Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Tillie Duncan.
Tillie, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served.
Thirsty! I was so very thirsty. I was sitting in a seminar on multi-family housing ministry. The desire to be a pastor manifested itself physically. I could see no way of fulfilling this specific call of God on my life. I was a middle-aged woman, a wife, and a mother to three sons. Living into God’s call was not a new concept to me. I grew up with a mother who told me, “God has something special for you to do.” So there was always an awareness of ministry in whatever I did: public school teaching; helping out friends with child care; and volunteering in the schools my children attended. Of course that awareness of mission came with whatever leadership positions I held in churches and in associations.
My first job as a professional minister was to serve as chaplain in two mobile home parks, where I led worship services, conducted children’s programs, and oversaw a food pantry. When missions minister Gerald Worrell, with whom I was working, left for other work, Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church asked me to move into his position, overseeing their entire missions program. After being with Pritchard, for about 5 years, I took a three-month sabbatical which I spent teaching in Honduras. I came home to an exciting, beyond-my-imagination opportunity. Sardis Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, was seeking a part-time associate pastor to work side-by-side with their pastor, Tim Moore. He was transitioning to part-time in order to spend more time with the family’s triplets. My job description changed over the eighteen years I served as one of the pastors at Sardis. Teaching, preaching, ministering with various age groups, newsletter duties, and pastoral care were areas which waxed and waned with various staff configurations.
What is the thing you love most about ministry?
What most gives me pleasure in ministry is interaction with others. I especially enjoy teaching when there is interested participation, bold questions, and insightful contributions. Having a group mixed with those who have “teethed on the Bible” and those who are reading it for the first time opens the eyes of all participants and provides for serendipity moments.
What have been the hardest challenges you have encountered?
The most difficult challenges in my ministry came during Sardis Baptist Church’s year of transition between the resignation of long-time (nineteen years) pastor Tim Moore and the calling of Bob Stillerman. As acting head of staff, I added hours to my work week and stress to my equilibrium. Congregants’ fears for the future manifested themselves in various ways from temporary withdrawal to antagonistic confrontation. However, with the help of coach Scott Waggoner, the congregation was able to work through most of their anxiety and move forward.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
The best you one can be is to be oneself. Just because the person you work with is a popular preacher doesn’t mean you should copy that style. Your own style can be just as engaging and inspiring.
What has been your source of joy and given you a sense of affirmation?
What has been a source of joy for me throughout my pastoral ministry has been the association with pastors Tim Moore and Bob Stillerman. They always regarded me as a peer. Their genuine inclusive spirit has been a source of encouragement and affirmation.