Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a fabulous minister, and today, we are so pleased to introduce you to Ellen Di Giosia.
Ellen, tell us about your current ministry?
I serve as associate pastor of faith formation at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. I’ve been on staff here for just over seven years, was first the children’s minister for four-and-a-half years, then I became full-time and added adult formation and family ministries to my responsibilities.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your ministry journey?
Even in churches that hire and affirm women in ministry, there are still pockets of patriarchal weirdness. I’ve been told to always wear jackets so that my elbows don’t show, have received official church correspondence addressed to “Mrs. [husband’s name],” and listened as colleagues said that we couldn’t invite a woman to preach because “we just had one last month.”
Most of the challenges, though, have been the same ones that every minister faces. I’ve worked in three wonderful churches, but even good churches have issues and dysfunction. In one case, it became too difficult to stay, and in another, I chose to ride out an intense storm. Using family systems theory has been helpful in these cases. Asking questions such as what does it mean to bear the anxiety of a system? How can I be the presence of Christ when that anxiety has begun swirling around me? But even when you identify things academically, it is still intensely painful. Having friends and ministry colleagues that I trust and can talk to about these times has saved my ministry.
What brings you great joy in life and ministry?
Recently I’ve been privileged to help establish Texas Baptist Women in Ministry. I’ve discovered a passion for talking to women about their ministries and encouraging them as they pursue their education. That’s bringing me a lot of joy right now.
I love leading in worship in so many ways–in prayer, music, and preaching. The preparation time is deeply worshipful for me, and I come into myself most fully when I am leading in that way.
One Sunday not too long ago, I got to church feeling discouraged and exhausted. I processed to the chancel, wondering how I would make it through the service. When I turned around to face the congregation and saw the faces of so many people that I love and who minister to me, I nearly burst into happy tears. They are what bring me the most joy.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
I was debating whether or not to apply for a position I’d heard about and wondering if I was really qualified. In Texas, where there are still so few Baptist women serving in pastoral roles, it can be easy to get into a mindset of scarcity–“there aren’t enough jobs,” “we’re all competing for the same ones,” “if they’re going to hire a woman, it’s not going to be me.” A fellow pastor told me, “You will bring something that no one else has to that ministry – yourself. Ultimately, only YOU can be YOU, and that may be just what is needed.” It reminds me that this is not a competition; it’s an opportunity for a church and a minister to journey together for a time. I don’t need to try and outpace anyone else–I just need to be me and trust that God will use me wherever I am.