As a woman of faith, I’d like to share with you a few of the many times when I have felt and responded to God urgings. As I approach my 90th year, I look back on these experiences with gratefulness and joy.
Spending 30 years of my life as a teacher in Georgia’s schools wasn’t in my original game plan prior to 1953. I had expected to begin graduate studies to become an international missionary after graduating from the University of Mary Hardin- Baylor, Belton, Texas. I can thank the late Dr. M. Theron Rankin, executive secretary of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, who was then holding a spiritual enrichment seminar on my college campus, for altering my path. He suggested it would be wise for me to have some work experiences before going to graduate school. I took his advice and left Texas and headed home to Savannah, Georgia, where I’d been accepted as a sixth-grade teacher on a provisional teacher’s certificate.
I felt I’d made the right choice to become a teacher when on my first day the principal said to me, “I wish I had a camera. You’re glowing!”
Since that inaugural year of teaching – 1953-54 – I continued to hold on to my dream of becoming an international missionary while I earned a master’s degree in religious education. My missionary calling lost traction when I was told I could not be commissioned solely as a teacher. In those days becoming a woman minister was unheard of to me.
In the late 1950s – 1960s I became a minister of education-youth, got married, welcomed a child, and, once again, resumed my role as a public-school teacher.
For the next three decades, following the Holy Spirit’s leadership, I poured my heart and mind into becoming a great educator. Now, as then, I consider my role as a public-school teacher as one of God’s unique calls to service. I continued my active roles in our church while upgrading my certification and educational degrees which coincided with my teaching third graders in 1966.
It was while I was educating fifth graders in 1970 that I was confronted by our curriculum staff with a new proposal. Federal funds had been allotted to our school system under the umbrella of special education with a new designation called learning disabilities, and I had been asked to participate in its formation. After much soul-searching I said, “Yes, Lord, I’ll do it.” All the years that followed have convinced me that teaching special children was part of God’s plan for my life.
The third big call to serve that came to me was unrelated to my role as a teacher. During my attendance at the 1985 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, I became aware that the role of women in the SBC, under the guise of inerrant scriptures, was in great peril. The denomination split was finalized in 1991 with the formation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
By the mid-1990s, I’d completed my tenure as a teacher, my husband had died, and my son was completing his master’s degree in oboe performance at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. While I continued to serve as an unpaid staff children’s minister, it bothered me that the members of Rossville First Baptist, where, along with my husband, I had served for 20-plus years, showed no interest in women being allowed to serve as ministers or deacons.
It was while I was taking a class in water aerobics at the downtown YMCA (1994) that a parishioner from First Baptist Church of Chattanooga and I became friends. My friendship with Rolena Ingram was the catalyst God used to lead me to move my membership to the First Baptist Church of Chattanooga where the emphasis is “Every member a minister and where it is a joy to serve and to be served.”
Fast forward to 2007 when I moved to a retirement community, and I’ve since authored nine books—seven of them with Good Faith Media.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, my teaching background and faith focus comes into play daily. I spend my days sharing smiles, writing notes, and offering encouraging words to others.
I’ll turn 90 this February, and, in closing, would like to share a portion of a hymn phrase for your contemplation.
He Leadeth Me!
He leadeth me! O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught;
Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
Still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me!
The song writer speaks of good times and bad times but always with the assurance of God’s gracious guidance.
Lynelle Mason is a Stephen minister who holds a master’s degree in religious education, and she’s also the author of nine books now writing a nonfiction work of her life prior to and culminating with World War II. Visit Lynelle’s website at https://lynellemason.com/.