I was called to ministry during my junior year in college at a Baptist Student Union conference, and I said, “Yes!” The only problem was that I had no idea what a woman minister looked like. I had never seen a woman pastor, or even a woman deacon, and I certainly had never heard a woman preach.
One of the most dedicated Christian women I knew at the time worked with juvenile delinquents, so I just assumed that must be what dedicated Christian women did for work. I changed my major and began preparing for graduate school in order to earn a degree that would qualify me to work with juvenile delinquents.
But God called again–this time through my Baptist campus minister, who suggested that I work as a campus minister. I laughed at him! I had only known one woman campus minister. Not to mention the fact that I felt young and ill prepared for such a task. But I said, “Yes.”
After serving as a college and campus minister for twenty years, God called me to be a pastor. While a lot had happened in twenty years, there still weren’t a lot of Baptist women pastors. My pastor at the time even suggested that I change denominations. It was probably good advice. I sure hadn’t seen many women pastors, or even heard many women preach.
The first woman I ever heard preach in a Baptist church was Nancy Hastings Sehested at Prescott Memorial Baptist Church in Memphis, and it was amazing. I still remember her sermon. But I also remember that her church got kicked out of the association for calling a woman pastor. Despite these odds, I said, “Yes” when God called me to be a pastor!
Things are getting better, but there is still a long way to go. I believe that Martha Stearns Marshall Day of Preaching is one small way that God can do big things in the lives of women in Baptist churches.
You cannot overestimate what hearing a woman preach will mean to young girls and women and to boys and men in your congregation. For some, it will show them what it looks like to be a woman called to ministry.
Virginia Ross Taylor is pastor of Lystra Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.