As I wonder what we are to do, I remember another olive-skinned little boy who had to flee violence and probable death in his homeland, cross a border, and seek the safety of another country. He grew up to admonish his believers: “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
I returned the father’s letter to my Bible, praying that he comes to know that he is not a sorry man. He is a beloved child of God as are the children crossing the border. As we all are.
Stephanie Porter-Nichols is the associate pastor of Marion Baptist Church in Marion, Va. An earlier version of this reflection appeared in the Smyth County News & Messenger, where she is editor.
September 9th, 2014
Lord of my greatest fear,
Let in your peace.
Lord of my darkest shame,
Let in your grace.
Lord of my oldest grudge,
Let in your forgiveness.
Lord of my deepest anger,
Let in your love.
Lord of my lonelist moment,
Let in your presence.
Lord of my truest self—my all,
Let in your fullness.
–Alison Pepper in WomanPrayers by Mary Ford Grabowsky
September 4th, 2014
Five years ago I dreamed of having a blog–not one that I would write, but one that supporters, believers, and encouragers of Baptist Women in Ministry would write. And yes, sometimes dreams do come true.
Looking back now at five years of BWIM blogs, I am thankful for the good stories shared, the ministry challenges addressed, and fun photos uploaded. I am especially appreciative of Tammy Abee Blom and Brittany Riddle, who have written consistently and beautifully for BWIM over the past few years. Their contributions have been a source of inspiration and encouragement to many.
This summer new dreams for the blog began to take shape, and starting next week, you will see some of those dreams unfold. We have what I think is a really exciting weekly line-up!
On Mondays, we will continue to feature our THRIVE devotions–that are produced in partnership with NextSunday. Each month a new writer has guided us through a section of the Gospel of Matthew. We have four more months of THRIVE devotions for you, including ones written this month by Allison Kentle. For me, these devotions have been a great way to begin each week.
On Tuesdays, you can find encouragement from our weekly prayer. We have posted these for a while and will continue to do so. The prayers are usually brief, always inspirational. Some of the prayers were offered by great women from our faith’s history. Other prayers have been written and spoken by a Baptist woman minister. Hope you will take a moment each Tuesday and read the prayer.
Beginning next Wednesday, the BWIM blog will roll out a new blog series. This summer we made an appeal for blog posts, and we have been overwhelmed and blessed by the response. We asked. You all answered. We now have a beautiful collection of writings from women and men across the United States on a variety of topics, and those posts will be featured on Wednesdays. We are excited to have so many new voices to share with you!
On Thursdays, you will find DEAR ADDIE posts or a Pam Durso post. DEAR ADDIE is our wise woman of faith who seeks to provide good advice, helpful suggestions, and thoughtful answers to your questions. So if you are in need of encouragement and/or advice as you navigate ministry waters, send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally, Fridays! For Fridays, we have another new series. We will introduce you each Friday to a woman minister! This new series will be titled, THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE (and yes, we are cashing in on our earlier slogan and expanding the concept!) Over the next year, you will meet 52 amazing women–who are serving in a variety of ministry roles! The only drawback–so many women, only 52 Fridays each year!
I am so excited about this NEW BLOG ADVENTURE! (And thankful to Ashley Robinson and Meredith Stone–who dreamed with me)! Hope you will join the fun!
Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia. In her spare time, she teaches fun history classes at McAfee School of Theology and watches Jeopardy with her daughter. In her other spare time, she cheers for the New England Patriots but only because her son LOVES Tom Brady, and she encourages her husband in his new role as the Durso chef.
September 4th, 2014
War and genocide came to Eve’s village when she was just a teenager. Her world as she knew it was turned upside down. Eve and her family were forced to flee. Like so many women in our world, Eve never had the opportunity to attend school (women make up 2/3 of the population of illiterate people in our world according to the UN). Eve married at a young age and had two beautiful daughters named Lily and Jenny. She dreamed that one day her daughters would have the opportunity to attend school.
Eve moved to Uganda three years ago as a refugee and enrolled in English classes at our refugee community center. Unfortunately, Eve was continually verbally and physically abused by her husband. In the spring of 2013, Eve’s husband called her to inform her that he was divorcing her and no longer supporting her, Lily, or Jenny. Dismayed and desperate, Eve made a twenty-four-hour bus ride to attempt to reconcile with her husband. For the next eight months, her husband continually abused her. Then war started again in her area. Eve described hearing gunshots for several days. Some of these shots were right outside of her door. During this time, she was afraid for the her life and for the life of her daughters. She would lay on top of them to protect them and pray to Jesus who she had learned was the prince of peace and a God who loved and gave grace.
Through God’s provision, Eve found a way back to Uganda in January of this year. She was severely traumatized and discouraged. We met regularly to pray together and talk about things. In May, Eve was invited to participate in our women’s empowerment program. She had the opportunity to receive individual and group counseling, discipleship through nightly Bible study, English, life skills, and vocational and business training. Eve went through a significant period of healing and transformation. She loved learning about the Bible and excelled in her business and vocational training classes. Still, she continued to struggle with not being able to fully afford paying for her daughter’s school fees. She shared with a women’s ministry staff, “ I regret not being with my husband. I wish I endured the beatings. At least my girls would be able to be in school. I cannot support them.” Eve sold all of the jewelry that she had in order to enroll her girls in school. She is a mother who is determined to give her girls the opportunity for an education that she never had.
In the last month and a half, after transitioning from the program, Eve has successfully found ,a job and is now in safe housing. Still, her monthly wages are only enough to be able to afford transportation, food and rent for her family. At the end of July, a group of children from a church in Gainesville, Georgia, raised money during their VBS to help pay for Lily and Jenny’s school fees. Thanks to their hard work and generosity, Lily and Jenny will be able attend school during the upcoming term. I had the privilege of sharing this news with Eve one day last week. As I shared, tears came to my eyes as I saw this heavy burden being lifted off of Eve’s shoulders. A huge smile came across her face. She immediately wrapped her arms around me and said “Oh thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!! I am so happy!!!!
I am deeply grateful to those who have made it possible for Eve to attend the Women’s Empowerment program where she gained a deeper understanding of God’s love, hope, grace, and purpose for her life. I am also deeply grateful for the group of children from across the world who have now made it possible for Lily and Jenny to attend school, an opportunity not afforded to so many girls in our world.
God has provided through this group of children. Thanks to God’s provision, Eve’s dreams for her daughters has now come true.
Missy Ward Angalla serves in Uganda as a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel. She is the refugee women’s advocacy coordinator with Refuge and Hope International. This post first appeared on her blog, Missy in Uganda.