Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today we introduce you to our friend, Tracy Hartman.

Tracy, tell us about your ministry journey.
I am currently the Daniel O. Aleshire Professor of Homiletics and Practical Theology at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in Richmond, Virginia. I teach preaching and spiritual formation, and I direct our Internship and Doctor of Ministry programs. As far as I know, I am the only woman teaching preaching in moderate Baptist life. (If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be a seminary professor teaching preaching, I would have laughed). I also serve as a life coach and in interim pastorate roles, and I do a lot of pulpit supply. I love my calling. No two days are ever the same! I also love the constant interaction I have with both the academy and the church.

While I was in school, I babysat, managed the office at private school, served as a youth minister, and kept the books for my husband’s business (which I still do).

What are some of the best lessons you have learned along the way in your years of ministry and teaching?
As a supply and interim pastor, I visit a lot of churches. One lesson I have learned is to not give up on churches or what God is doing in a particular place. I preached at one church about twelve years ago and assumed it was in its dying days. I am a member there now (I would have laughed if you had told me that too), and we had over seventy-five children in worship on Easter Sunday alongside of several hundred adults. It has been humbling and a joy to watch the renewal that God has brought to this place.

At the seminary, I am constantly reminded that my ministry is as much about what happens outside the classroom as about what happens in class. There have been many sacred moments in my office and in coffee shops as I listen to students’ stories and coach and mentor them through the challenges that seminary brings.

Above all, my most important lesson has been to be the best minister I can be–a minister who just happens to be a woman. My work and research has shown that one of the things that lowers resistance to women in ministry (particularly in preaching) is exposure to a competent woman in that role. For many years, I was the first woman a church had ever invited to preach (thankfully those days are mostly over now). Rather than to advance an agenda or carry a flag for the cause of women in ministry, my goal has always been to preach faithfully and build relationships. I believe this has helped far more in the long run.

Who has inspired you along the way as you have lived out your calling?
In high school, I was inspired by my pastor, Jack Marcom. I first heard a call to ministry under his preaching ministry, and he was the first one to encourage me to think broadly about call. In college, I had the privilege to study and work under Carolyn Blevins; she remains a long-time friend and mentor.

At the M.Div. level, I was inspired and mentored by Tom Halbrooks, Linda McKinnish Bridges and Nora Tubbs Tisdale (my first preaching professor), and at the doctroal level, I was mentored by Beverly Zink Sawyer, my Ph.D. advisor. These people all drew out the best in me and encouraged me on my journey.

Most importantly, though, have been my parents–who always told me I could do anything I wanted (although I doubt ordained ministry was ever on their list), and my husband and children who have supported, sacrificed, and cheered me on the whole way.

What advice do you give seminary women as they are preparing for ministry?

  • Be open to the process! My call changed dramatically during seminary. I spent a good bit of time in my formative years in very conservative churches, and I had never heard a woman preach before I enrolled at BTSR. I was terrified when I fell in love with preaching, but I trusted key mentors who encouraged those gifts in me.
  • Network, Network, Network (and have a strong support group)!
  • Rejoice in the progress that women have made, but realize that challenges still remain. Many churches will be quick to say that they believe women should be pastors, but that their church isn’t “ready” to hire one. Unfortunately, salary inequality still abounds. When I get discouraged, I try to step and look at the bigger picture, remembering that the work we do now paves the way for women who will come behind us.
  • Don’t forget to pause regularly to breath thankfully into the mystery of a God who calls each of us to this chaotic and wonderful journey!