When I was at work in the Admissions Office at McAfee School of Theology one morning, Nikki Hardeman approached me with an unusual question. She said, “Hey, are you busy on March 3rd?” Seeing that it was only mid-January, I replied that I honestly didn’t know but that I would get back to her the next time I was in the office. She replied, “Okay, great. I have a unique opportunity for you.”
And a unique opportunity she had indeed! When she told me that she had given my name to Milledge Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia, to be their Martha Stearns Marshall preacher, I will admit that I was excited, baffled, and nervous all in one. My response was a shy “okay” and before I knew it, I found myself mentally getting ready for this experience.
Getting the chance to preach for the first time was indeed a unique opportunity for me—not because I am a female, but because I never ever imagined I would be preaching to anyone during my first year of seminary. When I was in front of the loving and welcoming community of Milledge Avenue, I told them right then and there that they were brave souls because they were welcoming a sister in Christ who hoped her sermon would turn out to be okay.
The sermon was given, and the hugs and congratulations were shared, but perhaps the most humbling moment occurred when I was getting ready to go to bed. It was only then that I realized what I huge milestone I had achieved. I thought back to all of the men and women in my life who had contributed so much to allow for women to stand behind the pulpit and to those who had contributed to making this moment possible for me. I thought back to all of the teachers and professors who fostered in me the ability to write and speak in front of people. And I thought about God and the wonderful journey I was invited on to understand the Transfiguration passage in Luke 9. It’s safe to say that an awe-filled “Wow, God!” left my lips at that moment.
Preaching at Milledge Avenue was an experience that I will never forget. I was given a preaching stole that proudly hangs next to my window—a constant reminder of a wonderful Transfiguration Sunday. Whether or not I will ever wear a stole as a preacher, I know full well that I am forever thankful to all who encouraged and helped me along this process.
Monica Ramirez Leon is a first-year seminary student at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia.