Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today, we are proud to introduce you to our friend, Devita Parnell.
Devita, tell us about your ministry journey. Where and how are you serving now? Where have your served in the past?
I am currently the young Baptist ecosystem manager at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Decatur, Georgia. I also serve at First Baptist Church, Decatur, as a deacon, first grade Sunday School teacher, and interim pianist. In many ways, I see myself as an extension of the FBCD staff!
Previously, I served as associate coordinator of congregational life at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia, a campus minister, and as a missionary. I also worked as director of development for McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, and even there I found that I often acted in the role of workplace chaplain. While all of my professional ministry experience has been outside of the church, I have very much found a place of ministry within the church as an active member serving as a teacher, leader, and musician.
What do you love best about your ministry position?
While I have been with CBF over seven years, I just recently have been given the opportunity to influence the fellowship movement by providing opportunities for young Baptists to grow, serve, lead, and live out their callings. It is exciting to build on and expand our efforts, while at the same time birth new initiatives that will support and sustain young leaders in the church.
Who was the first woman minister you ever met?
Becky Matheny was my campus minister at the Baptist Student Union at the University of Georgia. She was the first woman minister I encountered. I’m not sure that I really understood at the time all that it meant to be a woman and a minister, but I really didn’t understand why Athens-area churches and ministers were so offended that Becky was one. Although I didn’t grow up with a clergy model that was inclusive of women, I certainly was not taught that a woman couldn’t be a minister. I did deal with some hard questioning, however, when I told my primitive Baptist grandmother about Becky! Even after college as I was preparing for mission service overseas, I was affirmed and blessed by my home church. It wasn’t until I returned a few years later and started talking about seminary at McAfee School of Theology that I began to feel resistance.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
This is a hard question. I’ve been given lots of advice over the years by colleagues, mentors, spiritual guides, and authors. The reason certain pieces of advice stick is because they speak into your life and context at the exact moment you need them. The piece of advice that is speaking into my life right now is “show up.” This means that I bring my full self to all that I do, whether it is a meeting, a phone call, or a retreat. I am wrestling with the questions: “When ‘Devita’ shows up, what does she bring” (for example, to a meeting)? Or “When ‘Devita’ is not present, what is missing” (from that meeting)? In knowing and embracing my full self–my gifts, abilities, experiences, personality–I am able to be confident as a child of God.