Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Trisha Miller Manarin.
Trisha, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
At the age of thirteen, I experienced a call to ministry. My Southern Baptist church in Pennsylvania had ordained a woman, and there were strong women who filled our pulpit. I simply was responding in obedience—saying “yes” to what God was calling me to do. Wasn’t that the “good Baptist” thing to do in 1983?
It’s been an interesting, exciting, disappointing and joy-filled adventure since that day. The issue of being female was not named until I traveled south to attend college. A group of us decided to form a Bible study and I will never forget when a female in our group said, “I think if boys are present, they should lead the study.” I was shocked—it was 1988! I realized the path was not clear for me as it was for some Samford University male friends who never doubted if they would be called to be a senior pastor.
I chose to attend Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (an American Baptist seminary, though ecumenical). The American Baptists welcomed women and did not wonder if a “boy” should lead. Many of my professors were women! I received the first-ever Cooperative Baptist Fellowship seminarian scholarship and was grateful to receive it every year while I was in seminary.
In 1997, Trinity Baptist Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a Southern Baptist church, ordained me. Some might say I have paved my own path for other women to follow, but I’m not sure the image fits. Instead, I’d say I’ve been sent soaring to new heights with loops and turns, nose-dives, whirls, flops, and ascents.
God has opened doors for me to serve as a missionary in Africa, Asia, and the US as well as in urban churches, suburban and rural churches, poor churches and rich churches, with prison inmates and diplomats, multi-cultural and mono-culture churches. I have preached behind large pulpits, rescue mission lecterns, and have been silenced to a pew. I have been rejected only to be welcomed by a United Methodist Church, though I remained a Baptist. I have been blessed with a husband and children who are wonderful partners. I have chosen to walk away from a toxic congregation and I have been embraced by loving congregants, healthy churches, and the global church.
I never imagined I would be a denominational leader as I serve as the executive coordinator of the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Baptist Fellowship where I pastor pastors and empower and equip churches. I never imagined I would be a seminary professor as I journey with students at the John Leland Center. Directing the choir at our church, Calvary Hill Baptist Church, is a joy and delight, as well as an opportunity to hone some rusty skills from my college days! I am forever grateful to serve as the coordinator for the division of mission, evangelism, and justice of the Baptist World Alliance. It is a humbling and amazing experience serving alongside Baptist sisters and brothers from all over the world!
There is no clear, straight line to my ministry journey. It continues to bring surprises but I am humbled by the doors, albeit nontraditional, which have been opened for me.
What do you find most rewarding in your ministry?
The gift of being welcomed into other’s lives deeply feeds my inmost being – whether it is with a congregant in a local church, a deacon body trying to discern how to get “unstuck,” a leadership team dreaming new dreams, a search committee looking for guidance, a minister needing a minister, a student stretching in new directions, a group seeking a new vision, or a sister or brother in need from across the ocean. I can’t imagine having to do the same thing day after day. In ministry, I am invited into some of the most sacred moments in life and death, and it is an amazing privilege. To pray with those who are weeping and rejoicing; to dance and shout with those who are celebrating; to speak truth when “nice” won’t cut it and trust the call God has placed on my life; to forge new paths or simply soar to new heights—what joy, what fun, what responsibility—thanks be to God for these gifts.
How do you stay healthy, physically and spiritually?
I eat healthily and cook mostly from scratch, but I must admit I am not always the best at staying physically fit. I often struggle to find the right rhythm.
I am part of a women’s clergy group which has been meeting together for over six years. This group has been my lifeline. These women have walked with me and supported me in all aspects of life. They are the ones who helped open my eyes and walked with me as I resigned from a ministry position.
A few days a year, I try to take some time for silence and reflection. Sometimes, I sleep or read or soak in a tub. Sometimes, I journal or walk, and I often sing. My coach has encouraged me to take seven-minute sabbaticals. It is a wonderful challenge!
What is the best ministry advice you have been given?
Neville Callam, the general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, regularly reminds me and all of the staff, “this is God’s ministry and God will see things through.”