Mid-May this year, Central Baptist Theological Seminary held its annual ceremony to bless women graduates. The new graduates received brightly colored ribbons representing the colors of the liturgical seasons, and they were blessed by women who have been serving in multiple fields of ministry—as chaplains, pastors, seminary board members, and educators.
The “seasoned” seminary alums encouraged and affirmed each new graduate, speaking from unique perspectives imbued with the wisdom of experience:
- “Assemble a group of peers in ministry. Support one another.”
- “Women are notorious caretakers. Never stop seeking to move toward the impossible balance. Take good care of yourself.”
- “Love the people in the communities you serve. Love them well. Everything else is secondary.”
- “Set aside time for family and friendships and activities to rejuvenate you. Create time for fun.”
The graduating women were encouraged to move forward with confidence in pursuit of their vocational calling, especially when the authenticity of their calling might fall under suspicion, challenge, or the ridicule of others. Along with the encouragement never to capitulate under these kinds of stresses, a dear sister offered the solemn challenge: “If you choose not to act on your calling, you hurt me, you hurt your sisters, you hurt all of God’s people who need to experience your unique, God-given gifts.”
With very few exceptions, formations of human communities across time were organized with males at the center of, and in control of the sacred mythologies, the sacred spaces, and the ways that each was interpreted and celebrated. The women have been at best, marginal to, at worst, excluded from the ways the divine in community is understood, celebrated, and remembered.
Central’s president, Molly T. Marshall, explained that our gathering was not designed to exclude men, but to create a space in which women bless women because in ministry, “men are often blessed in ways that women are not.” Correspondingly, women face particular struggles in ministry that men do not. Creating a space to talk about the influential, meaningful, and essential presence of women in ministry is important as is acknowledging the obstructions and frustrations that we often encounter in our work, simply because we are women. We are not alone in the joys and challenges of being women in leadership. We have a sisterhood. We are blessed.
Day Lane graduated from Central Seminary in 2002 with a Master of Divinity degree and is currently a Ph.D. student in the Religious Studies Program of University of Missouri-Kansas City. She recently participated in a tradition begun by Central’s president, Molly T. Marshall and the women in ministry student group at Central Seminary. The tradition has expanded in recent years to include alumnae of Central and women trustees of the seminary.
In the fall of 2014 Central Baptist Theological Seminary will welcome 10 women for a Master of Divinity track that will specialize in leadership development for women. In addition to traditional areas such as biblical and theological studies, homiletics and pastoral care, and the practice of ministry, this track will offer specialized coaching in leadership, financial management, and spiritual creativity.
Please contact President Molly T. Marshall directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend a qualified woman you know who is called to ministry. Central wants to build a remarkable cohort of women for this new horizon in theological education. Candidates will receive a full tuition scholarship, a global immersion experience in Myanmar, and personal coaching from women leaders who have pierced the stained glass ceiling.