Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Diane Lipsett.
Diane, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My ministry path has been none too linear—winding, branching, sometimes looping back. One pattern, however, has persisted – a weaving together of academy and church.
I grew up attending mainline Protestant churches in scattered places as my family moved frequently – western Canada to Australia, Alaska to Texas, then back to Canada. In my teens, I became involved in a Pentecostal church and had an early sense of being called to teach. My twenties held education and youth ministries—vibrant and life changing, especially youth ministry in Toronto. I worshipped and served in a mostly Jamaican-Canadian church and coordinated youth camps and conventions for 25 truly multicultural congregations – West Indian, English-Canadian, French-Canadian, Haitian, Korean, and Greek. My church family (or families) taught me deeply about realities facing immigrants, about race and ethnicity, but most essentially, about joy and friendship.
I was also pursuing graduate studies – first in English, then in theology. I became a mom, my family moved to Virginia for job opportunities for my husband, and I found my way into a healthy Baptist congregation. Church teaching continued, along with freelance writing and editing, but parenting was central. My boys taught me deeply to sense God’s goodness in a swirl of mystery.
Space and time opened for me to do my PhD at UNC Chapel Hill in Ancient Mediterranean Religions, specializing in New Testament and Christian Origins. Then my sons and I moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where I was blessed to remarry and to teach for a decade at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity with remarkable students and colleagues.
In the past few years, intertwined vocation in academy and church has become explicitly bi-vocational. At Salem College, I’m professor of Religion and currently chair our Religion and Philosophy department. At Knollwood Baptist Church—the congregation which ordained me as a Baptist minister—I’m privileged to serve as minister of faith formation and education. My past and present relationships with others from many parts of the world have flowed into new investments in welcoming newcomers arriving as refugees.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
The question is big, but two partial answers come to mind– (a) those moments in teaching that tease out curiosity, insight, and true conversation, and (b) relationships that honor difference as sacred gift.
What have been your greatest sources of challenge in ministry?
Learning to respect the limits and rhythms of time – I’m old enough now that you’d think I’d be better at that.
What advice would you give to a young woman starting out in ministry?
I do pray that many young women will have more linear paths in ministry. I rejoice when I see young women with opportunities and mentors that support straighter lines to ministerial leadership. But I would also say, if and when the path bends and twists, trust it. Sacred encounter, deep change, and growth in ministerial capacity can happen in what may seem to be vocational pauses.