Blessing Central Seminary’s Graduating Women by Day Lane

Day Lane offers words of wisdomMid-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.”

Molly Marshall blessing Kymberly QuarnThe 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 Blessings Gerri Sheets-Howardin 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 mtmarshall@cbts.edu 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.

 

 

 

Words of Gratitude from Krista Manuel

Krista ManuelApril 29, 2013

 

Hi Pam,

I wanted to let you know that I was ordained to ministry this past Sunday, April 28, by Tomahawk Baptist Church  in Richmond, Virginia.  It was a most sacred and wonderful experience and I personally wanted to say THANK YOU to BWIM for the incredibly helpful worship and ordination planning resources you provided on your website. I used them and read the book you recommended, Ordination, as I prepared for my ordination council and the service itself.  It was a most incredible experience.

I want to thank you for the support of Baptist Women in Ministry, for without your encouragement (although I doubt you knew it!) I would not have had the courage to pursue my calling into vocational ministry.  Thankfully, I was permitted to serve my seminary internship under the incredible leadership of a most gifted senior pastor, Rev. Mary Richerson Mann, who not only exemplified a model of what a woman preacher can be, but her grace, leadership, and gentle spirit have truly inspired me to be a faith-filled servant of God as I follow my own calling into ministry.  Thank you for the support of BWIM.

As I anticipate graduation this May 2013 from Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, I am reminded that I am going into ministry not on my own, but I am sustained by the network of prayers and encouragement from women across the country who have been serving faithfully and providing examples and encouragement to me over these past five years that I have been in school.  All this is to say that I appreciate BWIM and what we as women in ministry stand for, the good works that we do, and the resources and encouragement that we can give to support and sustain one another along the journey.

Thank you for being a part of my formation!

Krista Manuel

The Language of Tenacity by Christy Foldenauer

I’ve been learning the language of tenacity in seminary this year. I’m enrolled in ancient Greek.

Many of you will understand when I tell you that two things make me crazy. The first is when a friend or well-meaning person says jokingly, “It’s all Greek to me!” The other is when I meet someone who actually has found the Greek language to be a breeze. Recently I met someone who makes his Christmas lists in Greek to keep his family from knowing what he is purchasing. Never mind that he took the language a decade ago. People like that confound me.

I am somewhere in the middle with this language. It’s not “all Greek” to me, but Greek has certainly not come with ease. As I prepare to enter a second semester, I’ve realized that my first semester of Greek taught me much more than just the language. It turns out that learning Greek is making me a better person, and a better mom.

If you are scratching your head at that one, let me first paint the picture of just how difficult the language has been for me. I remember sometime around the third week. I realized that I wasn’t “getting” any of what I’d read or learned so far. Nothing was taking root for me. I started to doubt my ability to succeed.

Week four brought my most embarrassing moment as a seminarian (to date), when I raised my hand to ask the translation of a word I hadn’t been able to decipher, despite my best efforts. The answer? Jesus. Seriously, the answer was Jesus. (Go ahead and laugh; it’s funny.) At this point, I decided Greek was really not going well.

I vividly remember a conversation with my husband about six weeks in to class. As I drove to school, I fought the urge to turn around. “I cannot do this anymore,” I told my husband, my voice laced with desperation. He assured me that not only could I do it, but I should. “This is not the time to give up,” he urged. I consented. I love that man.

There was the day that a sweet friend asked me at break how I was doing. Unable to control my own feelings of potential disastrous outcomes, I cried. Right there, in the third row of the classroom, sandwiched in between a young guy who had Greek undergrad and was floating through (he probably made his Christmas list in Greek, for all I know) and a man well past sixty who might have had an even harder time with the language than me, I got teary-eyed on my friend. I know she’s sorry she asked. That’s the thing about seminary–you can’t go there feeling anything but great and leave without being asked. Ministers-to-be have a homing device for hurting people. And I was hurting– suffering under the mighty weight of Greek.

But I gutted it out. And I’m going back for more. In the end, my grade proved that my round-the-clock study and hard work was worth the effort, and I am so much richer for taking on something that proved almost impossible.

For starters, I am a far more empathetic parent when my child struggles with a concept. My oldest child finds math as hard as I find Greek, but we’ve been bonding over our inadequacies. When I told him about the day I cried in class, he looked at me with new eyes. “Really??” he asked. “Really, yep, I did. I got that frustrated. Do you ever feel that way?” What followed was a heart understanding that would never have existed without Greek.

This experience has also been a chance to model for my kids that moms can (and should!) try difficult things. My daughter sees me managing our family dynamic and challenging school work. I wonder if one day she will do the same. My mother did, and I still remember grad school projects that consumed some of her evenings. Having goals and going for them is part of being a strong woman and a good example for my kids, as long as I can maintain some semblance of balance between home and school.

At the close of my first year of seminary, on my last paper in Old Testament, my professor noted that she appreciated my tenacity. How I’ve treasured those words. I hid them away in my heart, like Mary.

You see, I’ve thought of myself as audacious many times, but not really a tenacious woman. This professor helped to redefine the way I see my call and gifts, and learning Greek has continued to develop my tenacity.

So I am learning ancient Greek, and Greek is teaching me the language of tenacity. And those two new languages make all the effort worthwhile.

Christy Foldenauer is a speaker for retreats and services and a student at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Learn about her ministry and read her blog.

Semper Fidelis by Aimee Day

Semper fidelis has been the motto of the United States Marine Corps since 1883.  It is a Latin phrase that means “always faithful.”  The phrase has been on my heart a lot lately because of two journeys–one that is my sister’s and brother-in-law’s and one that is mine.

My sister married a Marine three years ago, and he is currently serving our nation on his second tour of duty, this time in Afghanistan.  Since the day he joined up, semper fidelis has been a part of our family and a way of life for my sister and her husband (or as my sister says, more accurately, semper “gumby”–always flexible!)   The phrase, however, has become a more personal motto for me as I begin a new journey.  I am going to seminary.

Whenever I tell someone I am going to seminary, I am almost certain to get two questions: (1) why are you going to seminary? and (2) what are you going to do after seminary?  Until lately, I have found both of those questions difficult to answer.  One answer, however, is becoming clearer and clearer.

I am using the term “journey” to describe the next three years that I will spend at seminary.  And, well, I guess you could say I am in the “packing and preparing” stage of that journey.  I expect there will be many stages to come and many lessons to learn.   But, in the “packing and preparing” stage I have learned one very important lesson–the God we serve is always faithful to those who will follow the call that has been placed before them.  There have been many questions and roadblocks in this stage of the journey.  Where will I live?  Will I find a roommate?  Where will I work?  How will I afford rent, tuition, and books?  But no matter what seemingly dead end I run into, God has always provided a way.

So, while I still can’t tell you what I will be doing after seminary.  I can tell you why I am going.  I considered going to seminary because I felt a call on my life.  I am going to seminary because God has provided a way.  And I believe with all of my heart that God will continue to provide.  I know this because the lover of my soul has never failed me yet.  My God is always faithful.

Semper fidelis–not just for the Marines.

Aimee Day is a first-year student at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia, and she is also the newest staff member of Baptist Women in Ministry. She will serve as the executive assistant. God is indeed faith and provides a way–for this next step forward for BWIM and for Aimee.

Finding Mentors in Unexpected Places by Christy Foldenauer

The first time I visited my seminary library, which is esteemed as one of the best in the country, I was underwhelmed. The problem wasn’t with the books, the organization, the staff, or the systems. Quite simply, I felt totally out of place.

Nevermind that my undergraduate work was over a decade ago. Nevermind that I couldn’t remember how library cataloging worked. I found these deficits surmountable, with a bit of work.

In the reading room where I settled in for several hours of work, I joined six men. Five of them could have been my grandfather. None of them acknowledged my presence.

“Where are all the women?,” I thought. Just then I saw one! She settled in to a seat in the library lobby, and through the glass doors, I could see her pull out a Christian romance novel. She checked her watch. She was waiting for her husband to finish his work.

I took a deep breath and hunkered down with a dark blue commentary to begin my first exegetical paper. Several moments later, my focus wandered, and I saw for the first time the exquisite oil paintings lining the upper half of the wall in the reading room. There were double-digit men. There was a painting of one woman. I felt for her.

Sometimes, I feel I am her.

When I have that feeling, I’ve learned to venture into the stacks. It seems unlikely that I’d stumble on women there, but I do! Loads of women! Their wisdom fills the pages of many books. Their insights are profound.

Last night alone I was mentored by a nun who spoke to me for an hour about creativity. I followed that up with a session about becoming a stronger woman with a counselor whose knowledge astounded me. She showed me things I’d never considered before. She asked me some very hard questions. I’m still grappling with her this morning, and glad I do not have to pay by the hour for her guidance. I’m meeting these women on the printed page, where they bare their souls and their passion spills out through their words. They are profound and gifted. They are gutsy and inspiring.

The women of the library may be less celebrated (for now) than their male counterparts, but their work is speaking to me. These brave women are mentoring me, though they may never know it. Their written work is shaping my ministry.

Yes, I’ve found my place at seminary, kneeling between the towering stacks. Perhaps one day I’ll also be found in their midst, as a woman with something to say to future generations.

Christy Foldenauer is a speaker for retreats and services and a student at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Learn about her ministry and read her blog.

My Journey as a PRISSY Preacher: Part Three of a Three-Blog Series By Mary Alice Birdwhistell

 

In the fall of 2009, I moved away from everyone and everything I knew in Kentucky to begin studying for my Master of Divinity degree at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas. Before moving, I had applied to be the children’s minister at Calvary Baptist Church, also in Waco.  I actually assumed the church would want someone older and more experienced, so I didn’t seriously think that I would get the position. I moved to Waco on a Saturday, visited Calvary on Sunday, interviewed on Tuesday, and was offered the position on Thursday.

Obviously, I was blown away. Learning to navigate a completely new life at a brand new school and in a new part of the country was overwhelming, and now I was also going to add a new job at a new church, all within less than a week of moving to the hundred degree heat of Waco. The more I learned about the church, however, the more I felt God calling me there. I learned that Calvary was the one of the first Baptist churches in the state of Texas to have a female senior pastor. Although she was no longer serving there when I arrived, Julie Pennington-Russell had left quite a legacy at that church, and affirming women in ministry is still important to Calvary today. I also I learned that Calvary sees all of its ministerial staff as pastors who are involved in worship planning, preaching, leading the Lord’s Supper, and ministering in various areas of the life of the church. The idea both scared and thrilled me at the same time. By the next week, I had accepted the position.

On my first Sunday to preach at Calvary, the church was blown away when I told them that this would be my first time to officially “preach” in a Baptist church. But I was so relieved that that my desire to preach wasn’t something I would have to hide at Calvary; preaching was a part of my life that I could finally publically acknowledge and pursue. After that first sermon, I was moved to tears and so thankful and amazed that God had brought me into this incredible community of faith.

In the winter of 2010 I participated in the inaugural Festival of Young Preachers in Louisville, Kentucky, an initiative led by my mentor and professor Dwight Moody. I was one of nineteen women to preach at the festival out of the ninety-two 92 young preachers from different traditions and denominations participating in the event. A pastor came up to me one day during the festival and said, “Of all the sermons I’ve heard today, I will remember yours.” His words stuck with me. I realized that God was starting to use other people to affirm me as a preacher. Preaching wasn’t something hidden or secret about me anymore. In a sense, I was coming out of the closet as a preacher, a prissy preacher, and I liked it.

Currently, I’m in my fourth semester at Truett Seminary. I’m taking my first course in preaching, and as you can probably imagine, I love it. Each day, God speaks to me in new ways and encourages me in my calling. This preaching class has definitely led me into a season of discerning God’s calling on my life, and I’m so thankful for the ministers, professors, family members, and friends who are walking alongside me in this process.

At this point, I can say a few things with certainty: I’m open to God’s calling on my life and am fervently praying about it. I know that God could very well be calling me to be a preacher. When I preach, I’m reminded that I’m doing at least part of what God has created me to do. I also know that I love the Baptist tradition, and I’m committed to it. I am not willing to leave the Baptist church in order to preach.

I do believe with all my heart that God DOES call women to be preachers. And we don’t need to try to be like men in order to do that. Sometimes, God can even use a petite, red-headed girl who wears pearls and dresses to preach his Word. I feel called to preach with the unique voice that God has given me, and I believe the feminine voice is one that the church desperately needs to hear, along with a diversity of other beautiful voices from within the community of faith.

So I am continuing to pray, humbled to preach, and excited to see where God leads me on my journey as a “prissy” preacher.

 

Mary Alice Birdwhistell is a student at George W. Truett Theological Seminary and minister to children at Calvary Baptist Church, Waco, Texas.

Mixing Motherhood and Seminary by Christy Foldenauer

When I decided to enroll in seminary, it was with some trepidation. I wasn’t concerned so much about the academic requirements, or how I would manage biblical languages and exegesis. I was concerned for my ability to manage seminary with kids.

My husband and I have three children, ages six, four, and two. I reminded God as I moved through the application process at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond of the three little ones counting on my kisses and love, my presence. Could I really add seminary, even part time, into the mix?

I have encouraging news: Moms can not only survive, but thrive in seminary. Here are three reasons women with children should not wait for an empty nest to pursue a seminary education:

1.) Multi-tasking is already second nature. When the syllabus is distributed in class, I know that I will juggle it alongside a full life. In my first semester of seminary, my youngest battled prolonged stomach woes, my middle child broke her arm, and my oldest ventured into first grade and had homework that required my attention. It was tough! I’ve learned to start early on my own assignments, so that I am assured of finishing on time no matter what comes my way. Seminary isn’t my whole life, it is one part of my life, and ultimately that brings a healthy balance.

2.) Moms appreciate seminary as an opportunity to pursue a personal passion. Let’s face it, moms spend hours pursuing the things that are important to their children, from ballet to basketball. Moms are there because their children are important to them, and so they purposefully enter their children’s world. For me, seminary is an opportunity to enter a world that is mine. Because it is a passion, learning gives me great joy. In turn, I am a better mother.

3.) A mother’s presence will challenge, and even change, peer perceptions. My laptop screen saver rotates through pictures of my kids. Occasionally, the pictures scroll at seminary. It never fails that I am approached by someone following the class who asks, “How many kids do you have again?” and then, “And you’re here, doing this?” I have become aware through these conversations that my presence in the classroom is shifting the paradigm of many soon-to-be-ministers.  I am helping to shape the way they will relate to moms in ministry. It motivates me not only to continue, but to bring my best every day.

So to all the moms out there, let me encourage you to follow God’s call, wherever God leads. I’ve heard it said, “God calls us in spite of our circumstances.” I would tweak that a bit: God calls us because of our circumstances. God is well aware of our situation and demands. If God calls you to seminary, God will sustain you there. What a promise!

Christy Foldenauer is a speaker for retreats and services and a student at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Learn about her ministry and read her blog.

Kids in Seminary: Making it Work by Melissa Florer-Bixler

I’m half way through my first semester at Princeton Theological Seminary . . . with a two-year-old child. I’ve completed all my work. We are generally happy. Here are some of the ways we’ve made it work.

1. Accept your limitations. No, you won’t make it to that 4 p.m. philosophy colloquium. Zizek lecture? You will so not be there. Your experience is going to be different than many others, but that’s okay. Your life will be enriched in different ways as well. Some days you won’t get all the reading done. Do write all the papers and definitely show up for class.

2. Remember that you bring something amazing to the table. All those maternal references in Augustine? You get that. Discipline, discipleship, love, fear, commitment, ceaseless devotion, gut wrenching selflessness, care for the helpless, the recognition of our helplessness. What is motherhood apart from these things? These are also the defining characteristics of the Christian life. And you’ve been in the 24-hour a day school for those things for a while. People are going to stay stupid things. You’re going to get push back, especially if you try to make changes to the way things have always been done. Remember that you are a gift and you bring the seminary the gift of your presence.

3. Reading week is your friend. Use it wisely. Write as much as you can and read ahead.

4. If you have the option of a summer field ed vs. a year long field ed, try to make summer field ed work. Field education sucks time out of your week like nothing else. Our field ed office is incredibly accommodating, and I bet others are as well.

5. Fish around for the right balance of classes. Talk to other people about their experiences with particular professors. I think this is a good breakdown: 1 class with difficult/intense testing, 1 class with intensive/extensive reading, 1 class that is conceptually challenging but low work, and 1 class that you consider easy or working from an innate strength. The reading will eat your time, the testing will use up your stress quota, the difficult class will challenge you without overwhelming, and the class that builds on your academic strength will help your self-esteem and sense of purpose.

6. You get two times to work: nap time and when your kid goes to sleep at night. So think about whether you are disciplined enough to get everything you need to in those hours. Don’t try to do work when you should be interacting with your child. This will only build resentment and stress. If you do need more time, think about getting seriously regimented. I know one family where the dad goes to bed at 8 p.m. every night so that he can wake up at 3:30 a.m. to study. You can do this. You just have to be willing to do what it takes.

7. Find the other women (or in my case the one woman) who is going through seminary with a preschool aged child. Get their lay of the land and their specific tips for how they make it work.

8. CO-PARENTING. Were this not stream of conscious with low editing due to limited time to write this would be number 1. You cannot do seminary and young children with a strict sense of gender roles, particularly gender roles that divide household and family care along gender lines. Now, I still clock in for the Second Shift, but I also highly depend on my husband to parent with me.

9. Babysitting co-ops. Find one. Establish one.

10. Don’t give into your loneliness. Having a young child in seminary can be an isolating experience. There aren’t a lot of married women in general in my program. As I mentioned before, there is only one with a preschool aged child and only two people (the others are men) who provide primary care for their children in the afternoon. The system is not set up for you. This is frustrating and exhausting. But it only will change if you are the voice of change. Get in there and give ‘em hell, mama!

Melissa Florer-Bixler is a first-year seminary student at Princeton Theological Seminary, who blogs at Sign on the Window.