Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an fabulous woman minister, and today we are pleased to introduce Dorisanne Cooper.
Dorisanne, tell us about your ministry journey. Where have you served in the past and where are you currently serving in ministry?
I’ve been privileged to serve alongside three amazing congregations. I currently serve as the pastor of Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina and will have been here a year in July. I came here from serving as the pastor at Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, where I served for twelve years. Prior to that I served as the associate pastor (in charge of youth, children, education, junk mail) of College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina for six years.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your ministry journey?
As cliché as it sounds—the balancing of it all together—the personal and the professional, the administrative and pastoral, the pastoral and prophetic, the practical and the visionary, soul-tending and soul-stretching. And, of course, there is much about trying to separate these things from one another that creates a false dichotomy—they blend all the time. And they should blend in ways that influence each other. But there are also distinctions to be made—my family wouldn’t want me to pretend that talking about a church matter at the table is the same as hearing about my son’s day at school. Another challenge is managing my own sense of grief in the losses that a congregation experiences; for instance, how best to tend to it once a funeral is over.
What do you love best about your ministry position?
A lunch appointment where someone shares deeply of what’s saving her life these days. The first time a three-year-old smiles back instead of burying his head in his mother’s legs. The honor it is to be trusted to guide someone’s funeral. The privilege to sit and study and write each week wondering where the intersection is and should be between the text, the congregation, the world around us and the Spirit (to be fair this should also be listed under the challenges question). When a group becomes more than the sum of the people in the room. Ministering in a church where the members teach me more about being a Christian than I could ever teach them (I’m on my third one of these now). Witnessing someone who would never believe there could be a place where they could ask “that” question find a place where they can ask “that” question.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
One somewhat unusual piece of advice I was given was to be prepared for how often I will be tempted to end a week fighting a sense of failure. Given the unpredictability of this job from week to week—pastoral care situations that arise unexpectedly, community needs that suddenly demand your time—there is often a lot that gets pushed from one’s plate by the end of the week and must be left undone for another day (especially when what can’t be pushed from your plate is the sermon for Sunday). This nature and the fact that very little of this work is ever “completed” make it easy to get bogged down by the sense of failure that can accompany such a rhythm. But naming this and realizing that the job is a marathon not a sprint is vital to resisting that sense and instead remaining in present moments that call for you to be there.
More than advice I’ve received, what has and continues to influence me is having many people in my life who model ministry so well for me. My spirit is deeply fed in conversation and companionship with other minister friends who do this work, who challenge and care for me, pray for me, hold faith with (and sometimes for) me. Thanks be to God for them.