I sat at a table in the gathering room of our church, Milledge Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia, patiently waiting for my young ten-year-old friend to search through her little purse for change. She dropped a crumpled wad of money plus some coins onto the table and asked, “Is this enough to buy this book?” I smiled at her as her dad joined the conversation and added a few more bills to the stack.
“Why yes, yes it is!” I told her.
“I’m so glad,” she said. “I just really want this book, because I want the pastor-lady to sign it.” She leaned in closer to me, and with a great big smile stretched across her face, she said, “Also, Ms. Kristy, I want you to know that I am going to be a preacher someday.”
I looked into her sparkling eyes and said, “Yep. And I just bet that you’re going to be a really good one, too.” And with that, I handed her her very own copy of Karen Massey’s book And Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Sermons by Women in Baptist Life.
On Sunday February 10, Milledge Avenue celebrated Martha Stearns Marshall Day of Preaching. It was a beautiful time of celebrating women in ministry. We were blessed by inspiring words from Dr. Massey. We also presented the congregation with a plaque that has a list of all the women who have preached at Milledge in honor of Martha Stearns Marshall from 2008 until this year–almost all of them have served on staff as ministers here. But we went beyond celebrating the voices of women in the pulpit, we also honored women who had broken barriers in other ministerial capacities.
We celebrated our first three women who were ordained by Milledge Avenue as deacons back in 1986. We celebrated our first ever female deacon chair. And we celebrated the first woman in our congregation to become a mother while serving as deacon chair.
And why did we do this? Because Milledge Avenue Baptist Church has a long history of recognizing that God can speak through a variety of people—regardless of societally-imposed boundaries. God has spoken here at Milledge Avenue through the voices of many women, and this year’s Martha Stearns Marshall Sunday was a beautiful reminder that what God sets in motion, we would be wise to follow.
As Dr. Massey so poignantly reminded us in her sermon, our daughters shall prophesy, and in fact—they already are. May we never underestimate the significance of showing our little girls that they can dream big and be whatever God calls them to be—doctor, teacher, lawyer, or preacher. Who knows, one of the little girls sitting in our pews may be a future pastor. And do you know what? That little girl who told me that morning in the gathering room that she was going to be a preacher . . . I believe with my whole heart that she will be a great one.
Kristy Bay is associate pastor of youth and education, Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, Athens, Georgia.