Over the next few weeks, “Shepastor” will feature thoughts from female clergy who attended the conference, “Women Together Lifting and Serving One Another.”
Today’s blog is an interview with an amazing clergywoman named, Minister Carol Shannon. Minister Shannon just completed a three-year term as the National Coordinator of Church and Community Ministries with American Baptist Women’s Ministries. Minister Shannon also triumphs over an eye disease called, Keratoconus, which is the progressive thinning of the cornea. As a result of this disease, Minister Shannon was visually impaired. This however, did not stop her from answering and pursuing her call to Ministry.
By faith, she accepted her calling, shared her calling with family, friends and her pastor who ultimately licensed her to preach. God so ordained that Minister Shannon received a cornea transplant approximately seven months before her initial sermon. She has been featured in, “Divine Inspiration Magazine.” The article can be found at http://issuu.com/divineinspirationsmagazine/docs/pdf_july
Below she shares here impressions of the conference a few weeks ago…
Shepastor Interview with Minister Carol Shannon
Associate Minister of Second Baptist Church of Media
A few weeks ago, it was my honor and privilege to meet you at the American Baptist Home Mission’s Society’s Female Clergy Conference, “Women Together Lifting and Serving One Another.”
What drew you to the conference?
“I was searching for some answers. There was a press in my spirit that I had to be there. I didn’t know what, but I knew that there would be an answer in regards to the situation I’m in. I travel a lot with the women’s ministry and with my own ministry. There are times when we don’t want to be on the program but to be ministered to.”
How would you characterize the atmosphere of the gathering?
“I think it had a genuine openness that you may or may not experience when females get together.”
What did you find most helpful about the conference?
“Our time of sharing – the classes were good, but sharing with other clergywomen in ministry who are serving in other areas – not just the pulpit was very inspirational and helpful. It is important to remember that all areas of ministry – not just the pulpit - are needed. The openness in sharing in ministry-sometimes we think that we have this “hold” or “guard” on our ministry and we won’t share, but sharing is so important because it may help someone walk into their place of purpose.”
Was there anything that you would add or change about the conference?
“The one thing that I would add, is to make sure that we don’t forget lay ministers or licensed clergy (not yet ordained). Licensed preachers need to see themselves in leadership roles or serving on the program. That is important so it doesn’t look like you need to be an ordained minister or pastor in order to do ministry.”
At what age did you first “hear” a call to the ministry?
“I was about 35 years old.”
How did you experience the call?
“In light of the fact that I had this visual impairment, I was reading the word on my computer and God gave me Isaiah 61. It kept pressing on my spirit. As I struggled to read the words, just staring at the computer screen, I began to question the Lord… ‘I can’t see, how am I going to preach and read your word if I can’t see?’ And the Lord gave me 1 Peter 4:11 which talks about God dealing with the abilities that He has given us.. Like Mary, I just pondered it in my heart. Afterwards, I asked the Lord to confirm what I thought I heard Him saying. He did just that. When I would hear sermons, or scriptures, or when my pastor was preaching (at the time he was preaching on wrestling with God) I kept hearing Isaiah 61 or another scripture related to preaching the Gospel. I told no one, not even my husband. For a while, it kind of stopped there.”
Did you share your call experience with anyone? If so, how did they respond?
“I shared it with my husband first and he was not surprised at all. He said, ‘ok I always knew you had a call on your life because of the way you handle the Word.’ At the time I was serving as a youth leader. He was watching me come up with the lessons and teaching the children. He told me that it came naturally and he was not surprised.
Then I told my best girlfriend. She was not surprised either. She said that God just took the energy and boldness that I had in the world and made it be for Him.
How long did it take after acknowledging your call to become licensed and or ordained?
“It took approximately a year and a half to become licensed.”
How would you describe your journey into the ministry?
“Challenging. I was a trailblazer. I didn’t have anyone to walk the path before me. I was the first female licensed at my church. It was new for everyone - myself, the congregation, the pastor. Like a mother for the first time, there weren’t any manuals to follow. I was challenged by my own prejudices – what do I do with me? How do I handle me etc. I came from the school of thought that women could not be preachers - very challenging. The Lord was calling me into a new arena. I’m a shy person. He was calling me to be out front. In my family, I was the first female to answer the call. I come from a family of preachers. One family member said, ‘You’ll become a preacher over my dead body!’ I told them to be careful because God may serve them just that! Over all they supported my calling, but they questioned, what to do with me. My family of pastors did not have female clergy in their pulpit.”
What role models impacted your perception of ministry (male and female)?
“A lady in the congregation gave me the book, Those Preachin Women by Dr. Ella Mitchell. She said the Lord pressed upon her spirit to give me a bunch of books. Another book was, Daughters of Thunder. She also gave me Christian Ed books. My cousin who is a preacher began to take me to hear female preachers and introduced and encouraged me to talk to them. My uncle also encouraged me to go out and hear ‘educated’ preachers so that I would not develop bad habits as a female minister. He said, ‘You will not be silly in ministry!’”
How did you become who you are (multifaceted question I know!)?
“I think more or less my over all life experiences. I believe the last 5 years of my eye disease really helped shape who I am in terms of knowing God is with me. I truly live the scripture, ‘we walk by faith and not by sight.’ I was living the impossible if you will - Going to school on public transportation, not being able to see the steps I’m walking down, taking night classes with night blindness - I was living the impossible. Things that didn’t make sense, but I was making it – God was with me. Not only did I go to school, I was on the Dean’s list! I think that the women he allowed me to meet during the time of my mobility training at the Blind Center and then that type of training itself helped to mold me. The training ‘ messes with your ego’ because you are still sighted to some degree, but still having to use a cane. It humbles you. He gave me Proverbs 16:18, ‘Pride goes before a fall.’
Dealing with the challenges that I had to become licensed to even be recognized – that was a challenge in and of itself. These were the critical factors that have shaped and molded who I am.”
You are the founder and director of a clergywomen’s ministry. Please say a word about that…
“Yes I am the founder and director of, “Women of Excellence With Purpose.” The goal of the ministry is to teach and exhort women to use their gifts to do the work of the ministry that God has called them to.
(http://wewp-excellencewithpurpose.ning.com) Our motto is “Destined to Grow and Determined to Do it” We have a special affinity for those women called and or serving in the Gospel Ministry. We long to provide a nurturing and mentoring environment.”
What challenges have you faced in your role as a clergywoman?
“Not being allowed on some pulpits, or being asked to preach from the floor, only being recognized as a preacher on women’s Sunday or something that pertains to women. Any other time I’m just “sister so and so.” Not being taught pulpit etiquette, but required to know it. Although the men were taught. The men were corrected, but I was left to fend for myself.”
What suggestions do you have to help create greater opportunities for female clergy?
"Clergywomen should do 2 things – be willing to share their story – be transparent whether it is a struggle or not. If God has allowed you to move along in ministry, don’t forget to reach back and help open the door for someone else.
In my struggle, I found it helpful when I moved out of my nitch and went and looked at other cultures and denominations. I looked at other women who did not necessarily agree with me, but had similar circumstances or experiences. Our likenesses helped to support and nurture me to move to the next place.
Others who are not female clergy can help by opening the doors that they are in a position to open. More importantly they can help by joining us in prayer that hearts are changed towards women in ministry.”
What words of encouragement and caution would you give to those who are currently serving in a ministerial role?
"Remain humble and walk humbly before the Lord. Don’t exert your authority in areas where it is not appropriate."
Is there anything else you’d like to share that you believe would help other clergywomen along the journey?
"I just hope and pray that as women we begin to accept one another, accept and embrace our differences and if by chance we had a bitter experience coming into ministry, prayerfully we will not try to “haze” others as they come along. We want to be better, not bitter."
Minister Shannon’s testimony is powerful and insightful. Did you attended the conference? Do you have insights and/or experiences that you would like to share? Post a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next week,
In faith, hope and perseverance,