It was the morning of my “Call Sunday.” We were at a meet and greet over donuts and coffee in the fellowship hall, and she raised her hand as we circled the room for Q&A.
“What will you say to people who don’t think you are allowed to be a pastor because you’re a woman?”
My first inner-thought was “well, they’re just wrong” in a sassy and assertive tone.
My second thought was actually more of a feeling, an inner tingling anger that I get whenever my gender is used against me. The immediate emotional and physical response reminds me that this question actually signifies a deep hurt from sisters and brothers in the Baptist faith who have told me, and other female friends, “no, you can’t preach” or “no, you can’t serve over men.” In the past few weeks, I’ve shared with friends and loved ones about this “Call Sunday” on which I will be considered for a senior pastoral leadership position in a Baptist church, and I was often met with the question: “Baptists allow women preachers?” Deep breaths, Molly.
Luckily, my third thought was the only one that I articulated out loud. But each word held deep conviction and spiritual weight:
“My father, my brother, and my husband are all pastors. Most of my closest friends are pastors. I have experienced firsthand the fishbowl lifestyle that I am taking on myself and will take on with my family. I know the pain this position can cause, and I know the joy it can bring. I know things will be said to me or about me that will hurt, deeply. And I know that, as a female, I will face an uphill battle that male pastors don’t encounter. So believe me when I say that this is a calling that I wouldn’t have said ‘yes’ to unless it was from God.”
Her question was meant for the group. But what she didn’t know was that I needed that question to remind me of my initial “yes.” Her question helped remind me that this calling was not out of spite or revenge on the doubters. I waited, I learned, and I prayed for this calling. Of the many times I said “yes” along the search process journey—from sending a blind email with my resume to the committee to the answering the question “do you accept the call to be our pastor” after the votes were cast and counted—none of those “yeses” during this calling was more powerful or sustaining than “yes” I said to the calling when God called me to pastor.
Molly Shoulta Tucker is the pastor of Ridgewood Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky.