Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week we are thrilled to introduce Vallerie King.

Vallerie, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
God called me to the ministry when I was sixteen-years- old. It took me many years to answer the call, but after graduating from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1985, I followed my calling. I was ordained by my home church, Takoma Park Baptist in Washington, D.C., on Pentecost Sunday in 1985.

I have an undergraduate degree in music. I have a Master of Divinity degree with a minor in Christian Education. Because I possess skills in both music and education, I have served several churches in dual positions.

My first full-time ministry position was with University Baptist Church in Carbondale, Illinois, as their minister of education and music. I also served two churches in Northern Virginia. I was called to Fairfax Baptist Church as associate pastor with an emphasis in youth and music. I also served First Baptist Church of Clarendon (now the Church at Clarendon) as associate pastor working with education, youth, and music. I served my home church, Takoma Park Baptist Church, as an associate pastor before being called to Emmaus Baptist Church in Providence Forge, Virginia, where I currently serve as pastor. I have pastored Emmaus for sixteen years. When I came to Emmaus, I felt like I had found the place where I truly belong.

Tell us about the early years of your ministry and the challenges you encountered.
I ams blessed to call Takoma Park Baptist Church home, a church that has a long history of accepting and affirming women. This diverse congregation is made up of white and black, old and young, professional and working class, male and female members all serving the Kingdom of God together.

During my second year of seminary, Takoma Park licensed me. In my last year of seminary, the chair of deacons called me and asked me when I would like to be ordained. Takoma Park is dually aligned with the Southern Baptist and the American Baptist Churches, USA. I was ordained under both those denominational standards. I was blessed, but I painfully watched and listened to many women colleagues as they struggled to find a church that would ordain them.

My first ministry struggle came at my first full-time church. I was on the field for two weeks when the annual meeting of the Nine Mile Association was held. Before the meeting even began, a man stood up and asked that the University Baptist Church be removed from the association because they had hired an ordained woman. That motion went to vote several weeks later. Our church prevailed, but by a very thin margin. There were only three ordained woman in Illinois Baptist life when I moved to Carbondale.

Another challenge came when I preached my trial sermon at Emmaus. The sermon was scheduled for the week after the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000. That was the year the SBC passed a resolution against women serving as pastors. I was not sure how the resolution would affect Emmaus and my coming in view of a call as pastor, but the Holy Spirit went before me. On that weekend, on the front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch was an article about the SBC resolution. The article included an interview with James Flaming, who at the time was pastor of First Baptist Church Richmond. He spoke strongly in favor of women ministers. That article answered any doubts Emmaus may have been struggling with.

Shortly after being called to Emmaus, an editorial appeared in the Religious Herald condemning Emmaus for calling a women as pastor. I was called a witch and other names. After that article was published, other editorials were published that spoke in favor of women and of me. Emmaus handled the unfavorable publicity with grace.

Along the way, what have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My greatest joy in ministry are the people I have served. Some of my dearest and most treasured friends are the Christians I have come to know in each of the churches I have worked in.

I am single, and I have developed a special affection for the children and youth I have known through the years. I have watched them grow up and have children of their own. This has been a great joy.

It is a privilege to bless a child when he or she enters the world. It is a joy to baptize a new Christian. It is a joy to marry a couple in love. It is a marvel to watch people mature in their Christian walk and make a real difference for the Kingdom of God.

When you enter the sacred space of a person’s life, when you stand beside them in times of their greatest joys and deepest sorrows, there is no greater privilege. It is truly holy ground.

What advice would you give to young ministers about staying spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy?
I would freely confess that I may not be the best model of spiritual, emotional, and physical health, especially the latter. But my advice is this:

I stay spiritually healthy through prayer and personal devotion. In addition, I belong to a Centering Prayer group that meets weekly. I spend one week every year at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky, where I pray and practice the discipline of silence.

During my tenure as pastor at Emmaus, I have taken two sabbaticals. The first was for six weeks, which I spent at the Abbey of Gethsemani. This was a very transformative experience.

Emmaus was blessed to receive the Lilly Foundation Clergy Renewal Grant for 2015. This generous grant allowed me to take a twelve-week sabbatical. I traveled to England and France. This opportunity gave me a fresh perspective and recharged my ministry.

I stay emotionally healthy by participating in several groups. I belong to a local clergy group made up of those serving churches in New Kent County. I participate in the Dover Pastor’s Peer Learning Group. I am part of a Women Pastors Support Group that meets monthly. We have developed a special bond through the years and I can share my deepest pain and struggles. They are all dear friends.

As I stated earlier, I belong to a Centering Prayer Group where I found deeply committed Christians from various religious backgrounds. They also have become dear friends.

My best friend lives in Carbondale, Illinois, and we talk by phone once a week. Music, art, and nature inspire me. I love to attend live opera!

I attempt to stay fit physically by belonging to Curves. My physical health is the area that needs more time and attention.