Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today we are pleased to introduce Mary Richerson Mann.
Mary, tell us about your current ministry role.
I am pastor of Westover Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia. The congregation is welcoming, encouraging, and so very loving, and I am blessed to journey alongside these good folks. It just so happens that this church is one that my father pastored when I was growing up. It has been so special to come back to the church that watched me grow into my calling AND who ordained me to ministry. Little did we know that thirteen years later I would come back here as pastor!
What job, positions and experiences have shaped and prepared you for your present role?
Through the years I have served in various church staff positions, including in the areas of music, children, youth and college ministry, as well as administration and associate pastor positions. Whew! I can truly say that I get to know churches from the inside out! I feel blessed to have a holistic understanding of church ministry. When working with a staff, I can relate well to what my colleagues are experiencing because I’ve been there, too.
The single most influential and life-changing ministry experienced happened, however, when I was working as an associate pastor at my last church. My pastor, who was also my friend, passed away suddenly. When this tragedy occurred, the church looked to the associate pastors for comfort and guidance, and I found myself working in areas that were uncharted by myself and the church. I wasn’t exactly prepared for such a large leadership role at that time, but I learned a lot about the gift of God’s grace to guide me through whatever circumstances might come. After an interim period the church officially called me as the senior pastor. I learned how to walk alongside a congregation, ministering to them and guiding them through their sorrow and my own. I grew into the pastorate, so to speak, by truly serving as a “wounded healer,” as Henri Nouwen so eloquently penned the phrase.
Who has inspired you along the way as you have lived out your calling?
So many people have blessed me on my journey–it would be hard to name them all. My father is a Baptist minister, and my mother tells me that she and my father prayed for me from the time I was an infant that God would guide me to serve in whatever way I was led, even to answer the call to serve as a church pastor. My parents inspired me to reach for whatever goal God set in front of me, and they are my cheerleaders each and every day. I have watched them overcome obstacles along the way, and because of their faith and determination, I have overcome much, as well.
My college years were a formative time in my calling to ministry. Judy Bailey was my Baptist campus minister at the University of Richmond, and I’ll never forget how she took me under her wing, seeing something in me that I didn’t yet see in myself. She told me that one day I would break down barriers, and she helped me to persevere on my journey to to a life of vocational ministry. I respect and admire her strength, her gentle spirit and her kindness.
Another inspiration whom I have to mention is my dear friend and teacher, Dan Bagby. First, as his student at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond and now as a friend and colleague, I have learned so much about not only caring for a congregation, but caring for myself and for my family. His wisdom and constant care have helped me to see the best in others and in myself. His leadership style is something I aspire to emulate–listen more than you speak, and when you speak, do so with love.
What advice would you give to a teenage girl who is sensing a call to ministry?
I would say to her–Listen to the voice that is calling you. Believe in the possibility that God is leading you to a life of congregational ministry. I was a young girl when I began to sense that nudge from God. I was blessed to have people in my life who saw my gifts and pointed them out, even when I was a child. If you sense a call, talk to a friend or family member about it—someone who will encourage you. I find that talking out loud (about messages I receive from God) helps them to become real and lasting. Find a female minister with whom you can share your thoughts and dreams, even if it’s not someone at your church. As a woman in ministry, I count it a blessing when I have opportunity to talk to young women sensing a call. Talking to someone who has “been there” can help you to develop a plan to make ministry a reality. Above all, believe that God has created you for a special purpose, and if you feel that God might be setting you apart for vocational ministry, keep praying about it, and follow that call wherever it might lead.