Tag Archives: women in ministry

Hannah Coe: Faithful Witness

Isaiah 43:16-21

One day, shortly after my second child arrived, a friend and mother of three leaned in close and asked, “So, how are you doing? How is your adjustment from one to two going?”

The uncensored version of my internal response is not suitable for online publication. The censored version was something like, “I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS! PLEASE TELL ME IT GETS EASIER!”

I think I said something like “It’s definitely interesting,” or, “it’s a whole new world.”

I am forever grateful for a friend who invited me to be honest. Her question and genuine listening ear remedied my overwhelmed loneliness.

Mothering two children has been a wilderness journey for me. My nurturing, loving, guiding energies feel depleted. Have I made the right parenting choices? Did I keep everyone’s medicine and menus straight? Do we have enough clean laundry to make it through the day?

I miss the time I got to spend with my husband during our one-child days. There have been long stretches of time through which every moment of every day is consumed with children, home, ministry, and then children again—caring for everything but myself. It’s been a year of transition—two moves, new jobs, new baby. When will I find my normal again?

In this passage from Isaiah 43, God’s chosen people, living in the wilderness of Babylonian exile, find themselves in an unanticipated season of “open possibility.”[1] Under the crushing weight of exile, many of God’s people accepted displacement as the final reality.

We can understand why, when Cyrus of Persia invited the exiles to return home and rebuild their lives, the people had a hard time seeing the shifting political and social climate as a God-given opportunity. They did not expect God to work in such a way, still grieving the loss of what was.

Second Isaiah invites fellow believers to see God’s faithfulness and abiding love revealing itself, before their very eyes, in unanticipated ways. God had not broken God’s promise, but still claimed, loved, and sustained her children, especially in their wilderness.

God has done what God always seems to do—transformed my wilderness into a season of open possibility. Even when I keep looking for the normal that used to be, God ever and always claims me, loves me, and points me toward the “well-watered pathway.” God helps me trade in perfectionism and control for setting priorities and trusting the process.

God strengthens me to say “no”, to practice self-care, and to intentionally make space for what is most important. God emboldens me to have a soft heart that can love and be loved even when it’s risky. God delivers me from the idea that I have to do it all myself.

God whose love will not let us go, we offer gratitude and praise for your working in our wilderness. Embolden and equip us to be faithful witnesses to the working of your grace, power, and love in our hurting world.

[1] Samuel Adams, “Isaiah 43:16-21: Exegetical Perspective,” Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 2 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009) 125.

A Georgia native and graduate of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, Hannah Coe serves as Associate Pastor of Children and Families at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Missouri.  Hannah and her husband, David, are parents to Katherine and Annalina. They enjoy playing, eating, and the occasional nap.

Meredith Stone: Ordinary Miracles: Kinsey Finds a Hero


Whether we are at a theme park, Chuck-E-Cheese, a local play, or university football game, my seven-year-old daughter, Kinsey, loves to meet the “characters.” Although she can’t sit still for more than five minutes, she will happily wait in line for half an hour to take a picture with Bugs Bunny–even if she has never seen a Bugs cartoon. She always wants to hang around after an event and meet the actors who starred in the play or the costumed mascot at the end of a game. Kinsey just has an affinity for characters.

Last week my husband and I brought both our daughters to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly in Dallas. We began our week at Baptist Women in Ministry’s annual worship service. Squirming Kinsey sat on my lap as the service began. After a few minutes, Pam Durso introduced a young woman who would be supported by the BWIM’s Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler missions fund. As the young woman got up to speak, I whispered in Kinsey’s ear, “Shh. Please be quiet right now. This is mom’s friend Lauren Brewer Bass and I want to hear what she says.” Kinsey quieted down and listened carefully . . .  and then proceeded to continue fidgeting once Lauren was done.

Later at BWIM’s luncheon Kinsey heard Pam say that Lauren had written a book and would be signing copies after the lunch. On her way out, Kinsey quietly made a note of how neat it looked for people to stand in line and have Lauren sign their books.

When we arrived at the headquarters hotel just hours later, Kinsey spotted a banner with Lauren’s picture on it and shouted, “Hey, look! It’s Lauren Brewer Bass!” Then, Kinsey heard my husband and I talk about how Lauren and her husband, David, would be commissioned as field personnel during the Wednesday evening worship service.

As we prepared to go to dinner Wednesday evening, out of the blue Kinsey proclaimed as if it had been churning in her little head all day, “I want to be like Lauren Brewer Bass when I grow up! I want to write books and sign books and have my picture on banners. Will you read Lauren’s book to me once we get home?”

Kinsey had found a hero, a character. For the next forty-eight hours I heard the name “Lauren Brewer Bass” over and over. Once Kinsey realized that Lauren was moving to Cambodia to be a missionary she was a little concerned that she wouldn’t be able to see Lauren much, but she still chanted her name, “Lau-ren, Lau-ren, Lau-ren,” as we waited in line to get a picture with Lauren at Smyth & Helwys’ book signing on Thursday night.

I am so grateful to be a part of a fellowship that has characters like Lauren Brewer Bass. Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are places where a seven-year-old girl can find heroes who write books, sign books, have their pictures on banners, and even go to Cambodia to share God’s grace and hope.

You can buy Lauren’s book, Five Hundred Miles: Reflections on Calling and Pilgrimage from Smyth & Helwys, HERE, or learn more about Lauren and David’s work on their BLOG.  My family will be supporting Lauren and David in their ministry, and I will keep Kinsey updated on all things “Lauren” in the years ahead. You also can give to support Lauren and David as well as other CBF field personnel HERE so that little girls and boys around the world can find characters and heroes worth standing in line for and chanting about.

This post originally appeared on the BWIM blog at http://bwim.info/wednesday-words/kinsey-finds-a-hero-by-meredith-stone1/

Meredith at 2012 WIM conf

Meredith Stone is director of ministry guidance and instructor of Christian ministry and scripture, Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas.

Merianna Harrelson: Serving Together


This Sunday, we served communion after we participated in #chimewithcharleston as a way to remind ourselves not only of Jesus’ sacrifice, but also the sacrifice of the nine people who were following in his footsteps as they welcomed the stranger into their community. It was a holy time as we remembered their broken bodies and their blood shed and as we remembered Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. And we remembered that the Lord’s table invites us all in. We remembered that the table is also a symbol of hope and reconciliation.

As I walked away from the table, I realized that it was a powerful image to have my serving alongside our summer intern Jeff who has just finished his first year of seminary.

A black man and a white woman ministering to a congregation might seem odd to a lot of people. In fact, as I have introduced him to people as our intern, we have gotten responses like, “Oh that’s great, so now your congregation is multiracial.” Even though the person didn’t know anything about Emmanuel or the makeup of our congregation, the underlying assumption is that we wouldn’t be serving together.

We could have brushed off the comment as ill-informed or misguided as it certainly was, but there is a deeper issue for us baptists who consider ourselves moderate or progressive. What are we really doing to try to serve together, as men and women, black and white, and people from all different kinds of backgrounds. Are we really challenging ourselves to connect and serve together or are we much more comfortable serving ourselves?

What if it didn’t take nine deaths to bring churches in the same city together? What if partnership were our natural inclination rather than competition?

I’m guessing the world would look a little different if we as leaders in churches and we as leaders in our community served together.

NOTE: This post originally appeared at http://merianna.net/2015/06/serving-together/. 


Rev. Merianna Neely Harrelson serves as pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship and is stepmom to two wonderful children.

Leah Grundset Davis: In the Interim

I finished up my second semester of doctoral work in the Doctor of Ministry program at Candler School of Theology a few weeks ago. I jokingly made a Facebook posting that I wondered what I would do with all my free time and noted— “oh right, I’ll have a baby in a few weeks.”

It’s true that these few interim weeks between finishing school and welcoming our second daughter into the world offer brief glimpses into restful, quieter summer days. I’m savoring them because I know they do not come all too often.

The pace continues at work and I’m still chasing around a very busy almost-two-year-old, but without school thrown in the mix, I’ve had a few mornings where I can breathe deeper, a few afternoons where I can linger on my afternoon walk and even a few evenings, where I’ve (gasp!) read for pleasure without the impending deadline of a paper or a book to read for class hanging over my head.

It’s odd to consider not being in the pulpit again until the beginning of October. When my mind would normally be swirling with thoughts of Pentecost and summer lectionary texts, I instead find myself remembering, “oh yes, we need to put together that crib” and “where DID I put all of my older daughter’s clothes?”

The slowing down that comes for some ministers in the summer is like a breath of fresh air. (I know if you work with youth or children or have a busy summer schedule, then summer is not a slowing down, but a ramping up). I’m considering as I slow down, both intentionally and because I’m starting to waddle, ever-so-gracefully, where God might be new to me these days.

Where might I see the holy in the ordinary once the Spirit rushes in on Pentecost? Where might the Incarnation be real and tangible and how might I live that out because I have a few extra moments to inhale?

I know the busyness we all encounter hits at different moments throughout the year for all of us and it will be real again for me in about eight weeks when we welcome another child and then again when I return to work and school six weeks after that.

But I think I’ll linger in this space until then and claim it for what it is—a surpising gift.

leah grundset davis

Rev. Leah Grundset Davis is the communications specialist at the Alliance of Baptists and a member at Ravensworth Baptist Church, Annandale, Va. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband John, daughter Lydia, Moses the dog and is looking forward to welcoming second daughter in mid-July.

Katrina Brooks: Forever Friends

Ash Wednesday came and went in my world without its typical markings. No breeze in the air. No warm sunshine. No scrumptious aromas. No reflective liturgy and no ashes on my forehead.

Like most of the great adventures I have embarked upon, this Lenten journey began whether I was ready or not. Like clockwork on Wednesday, my inner self called my name and demanded I begin this year’s quest by counting my blessings.

Two of the greatest blessings in my life are Tia and Debbie. One I met the weekend I came as a candidate to be one of her pastors. The other I met through our daughters before her family became a part of the church.

With both it was love at first sight. My success over the years with female friends was zero, so no one was more surprised than me when we bonded.


Tia invests herself vocationally as an academic principal for middle schoolers and Debbie as a dean of students for a liberal arts college. Tia has a boy and a girl. Debbie has two girls. Tia and Debbie both grew up in ministerial homes…one in the north and one in the south. Debbie is a bit older than I am and Tia a bit younger. Tia builds things and Debbie makes beautiful things.

I am the nontraditional one. I am the one who prefers wild finger nail polish and a hair color I was not born with. I am the one who brazenly challenges orthodoxy. I am the one who lacks homemaker skills and I am the one who is still trying to find herself vocationally after all these years.

These women “get me” even when I do not “get” myself. Having entered their lives as their pastor, I was not prepared for their friendship. Maybe it was their professionalism or maybe it was because they grew up in ministerial homes, but something inspired them to seek me out as more than “their pastor” … I was their friend.

In 2011 the season for being their pastor came to an end when my spouse took a job in a different state. I would like to say it was an amiable transition, but truth be told I fought the move. One day I will write it all down, but for now let’s just say my beloved friends pulled me through. They knew enough about grief and about me to realize that no matter how “adult” I was pretending to be when I exited the church system, I would crash and crash hard.

Unable to stop the crash, these blessings of mine walked with me. They listened and cried with me. They offered insight and thought-provoking questions. They let me grieve.

When the grief slid into depression they upped their game and intentionally connected with me in spite of the miles. Their love kept me afloat.


When I could not find a job, these friends of mine reminded me of my gifts and talents. They pushed me to try something new and not dwell in the past. They inspired me to dream again and boldly step into a new adventure. When I did find a job and it was something outside my wheel house, these women dared me to try.

As I fashion and form who I am in this season of my life, Tia and Debbie continue to inspire me. They ask bold questions and send me thought-provoking books. They encourage me to step out and not settle. They dare me to dream big and insist I boldly step into new adventures.

These women unashamedly remind me to be the one I am destined to be and not less than. They challenge my inappropriate self assessments and dare me to try new things. They invite me to question and to wrestle with my unrest. Our friendship bears witness to a love that keeps covenant.

Gratitude for a love that never gives up, never fails, seems to be the perfect starting marker of a Lenten quest.

These women and I do life together, challenging each other to continue to be formed and fashioned by the One who modeled what love is. In spite of the miles that separate us, we commune together and are real together. We laugh and cry, weep and celebrate.

What began as a relationship between congregants and their pastor has become something very precious to me. I am the minister I am because of Tia and Debbie. I am the mother I am because of Tia and Debbie. I am the disciple I am because of Tia and Debbie, my forever friends.

Brooks pic

Rev. Katrina Stipe Brooks has served as a pastor, campus minister and youth pastor. Part of a clergy couple, she is also a mother to a daughter in Divinity School and a son in college.

Lynn Brinkley: Advent–This is About Hope!

I spent my Saturday after Thanksgiving watching ESPN’s “30 For 30” documentary on the 1983 NC State Basketball team. The documentary came on back to back, and it was so good, I watched it twice! An amazing story of how an unexpected “Cinderella team” managed to win the National Championship under the legendary coach, Jim Valvano.

In the documentary, “Jimmy V” said he often inspired his team based on the idea that “ordinary people do extraordinary things!” His ’83 team certainly proved that philosophy.

One of his players, Thurl Bailey, (who many deemed an “ordinary” center and no match for the 7-footer from Virginia, Ralph Sampson) shared a letter the team received from a wife whose husband was battling cancer. She became inspired by the ’83 team and played the games for her husband on TV. The wife hoped her husband would hear the progress of his favorite team as he laid in his hospital bed in a coma.

After sharing this letter, Bailey said, “This isn’t just about us winning games, this is about hope!”

This year, I found the transition from Thanksgiving to Advent disappointing to say the least. After a joyful season of giving thanks, observing the beauty of God’s creation in the trees and leaves, and spending time with family and friends over a bountiful meal, I felt overwhelmed with the commercialism of “Gray Thursday,” “Black Friday,” and “Cyber Monday.” I felt saddened over what is happening in Ferguson, MO, and our inability as a nation to deal effectively with racial discrimination, racial profiling, race relations as a whole, and issues regarding immigration.

Despite what is happening in the present world, I have the audacity to hope!

Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 1, vv. 6-7, reads, “Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.

John would have been deemed an “ordinary” citizen in his day. After all, his clothing and his diet seems to suggest that to be true. Yet John saw himself as an unworthy servant who proclaimed One that would come and do extraordinary things. One that would come and restore Israel and the weight of the government would fall on his shoulders. He would be born to a poor peasant mother who would be favored by God to birth the Messiah.

“Ordinary people do extraordinary things!”

He will give hope to those who lie in hospital beds. He will give hope to those who feel inferior or disenfranchised. Most of all, He will give hope to those who are in need of a Savior.

Let us remember Advent is a sacred time on the Christian calendar. The Season of Advent is not about getting good bargains and waking up early to beat the rush. Advent confronts a troubled society and cradles it through a God in the crib.

May the God who calls “ordinary people” to do extraordinary things call us to be unworthy servants like John. May we proclaim to all who are in need that “this is about hope!” Hope in the one who was, and is, and is to come!


Lynn Brinkley formal

Reverend Doctor Lynn Brinkley is mother to Taylor and Director of Student Services at Campbell University Divinity School, where women’s gifts and calling are celebrated. An experienced preacher, Dr. Brinkley utilized her DMin studies to create a manual for preaching etiquette for guest preachers and host churches.

Becky Brooks Jackson: Of Saints and Steel Guitars:
An Improbable Friendship

Mitch Albom has Tuesdays with Morrie. I have Thursdays with Robert Vaughn.

 Robert and June showed up one Sunday morning at Windsor Park Baptist Church where I served along with other worship leaders in a praise band. An elderly couple in Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, the Vaughns appeared in all ways to be “churched.”

It was no surprise to find out then, that Robert was a retired Southern Baptist Pastor. Time had already siphoned his strength and diminished his vigor, but on this first Sunday after relinquishing independence and moving in with their grown son, Robert and June wanted to worship with Christian brothers and sisters. Many of us gathered around this impressive, silver-haired gentleman in his suit and tie.

Though frail in form, Robert still possessed a thundering, ministerial voice and our pastor, Grover Pinson, often called on him to pray a blessing before a meal or a benediction over our congregation. Like the booming bells in Wagner’s Parsifal,[1]<Brother Robert’s simple utterance, “Our Father…” silenced colicky babies, fidgety children, and possibly all the screeching crickets within a square mile. Windsorites certainly perked up when Robert called on God, but I wondered if his voice didn’t cause the great cloud of witnesses to turn and pause as well.

 One Sunday, Grover informed us that this solemn, stately pastor also played a mean steel guitar. That night we worshiped with our usual praise band accented by this Grand Ole Opry octogenarian. It was a hoot!

A few years after Robert and June joined Windsor, I was slated to preach my very first sermon in chapel at Logsdon Seminary on our South Texas School of Christian Studies’ campus in Corpus Christi. Unbeknownst to me, Pastor Grover spread the word and on the day of chapel he showed up with a number of our sainted senior adults, including Brother Robert.

I was pretty sure that Brother Robert possessed a strong strain of fundamentalism and wondered if he had, perhaps, come to spy out my liberty. Yet after I preached, he told me I did a fine job and exuberantly thanked me for the message.

The next Sunday, he called me over to his pew and when I leaned down to greet him, he declared, “I want you to know that I have NO PROBLEM with you preaching! You are called!”

Now, my granddaddy was also a Southern Baptist preacher, and while he was living would not have condoned me preaching from any pulpit. So Brother Vaughn’s pronouncement felt to me like a surrogate blessing from my own grandfather.

Since our initial meeting, Pastor Vaughn has endured heart surgery and multiple set-backs, including months with a respirator which ravaged his clarion voice. Now he speaks in a whisper and requires a breath for every word or two. This man who loves to sing and worship, can only stand briefly and whisper lyrics.

To make his loyalties clear to his fellow congregants, in every service and on every song, whether favorite old hymn or contemporary praise, he follows the lyrics in the bulletin and lifts his free hand in praise to God. Every music minister needs at least one Robert Vaughn in her congregation!

Robert Vaughn 1
I spend a little time on most Thursdays with Brother Robert, but I have lost track of when our meetings started. He asked me one day to come by to play hymns and sing for him. Then, after a few visits, he admitted to me that he wanted to play the steel guitar again, but needed someone to sing to keep him on track. Otherwise, “Pass me Not, O Gentle Savior,” frequently segued into “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and his practice sessions became frustrating. So now we worship together with an old steel guitar and my rapidly aging voice. And we share joy.

The Wednesday night after my new congregation called me to be their worship leader, Pastor Grover telephoned me and described how Brother Vaughn made his way to Windsor’s business meeting, shuffling along with his walker. Robert stood and in his halting, whispering voice, made a motion that the congregation license me to the gospel ministry! What a gift of affirmation!

Though we are no longer members of the same local church, Robert and I still meet once a week as health and schedules allow. We sing through at least five, sometimes as many as ten hymns. (Every now and then, with an impish grin on his face, Robert breaks out into to some Hank Williams or Johnny Cash, too!) We share concerns and then we pray for each other. We pray for strength to serve and breath to praise until the day God calls us home.

Like Robert, I love to worship God through music and I thrive on leading others to do the same. If the Lord allows me to live as long as Robert, my voice will become more brittle, my asthma will scar my lungs, and arthritis will steal the dexterity I need to play the piano or cello. But Robert is preparing me to live a life of praise when the gifts of youth are gone. And when at last “nothing in my hand I bring, safely to thy cross I’ll cling.”

At the end of each visit, Brother Vaughn always thanks me for my time and asks me not to forget him… Forget him? That is unthinkable! As Paul reminded his beloved church at Philippi, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 1:3-6


Becky and Robert Vaughn.jpg2

Becky Jackson served as a pastor’s wife as well as a volunteer church musician and worship leader for twenty-four years before answering a personal call to ministry. When her husband, Doug, became a professor, Becky went back to school and completed a BA in Music from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (2010), and an MDiv from Logsdon Seminary (2012). Between those two degrees, she trained and completed her first marathon. Becky serves as the worship leader at Lexington Baptist Church, Corpus Christi, TX. She and her husband Doug have two grown sons, Jay and Landry, and a rescued Bullmastiff named Spurgeon.

[1] http://www.roh.org.uk/news/ringing-the-changes-in-parsifal-the-bells-of-the-grail-hall


Halloween and Life: Standing Out from the Crowd

Passport 2013 065Carol Burnett cleaning lady
I grew up in a house with a mother who greatly disliked Halloween.  In fact, I remember one year when there was no candy in the house so the one trick-or-treater who came to our door received a can of soup.  Really.

A few years before that, as a first grader at South Newton Elementary School, I needed a costume for our annual Halloween Carnival and costume contest. My mother, never one for the store-bought costume, decided that I should dress up as Carol Burnett’s cleaning woman character, the one seen at the beginning of her television show.  Some of you might remember what I’m describing but I’m guessing this reference will be lost on anyone under the age of 40. 

I distinctly remember being on the stage with the other costumed kids, walking in a circle in front of the judges as they considered the display of Halloween finery. I walked around with a feather duster, dusting pretend furniture as I went. Somehow I knew my costume wasn’t typical, but I knew it was original.  And although I didn’t win anything that night, I began to realize that my mother wanted something different for me. She wanted me to stand out even if I felt uncomfortable in the process.

Before you decide my mother is not going to win “Mother of the Year” based on these stories, know that she is a wonderful woman who has set an amazing example of unconditional love and consistent guidance before me and my family through the years.  Looking back, I see what she hoped to accomplish by pushing me down different paths.  She knew the opportunities that would come along simply by standing out from the crowd.

As a woman minister in a Baptist church, I suppose I do my share of standing out.  I realize there are a few in my church family who didn’t support my ordination or the eventual change of my title to Associate Pastor.  And I know there are some who will describe my occasional preaching as “speaking” or, as my ordained minister sister experienced, “giving a little talk.” But the interesting thing for me is that the flip side of these supposed slights can be just as frustrating.  When my ministry is going well and everyone seems completely in tune with me and leadership I am providing, I am tempted to wonder why someone isn’t making a bigger deal of me-—the woman minister.  I know, I know . . . ego trip, anyone? I can hear Jesus’ words ringing loud and clear as I think about this temptation to stand out: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24 NLT) The ultimate goal is ministry, not finding more ways to be outstanding.

And I realize that when I have asked myself, “When do you feel most like a minister?” that the answer I come up with every time comes down to words just a few may hear or actions just a few may see—ministry that takes place along the way, not in the big events and gestures but in small ways and in the midst of the daily routine. 

So how do I put “standing out from the crowd” in the right context? How do I keep it from reflecting self-centeredness and instead reflect a desire to honor God, especially as I have come to realize the ways God works when we aren’t standing in the limelight?

For me, part of the answer lies in recognizing the ultimate goal—to glorify God with my life. I am free to follow God’s leadership and to listen to the Spirit as the Spirit speaks in so many ways. I may be standing in front or I may be sitting on the back pew, but one thing I can be sure of:  I am an original creation, created in the image of God.  My mother had that divine idea; she knew the truth well before I even considered my capabilities. 

Now I want to teach my own children that they hold endless possibilities.  I want them to know that God has gifted them in wonderful ways that they are just beginning to discover. And I want them to remember that standing out from the crowd isn’t an end in itself—but it may just give them a better view of how they fit best into God’s family.

But I do need to say to my mother that I still think sending me to school that day in 8th grade with the multi-colored leg warmers and clogs was a very bad idea. . .

Reverend Shannon Stewart Hall is the mother of three children: Jonathan—15, Chloe—12, and Caroline—5, who have worn their share of store-bought Halloween costumes through the years. Shannon and her wonderfully supportive husband, David, have been married for 21 years.  Shannon, who graduated from Converse College and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, is Associate Pastor of Music and Family Ministries at First Baptist Church in Graham, North Carolina.  David teaches high school science in the Alamance County School System.

What’s wrong with this picture?


I went to my local Hallmark store last week to buy a birthday card for my nephew when I came across a section of cards for “Clergy Appreciation Day.”  This immediately warmed my heart as I think clergy are often under-appreciated and any effort to show them appreciation is, well, appreciated by this clergy person.  My appreciation soon turned to anger as I looked over the cards.  There were cards “For Anyone,” for “Minister,” and then these two sections, for “Minister and Wife,” and “Pastor and Wife.”  No, there were not sections for “Minister and Husband” or “Pastor and Husband.”

Sadly, this type of slight is a fairly common occurrence in my own denomination, where even the women’s mission organization hosts a “Ministers’ Wives Retreat” each year, giving no thought whatsoever to ministers’ husbands.  I am a little sensitive to this as I have a wonderful minister’s husband who is very deserving of a retreat or at least a shout out now and then.

This may seem like a small thing; they are just words. But I believe that we won’t see the changes we want for women in ministry until we can change the language we use to talk about ministers, pastors, and clergy.

Case in point:  I was recently in a church meeting where the speaker kept referring to this church’s future (unknown at the time) pastor as “he.”  As a former pastor, I cringed each time he did it, but hadn’t quite mustered up the courage to correct him when another woman in the group beat me to it!  He quickly made the adjustment, referring to their future pastor as “he or she.”  The church ended up with a male minister, but at least there existed the hope in that church for a female minister.

Words are the seeds of our hope.  I find hope in the words of the prophet Joel, quoted in Acts, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . .”  (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28). I wonder if Joel had to be corrected?  Whatever the case, his choice of words validate my calling as a woman and give hope to all sons and daughters of God.

I’m not sure why Hallmark left ministers’ husbands out of their card selection for Clergy Appreciation Month.  They should not have any theological horses in that race; they are a secular card company.  Perhaps they just need to be corrected.  I invite you to join me in showing appreciation to all clergy by visiting your local Hallmark store this week and politely pointing out that their wording excludes a whole group of clergy.   Maybe a helpful way to point it out would be to  ask, “Do you have a card for ‘Pastor and Husband’ or ‘Minister and Husband’?” Who knows? Maybe next year there will be cards for pastors or ministers and their husbands.

Virginia Ross Taylor was the first woman pastor of Lystra Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, NC and currently serves as a freelance minister.  She is also the Community and University Relations Coordinator for the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education at UNC Chapel Hill.  Virginia earned  a master of divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA.  She and her husband, Ralph are the parents of one grown daughter, Grace, who is pursuing a master’s in clinical mental health counseling at Appalachian State University.