Through all the seminary lectures I soaked in, all the feminist-language celebrations of worship I’ve planned and participated in, all the arguments (I mean, respectful discussions) I’ve undertaken about the role of women in the church . . . through all those things, I’ve been sitting on a messy little secret.

I like crafts.

I consider myself a feminist; I’m an ordained woman, a writer, a preacher, a communion celebrant… and I’m a knitter, a quilter, and a scrapbooker. I feel called to put words to paper, to stand at a pulpit, to offer blessing and service, and I feel called to have busy hands, paint-y hands, ink-and-glue-y hands.

In seminary I clung to the image of God as Create-or, and turned again and again to Exodus 31:1-3, in which God calls Bezalel of the tribe of Judah specifically to do handiwork for the building and outfitting of the temple: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in every kind of craft. . . ” But was there room in that calling for scraps of paper and ribbon, for the hum of a sewing machine, for rows of evenly knitted stitches?

Then recently I had an epiphany, thanks not to a volume of heady theology but to a knitting book. Author and designer Debbie Stoller wrote about her own grappling with being a feminist knitter, taking to task the typical feminist standpoint that tends to laud the participation of women in traditionally male activities while denigrating the traditionally female. She writes, “All those people who looked down on knitting—and housework and housewives—were not being feminist at all. In fact, they were being anti-feminist, since they seemed to think that only those things that men did, or had done, were worthwhile. Why couldn’t we all—women and men alike—take the same kind of pride in the work our mothers had always done as we did in the work of our fathers?”

When I read Stoller’s words, I realized I’d been doing it myself: feeling accomplishment and pride in the roles women have increasingly taken in Baptist life and in the church, while at the same time harboring a sense of embarrassment that I just plain like to sew, knit, scrap, paint . . . craft. I’ve even heard myself do it when I meet someone new; I speak with passion and pride about ministry, about preaching and writing, and then I lower my voice and confide with a bit of “aw shucks” self-mockery about my enjoyment of yarn and fabric and pretty papers.

Debbie Stoller’s thoughts also reminded me of my experience at the Baptist Women in Ministry retreat in Nashville about ten years ago, at which the current mission statement was built. We spent a long time discussing how that statement should and could incorporate two realities: one, that BWIM specifically supported women called to vocational, ordained ministries, and two, that BWIM also wanted to stand for women in all their roles within the church—from cookie-baking to baby-rocking to Sunday-School-teaching to preaching. We felt the same tension that Stoller discusses between a feminism that says “women can do the jobs men have always done” and a feminism that says “the jobs women have always done are valued just as highly as those of men.”

We are called to “partnership with God” as creative beings, to reach our hands out to all the earth even as God does—shaping it like clay, painting it with color, blessing it with benedictions, offering it holy nourishment. And we bring all our “gifts and graces” to the divine workshop—whether we are at the table breaking bread, or in the kitchen baking it; whether we are placing liturgical stoles around our necks for worship, or painstakingly stitching bright thread into cloth; whether we are knitting together the lives of people into a congregation, or strands of wool into warmth for winter. We are called, heart and head and even paint-y, glue-y hands, to serve.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in San Antonio, Texas. She blogs at, and enjoys crafting with her two sons, who are anxious to learn to knit.