Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we’re excited to introduce Diane Hill.
Diane, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My ministry journey began when I was a child and found home and family in my church. Those good people embraced me, affirmed me, and nurtured me. During those years, I was not able to put into words the direction I was feeling called. Even when I entered seminary after college, I could not identify a particular calling, but I knew I was on the right path.
Part of my reluctance to identify a calling was due, I expect, to the fact that I had very little exposure to women in ministry. I was ordained at Knollwood Baptist Church in Winton-Salem, North Carolina in 1976 after completing two years of clinical pastoral education. At that time I was married and committed to blending my calling with that of my husband’s. We served as counselors at Mars Hill College. Over the next few years, we moved several times as he served a variety of churches. Finding fulfilling ministry opportunities became more difficult, so I worked on my credentials for school counseling and served in public schools for ten years.
During that time, I was fortunate to join the staff at Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina, first as a part-time staff member but then as a full-time minister with adults. What a great twenty-five years I have had here! This segment of my professional life has been more satisfying than I ever could have imagined. I have said many times that I am doing what I’d choose to do if I didn’t need to be paid!
I recently turned seventy and am noticing a bit of physical tiredness that I’ve not known before. Reluctantly, I will retire in a few months. It will not be an easy transition for me.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My joys in ministry have been many. The richest joys have to do with walking alongside folks. It’s a huge privilege to be invited to share life at an intimate level with others. Not many people get to do so on a regular basis! Spending time in hospital rooms, standing next to the beds of loved ones who are dying, welcoming babies, whether healthy or struggling; dedicating babies and seeing them mature to young adults; sorting out and trying to make sense of bad news; struggling with those seeking to understand their sexual identity—all of these situations and many others provide opportunities for sharing life in amazing and satisfying ways. Especially for these gifts, I am grateful.
It has been a joy to serve in the church where Addie Davis, the first Southern Baptist woman ordained to the gospel ministry, was ordained, and to serve as a worship leader alongside her when Watts Street celebrated the fortieth anniversary of her ordination. It has been a joy to serve in a church that led in the early days of the struggle for racial equity. It has been a joy, and an honor, to take part in our process of becoming a Welcoming and Affirming congregation, a long and careful process that began in 1992 and concluded in 2009.
It has been a joy to minister alongside the Watts Street saints who take seriously their calling as ministers, as agents of God’s powerful grace and healing in our troubled world. And what a joyful gift to share this ministry with my amazing colleagues, both men and women!
I also find joy in planning, creating, and leading worship. I am especially moved by the opportunity to serve communion, remembering as I do the centuries of saints who have taken part in similar services all around the world.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
The greatest challenge has been finding satisfying and challenging ministry positions while paying attention to the needs of my family. The time at Watts Street has been extremely positive. The congregation, my colleagues, and the ministry opportunities all make my heart sing!
Tell us about your connection to Baptist Women in Ministry and what the organization meant to you when it was formed in 1983.
When I was ordained I had very little experience with or knowledge of other ordained women. I was on the early board of BWIM, which was at that time named Southern Baptist Women in Ministry. I remember traveling to Louisville for a meeting in the home of Molly Marshall. I also hosted the group in a friend’s home at Kitty Hawk when we lived in Elizabeth City. It was reassuring and inspiring to me to be with other women who were working out their callings as ministers of the gospel.
Sometime in the mid-1980s, I took my young daughter Mary Elizabeth to a SBWIM meeting at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I remember clearly the welcoming reception in the home of Lou and Randall Lolley. What a gift to witness Mary Elizabeth’s recent completion of her Master of Divinity degree from Duke’s Baptist House of Studies!
I am grateful for this organization and its support of others considering, starting, struggling, and flourishing in ministry.