Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"What Do You Need to Lay Aside?"

Dear Shepastor Friends,
As we leave 2010 and prepare to enter 2011, let us heed the words of the Hebrew writer that declared…

Hebrews 12: 1-3

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

I invite you to consider the following…

In Hebrews 12:1-3, the anonymous writer, after having given great encouragement through the “Hall of Faith,” (Hebrews 11) writes, “seeing we are surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us …" As we enter 2011, I’d like to suggest that there are some things we don’t need to carry into the New Year.

In the movie, “City Slickers” actors Billy Crystal, Jack Polance, and some others set out to experience the life of cattle ranchers in the 20th century. Billy Crystal was a “city slicker,” not knowing the first thing about “roughing it,” herding cattle, driving cattle, riding horses, enduring the hot sun with a leather vest and some cowboy boots with spurs!

On one of their journeys, Billy Crystal gets some advice from an experienced Cowboy – Jack Pollance who said to him, “Always remember this one thing…” And he held up his pointer finger, symbolizing, “one.” Billy Crystal looked at him baffled and perplexed and asked, “What one thing?” Jack Pollance responded, “that’s for you to figure out…”

What “one thing” do you need to remember? What priority has taken a back seat that you need to bring to the front line in your life? Sometimes we can’t get to the one thing because our lives are so cluttered with things that we need to lay aside. So often we lose our focus on the “one thing” that the Lord has called us to do, gifted us to do, prepared us to do because of the things we allow to burden us down, shackle our feet and keep us from running the race with patience and grace.

Unbelief, fear, anxiety and worry will not only defeat you, but will rob you of entering your promised land. In 2011, the Lord is saying to somebody, "I've got some blessings for you, but in order for you to get them, you've got to lay fear aside, you've got to lay anger aside. You've got to lay resentment aside. You've got to lay worry aside. I've got great blessings for you, if you will lay aside "every weight" and trust Me!"

Don’t let the demons of fear, worry, self-doubt, low self-esteem, old belittling voices in your head, resentment, anger, hostility and yes, even hatred – don’t let those demons keep you shackled. As you enter 2011 lay it all aside. Step out on faith – Ask the Lord to reveal His will and purpose for your life and then pursue it. Be bold and walk with your head held high, pressing towards the mark with victory. Lay aside every and anything that is hindering you from running the race which God has ordained for your life.

May you and yours have a blessed, peaceful, Holy Spirit led and “shackle free” New Year!

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Advent Message: "Learning Your Song"

As we prepare to celebrate the advent of our Lord Jesus’ birth, I’d like to share with our Shepastor friends excerpts from a message the Lord birthed in me a few years ago.

Be blessed, learn, sing and live your song!

Sermon Text: Luke 1: 42-55
Sermon Subject: “Learning Your Song”

Mary’s Song (1: 42-49, NIV)

46And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

Luke’s Gospel presents Jesus as the universal savior who came to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke gives special attention to despised and rejected people such as tax collectors, other gentiles, women and children. In our particular text for today, we have what is commonly called the “Magnificat.” The term is derived from the Latin phrase, “My Soul doth Magnify the Lord…” Let me share with you some thoughts about the Magnificat…,

Mary is overwhelmed by news from the angel that she would be the mother of the savior of the world – Jesus, the Christ.Commentators suggest that Mary's hymn expresses praise to God for his treatment of her, but then extends her praise to how God has treated the righteous throughout the ages and how He will vindicate them fully in the future. Understanding what God is doing, Mary is full of joy. She speaks for herself and for her community, the people of God throughout time. She declares that God is worthy of praise for what He will do in taking care of his own.

Mary’s song is power and significant, since first-century culture often relegated women to a secondary status. One of the beauties of Luke's infancy material is that different sorts of people all experience joy at the arrival of Jesus. This reveals Jesus' universal appeal.

The Magnificat was Mary’s song. Mary was filled with joy and awe over what was about to be birthed in her. She had been visited by the angel and the declaration had been made. Her response was profound – not just the beautiful words of her song, but before her conversation with Elizabeth, in verse 38, Mary declared, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

Mary heard, believed and accepted what God was going to do in her life. From her acceptance, the Lord gave her a song.
We too have a song, given to us from the Lord. I’d like to share with you a beautiful and profound tradition that is held in East Africa called, The Song of a Child…

The Song of a Child

There is a tribe in East Africa
for whom the birthday of a child
is not counted from the day of its physical birth
nor even the day of conception.
For this tribe,the birthday is the first time the child
is a thought in its mother's mind.

Aware of her intention to conceive a child with a particular father,
the mother goes off to sit alone under a tree.
There she sits and listens until she can hear the song of the child she hopes to conceive. Once she has heard it, she returns to her village
and teaches it to the father so that they can sing it together as they make love,inviting the child to join them. After the child is conceived,
she sings to the baby in her womb, and she teaches the song
to the old women and midwives of the village,so that throughout the labor
and the miraculous moment of birth itself,the child is greeted with its song.

After the birth, all the villagers learn the song of their new member
and later sing it to the child when it falls or hurts itself.
It is sung at times of triumph,or in rituals and initiations.
This song becomes a part of the marriage ceremony
when the child is grown. And at the end of life his or her loved ones
will gather around the deathbed and sing this song for the last time.

Each life has a song, a theme, a chorus. Sadly, we are so hurried, so busy, so tired, so involved with other things that we don’t take the time to hear our life’s song, to learn it, sing it, live it. Your life song is that melody that, that rhythm, that assignment from on high that naturally flows through your being.

It is that which is waiting to be birthed in you. It’s like what Michael Angelo said about his great stone statues. When asked how he chisled out such great masterpieces from bits of rock and chunks of stone, legend has it that he responded, “the form was already there. I just freed it.” There is greatness within you waiting to be birthed.

Some have gone through life either never learning or ignoring their life’s song. But your song is about more than you. As Mary embraced her divinely ordered destiny, she gave God praise – not only for her divine appointment, but for what God was going to do through what she brought forth.

Your song is meant to bring hope and love and life to others. Your song is not only for your help, your encouragement, your strength. Your song is for your community. Your song is for your family. Your song is for your sphere of influence. Mary magnified the Lord for what was about to be birthed in her. She may not have understood the mixture of joy and sorrow, freedom and burden, hope and desperation, pain and pride, she would endure over the next several years, but she took what she had and ran with it.

Our song will sometimes be happy, sometimes sad, sometimes light hearted and sometimes heavy as stone – but our song – our life’s theme – our calling is meant to be a blessing. When we don’t learn to sing our own song, we go through out life feeling unfulfilled and empty.
You can’t do anything about yesterday. But you can begin to sing your song today. You can say, “behold the handmaid or the servant of the Lord –be it unto me according to thy word.” You can begin to sing your song today. You can expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.

You can begin to sing your song today. You can ask the Lord, “Lord, what is my life’s song? What would you have me to do with my life? What do you want to birth in me? How do you want to use me to accomplish a part of your plan for this world?

You have a song. Will you learn it, sing it and live it?

Have a blessed, peaceful and “song filled” Christmas and New Year.

Until next week,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Resources to Encourage and Equip Clergywomen"

A great source of encouragement, I have found, is to know that we are not walking this journey alone. We have faith that the Lord walks with us and we praise God also for providing “sisters” to come along side us. Sometimes the fellowship and sisterhood of clergywomen is not tangible, but spiritual. We find strength through hearing, sharing and observing each other “fight the good fight of faith.” Today we continue to share websites, articles, and other resources for women in ministry.

Be blessed…

Center for Clergy Women

This site is especially designed for women who are considering, pursuing, or serving as professional Christian clergy. Here you will find resources and connections that will assist you in hearing God’s leading and growing your ministry for Him.

Click on the link below for more information

The excerpt below comes from an older magazine, Circuit Rider Magazine (May/June 2006)

"It's a Girl's Job After All!” by Judith E. Smith

When I was four years old, so my mother says, and we were visiting my grandparents, I announced one Sunday afternoon that we were going to have church and I was going to preach. I marched my grandparents, my parents, and my two-year-old sister into the bedroom and seated them in a line at the foot of my grandmother’s bed. I stood on a stool in front of them, opened the Bible, and said “Great American people!” No one remembers anything else about that first sermon of mine, but they all remember that my squirming sister managed to crawl over the side and under the bed, escaping from the room.

That was in 1948, and it did not occur to anyone in that room to think that I might actually grow up to be a preacher. And yet, as this issue of Circuit Rider comes off the press, I will be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of my first ordination.


On that same site, you’ll find the following article excerpt…

The book Courageous Past–Bold Future chronicles the historic journey of the first women to receive full clergy rights in The Methodist Church and looks at challenges still facing clergywomen 50 years later.

“The stories of the women in these pages carry hope for the younger generation of United Methodist women. They are living narratives that bear the pain and joy of ministry that represents the paradox of Christ’s call,” said the Rev. HiRho Park, director of Continuing Formation for Ministry at The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, which published the book by Patricia J. Thompson.

Visit the site above to see a list of other articles and website links

Online Resources and Bibliography for Women in Ministry

Check out articles such as:
A Woman's Place? Leadership in the Church (C. S. Cowles)

An online version of a book from Beacon Hill Press presenting the biblical and historical case for women in ministry. Dr. Cowles is a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA.

Women in Ministry (Phyllis H. Perkins)

An Examination of the issue of women in ministry from a sociological perspective, focusing on the God-given and enabled skills and gifts that women bring to leadership roles in the church, and what that means for clergy preparation in the church. Dr. Perkins is a professor at Nazarene Bible College, Colorado Springs CO. Available only in Adobe .pdf format.
From Rhetoric to Reality (Janine T. Metcalf)

"From Rhetoric to Reality: Putting into Practice Our Century-Old Polity of Gender Partnership in Ministry." Brief survey of the history of women ministers in the Church of the Nazarene with consideration of why women ministers have declined. Dr. Metcalf is pastor of the El Cajon Church of the Nazarene in CA. Available only in Adobe .pdf format.

Go to the site below to review additional articles, books and website links for female clergy.

Book: Clergy Moms: A Survival Guide to Balancing Family and Congregation , by Allison Moore (Seabury Books, New York, NY, 2008).

The author, Allison M. Moore, an Episcopal Priest in Fort Lee, New Jersey, provides a descriptive and analytical book which draws on the research of Barbara Zikmund and others about the life of the clergy family. “She weaves experiences of faithfulness to God and analysis of the social structures that shape commitments into one understanding of vocation.” She utilizes the voices of women, men, clergy, laity and children. She challenges assumptions, while offering insight to female clergy.

Are these resources helpful? Do you have others to share? Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Resources for Clergywomen: Networks, Books, Beauty Tips and More!"

Resources for Clergywomen…

Half the battle of moving forward in anything is knowing where to go. Frequently, female clergy desire to make connections with other clergywomen, are looking for support and would like to know where to turn for guidance.

For those with the above mentioned inquiries, wonderful resources are available!

Today’s Shepastor highlights several resources such as websites, reading materials and networks for female clergy.

American Baptist Women in Ministry (ABWIM)

Check out the newsletter, “WOMENWORD”

Published semiannually, a wonderful series of articles from American Baptist women in ministry as well as conference reviews, updates on workshops and seminars, missions work, ministry projects and more!

Editor: Rev. Karen Pickler

To find WOMENWORD, visit the ABWIM on the web:

Reading Resource:

A Time for Honor: A Portrait of African American Clergywomen, by Rev. Dr. Delores Carpenter, St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2001

“Historical, theological and sociological scholarship; denominational statistics; the author’s own survey and interview findings; and her own experiences as an African American female pastor all inform this important text honoring African American clergywomen.”

Using case studies, Dr. Carpenter provides an overview of a wide variety of issues and findings concerning the service of African American women clergy in today’s churches. She includes explorations of seminary and church official’s attitudes toward and perceptions about women as ordained clergy.

This wonderful resource may be purchased on Amazon.

Fidelia’s Sisters: A publication of the Young Clergy Women Project
The Network of the Young Clergy Women Project

Ann Bonner-Stewart, Founding Managing Editor

Fidelia's Sisters is an online publication by, for, and about young clergy women, with new material appearing on a rotating schedule over the course of a month. They publish short stories, visual art, poetry, liturgical resources, personal essays, reflections, interviews, book reviews, and more. They “strive to be a space where some of the professional and personal issues that young clergy women face are addressed with honesty, all the while recognizing that no one ‘kind’ of young clergy woman has a monopoly on who young clergy women are.”
Visit them at

For our United Methodist Sisters, the website below provides a beautiful array of articles, networking opportunities and research related to female clergy.

General Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Click on the link below to check out articles such as, “Women face a long road to change in the church.” Also available, a downloadable literary journal called, WellSprings, with reflections, essays, poetry and more – produced for clergywomen by clergywomen.

From Duke Divinity School – Clergy Health Initiative…

The Deeper Purpose of Beauty Tips for Women

“Beauty Tips for Ministers,” is a blog by the Rev. Victoria Weinstein, Harvard-educated pastor of First Parish Unitarian Church in Norwell, Mass. She started this blog, declaring, “If clergypeople believe that religious life is vital, relevant and beautiful, they should look the part.”

Concerning the blog, Duke Divinity commentator Courtney Wilder writes, “While chock-full of salient advice on how to navigate trends and potential beauty pitfalls, the blog’s true value stems from its ability to elevate women within the context of their profession. …What separates Weinstein’s approach from secular guides to professional dress are first, her ability to exercise pastoral care in guiding her readers, and second, her clear conviction that having (and dressing) a female body does not interfere with a pastor’s vocation. Indeed, Weinstein argues that for female clergy dressing one’s body ought to reflect both affirmation of one’s gender and acknowledgement of the leadership role of clergy within the community.

She identifies the tendency of some female clergy to efface their gender and/or sexuality in their professional attire and argues that this approach does no one any favors; instead, she advocates for a model of religious womanhood that is frankly feminine, and simultaneously highly professional and even sartorially conservative.”

Check out Rev. Weinstein’s “Beauty tips” at

That’s it for today. Next week we will share additional resources for clergywomen. Do you have a resource(es) that would benefit sister clergy? Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris
(If you are unable to directly click on website links above, highlight website address, then copy and paste into your brower)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Faith and Leadership: A Resource for Clergywomen to Make Connections"

For the next several weeks, Shepastor will focus upon networking resources for clergywomen. Today I’d like to share highlights from, “Faith and Leadership: An offering of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity”

In the article, “Clergy women make connections,” author Natalie Gott writes,

“Women have been entering into ministry in large numbers for decades. But few women lead congregations, and those who do are likely to lead small congregations.”

A couple of months ago, I attended a seminar on female clergy “Breaking the Stained Glass Ceiling.” One of the presenters made a profound assertion. “Women don’t ask.” The basic point of her message was that women, because of our proclivity towards nurturing, supporting and “making do,” tend to accept less and are expected to expect less in terms of salary, benefits, church growth (numerically) and opportunities.

Our presenter made a distinction between “sinful ambition” and “holy ambition.” Sinful ambition was described as selfish and self-centered in nature – the “it’s all about ME” attitude – my goals – my desires – my benefits etc. “Holy ambition,” on the other hand was described as a desire to grow, thrive and obtain not only for self-interest but for the furthering of God’s Kingdom.

In other words, holy ambition has a view towards increased resources for increased opportunities to do ministry. This does not suggest that it is sinful to desire opportunities commensurate with education and experience – it is not sinful to desire a decent pay, benefits and a vacation! Nor is it sinful to desire to serve in a larger venue if you feel led or called to do so.

To further expand upon these considerations, Let’s look at excerpts from Ms. Gott’s article mentioned above…

February 16, 2010 | For women who aspire to leadership positions in church organizations, the career path can be a lonely one, with few role models and mentors.

Overall, women lead about 8 percent of congregations, and only about 5 percent of American churchgoers attend a congregation led by a woman, according to the National Congregations Study. The study also found that women who work as pastors are less likely to report satisfaction with their jobs than their male colleagues.

Although the official barriers to leadership have fallen in many church organizations, women clergy still face challenges, including how to thrive personally and how to build networks and friendships that can sustain them, said Barbara Brown Zikmund, who is ordained in the United Church of Christ and is a former president of Hartford Seminary. She is co-author of “Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling.”

“The challenge is how to do the job in new ways,” she said.
Women have responded to this need in different ways, including conferences, formal church programs and online chat rooms and blogs. In these formal and informal spaces, women clergy are coming together to connect with and support one another.

Ms. Gott goes on to describe four examples of clergywomen networking with each other. One I found particularly interesting (and relative to our earlier discussion of holy ambition) is the “Lead Women Pastors Project.”

Appearing to be an extraordinary program, the project is designed to identify female clergy who desire and have the potential to lead large (1,000 +) congregations. The process is described below…

The Lead Women Pastors Project

The Rev. Karen Oliveto has served in urban and rural settings, as a campus and United Methodist parish minister, in New York and now, in San Francisco as co-pastor of Glide Memorial Church’s 11,000-member congregation.

Through it all, she has leaned on others for insight, inspiration and encouragement. But she has found that it has become harder to find mentors the longer she has been in ministry.

Through the United Methodist Church’s Lead Women Pastors Project, Oliveto will help fill that mentoring void for other women. The project pairs 25 women such as Oliveto who serve at churches with 1,000 or more members with 25 women who have the potential, as determined by United Methodist bishops, to one day lead a church of that size.

The coaches will connect with their partners at least once a month for two years. The project started in April. The coaches have participated in both group and individual training sessions and will work to help the promising pastor determine if her gifts are suitable for leading a large church.
“What I hope to offer is to help another clergy woman come into a fuller sense of her own power and authority,” Oliveto said in a recent interview.

The coaching program is the second phase of the Lead Women Pastors Project. The church first surveyed both female and male senior pastors at large United Methodist congregations on a variety of issues in 2008, focusing heavily on leadership styles. The results showed that women who lead large churches still are pioneers: Nine out of 10 were the first women to lead their churches. Further, the study showed that 77 percent of lead women pastors developed their leadership style by having role models, which the coaching project is designed to foster.

Of the roughly 1,200 United Methodist churches in the United States with 1,000 or more members, 94 had women as lead pastors, according to October 2008 data. Twenty-seven percent of all clergy in the church are women, even though the UMC’s membership is nearly 60 percent female, said HiRho Y. Park, director of continuing formation for ministry at the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

“It is only logical to me that leaders should represent the constituency that they are serving,” Park said. “If the church is there to disturb the marginality of God’s people, it will be a justice consciousness that will spring up through the cracks. To me, the Lead Women Pastors Project represents the core mission of the church.”

Completing the coaching program is one indication that the woman being coached may be ready to serve as a lead pastor in a large church, Park said. Bishops and district superintendents will be informed when the clergy woman completes the program. Park says she is hopeful that they will consider those clergy women to be appointed as lead women pastors, Park said. One goal is to increase the number of lead women pastors at large churches by 10 percent to 15 percent by 2012. Park also hopes the program will promote and facilitate a focused discussion on clergy women’s roles and leadership styles with the bishops and the cabinet and that it will help strengthen a support network for lead women pastors.

Oliveto says she is happy to be part of the project because she is committed to growing new church leadership and she hopes to build relationships with other women clergy participating in the program.
“I just think the church needs the skills, the creativity, the enthusiasm and passion for ministry that women bring, and I love helping cultivate that,” Oliveto said.

What a wonderful opportunity for female clergy! It is my prayer that the idea of mentoring clergywomen to the lead pastorate role for larger congregations will blossom and spread beyond churches that appoint (hierarchical in nature) to churches that have the call process (congregational in nature).

For more information on this project as well as other resources for female clergy, visit,

Do you have recommendations for websites, resources such as articles, books, organizations etc., to help female clergy to learn, grow and thrive? We want to hear from you! Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Harsh Words for a Harsh Reality: Interview with Bondage Breakers, Inc. CEO, Dr. Alicia Malone"

During the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Mr. Arthur H. Garrison, of Garrison Consulting, LLC presented a research paper entitled, “Disproportionate Minority Confinement: A Historical Look at Racial Incarceration.”

His research concludes the following…

In 1999, one in every 29 African American males was sentenced to at least a year’s confinement, compared with one in every 75 Hispanic males, and one in every 240 white males. In more than a dozen states, a convicted felon loses the right to vote – for life. Thirty-two states prohibit offenders on probation or parole from voting. As a result, nearly 4 million Americans, one in fifty adults, is barred from voting. Of these, 1.4 million are African American,accounting for 13 percent of the black male population.

He further states…

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Prison
Inmates at Midyear 2007 report, compared to the estimated
numbers of black, white, and Hispanic males in the U.S.
resident population, black males are six times and Hispanic males are two times more likely to be held in custody than white males
(pages 2-3, American Society of Criminology 2008 Annual Meeting paper, St. Louis, MO November 12-15, 2008).

The above stated findings provide a glimpse of some tragic realities. The “Prison Industry” in America is an unjust and heinous system that perpetuates familial dysfunction, poverty and imprisonment. In this our final segment focusing upon clergywomen in prison Ministry, the Rev. Dr. Alicia Malone, CEO/Executive Director of Bondage Breakers, Inc. reflects upon the systemic inequities and voices righteous indignation. Bondage Breakers, Inc., is a prison ministry dedicated to offering practical, spiritual, economic and educational assistance to ex-offenders and their families. Bondage Breakers, Inc. has several ministries, including a mentoring program, employment training and assistance, and an academic scholarship program for children of incarcerated parents. The organization is comprised of church volunteers throughout Summit County.

Shepastor Interview with
The Reverend Dr. Alicia Malone
Founding Executive Director,
Bondage Breakers, Inc.
Akron, Ohio

Tell us how you became involved in prison ministry and in what capacities have you served regarding this ministry.

I initially became involved in 1982 under the Way Out Prison Ministry under the directorship of Esley Patch. I volunteered for the GED Program at the Summit County Jail. My heart was deeply moved by the lack of education and interest of education within the incarcerated population. Eight years later, the Lord called me into Prison Ministry on a much larger scale.

Explain the concept of “pipeline to prison” in America

Not having done much research in this area, “pipeline to prison,” from a common sense standpoint, one can discern that prison, the industry that it is, is an opportunity for the nation’s states to become rich. Another factor I have always held is that this “pipeline” is a post-modern “slavery” and in many ways defeats or deflates many of the earnest and valiant plights presented during the Civil Rights era.

How does this impact individuals, families and communities?

The impact upon individuals, families and communities is continued fragmentation, break down of the family structure and a continual worsening of their condition. Today’s perpetual societal dysfunction as relates to the prison system makes it so. The dysfunction persists because of the biased legislation process. In other words systems and laws have been put in place to control and continue disproportional minority incarcerations. Let me say it this way - many of our young men and women are being incarcerated for crimes that call for “treatment” not physical incarceration. Today, any and almost everything, from driving under suspension to driving with an open container can land a person in prison. There is something grossly wrong with this picture, in my opinion.

How can clergy help?

Clergy can help by first, stop ignoring and denying the realities of prison, incarceration, broken, dysfunctional families in our congregations. Jesus ministered to those “broken, dysfunctional” persons in his day i.e. Simon the leper, the woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood for 12 years. We, Clergy, don’t need to hide behind a cloak of religiosity, we need to emulate our Savior and become revolutionist.

How can churches help?

Churches can get behind existing organizations, like Bondage Breakers, Inc. and make them a line item in their overall Church Budget. If Churches would commit $100.00 a month to organizations who are “on the front line doing prison ministry” those organizations would not have to vie for State dollars (to address a state problem). As a church and organization leader, I have sent out verbal pleas to many churches with a very minimal response. What I have learned in the 20 years of ministry to the least of these (Matthew 25:41), is that many churches are very apathetic regarding the realities of prison ministry. If a situation does not appear to affect them, it has been my experience, that they (churches) show little to no interest in assisting, emulating Christ in the fullness of the Gospel.

What guidance would you give to individuals desiring to get involved in prison ministry?

The initial word of advice I would give to anyone is: “make certain that you are called into this arena.” There is nothing more damaging to an inmate than for a person to come “look and see” but really are “detached” in terms of the heart of their matter. I pray you do not mind my being candid. If there is a sincere calling and you have your church’s support, start with the Pastor and official board. Let them bring it to the congregation and make sure you are budgeted from within the house of God. At the inception of Bondage Breakers, Inc. that is exactly what my Pastor Dr. Arthur E. Kemp did. He made certain that transportation was made available for us. He also provided gas and revenue for a light lunch after the services concluded. Prison Visitation Ministry is at least a 12 hour day; this includes travel time, the service time, and the return trip home. For those who do not aspire to minister inside the walls, there are many “outside the wall” services that can be rendered. One still must discern the call!

Micah 6:8 declares, “He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
For more information about Bondage Breakers, Inc. or to contact Dr. Malone write, P.O. Box 8328 Akron, Ohio 44320; (330) 867-2325.

Your thoughts? Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Anointed to Set Captives Free: Interview With The Reverend Julia Moses"

This past summer, we were blessed by today’s minister on the topic of Ageism. Being a woman of many gifts and talents, God has also used her in another area of ministry – prison ministry. We share her testimony and insights below…

A sad reality of the prison industry is the incarceration of children. Youth detention centers become the entrance for the broader prison system. Jesus declared that the Spirit of the Lord anointed Him to, among other things, “set the captives or prisoners free (Luke 4:18).” Our featured clergywoman for today sought to do just that in her work within the juvenile detention center and ministry to females in prison. From 1988-1997 The Reverend Julia Moses served as the Superintendent of the Youth Development Center in Hudson, Ohio. There God used her as a beacon of hope, light, life and love to young people headed towards destruction.

Shepastor Interview with
The Reverend Julia Moses
Retired Superintendent, The Youth Development Center
Hudson, Ohio

Tell us how you became involved in prison ministry and in what capacities have you served regarding this ministry.

In the month of May, 1988, I was employed by the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners, as a Labor Relations Specialist. The duties of this office included conducting disciplinary hearings for employees at various agencies, and determining what administrative action should be meted out to employees for various offenses of misconduct in the workplace.

In the midst of preparing for an upcoming hearing in my office, I was informed by the secretary that a visitor was in the waiting room, and wanted to talk to me. Hurrying to get my paperwork together, I briefly stuck my head in the room. I was greeted by a man who introduced himself as the Director of the Department of Justice Affairs. He went on to state that he had a position open in his department for a person who would be the Superintendent of the Youth Development Center, in Hudson Ohio. He asked if I would be interested. I was in fact familiar with the establishment, since I conducted many disciplinary hearings there. After much prayer, and in consultation with my husband, and many friends, I applied and was selected for the position.

On September 10, 1988, I began my new job as Superintendent of the "Youth Development Center," which housed one hundred and twenty juvenile delinquents, and one hundred thirty employees. Thirty employees were staff, and one hundred were members of the AFSCME Local Bargaining Union. The age range of the children was as young as ten up to 18 years old. Every Wednesday, children who were new admissions would be transported from the Juvenile Court, to Hudson. They would arrive in handcuffs and ankle chains. I was on call twenty-four hours a day. Many times I was summoned to come to the facility late at night, if there was an attempted escape by a student.

A school was right on the spacious 365 acres of land. Security guards and staff escorted the students to school. I visited each cottage to talk to the students and to listen to them. Some of the students were so starved for love and attention that I would spend long hours with them, counseling and listening to them. One of my main goals was to clean up, and organize a committee to work on projects so that we could become an accredited Institution. In 1990, we became accredited by the American Correctional Association. Even the students got involved, and enjoyed the treats for a job well done. Many times I went to the judges chambers to speak and appeal to the judges on behalf of the students. I counseled employees and families about being more attentive to the needs of the children.

In 1997, I retired from the Youth Development Center, and then volunteered at the Women's Pre-Release Prison for six years. I taught a class on Tuesday nights titled, "Lessons for Life." When the women left the facility, I followed up with them by visiting them in the rehab centers. I have had the joy of cultivating and nurturing many women who relocated to transitional housing. Occasionally I have encountered former students who were in the prison. They are still very appreciative of the times we shared praying together and studying the Word of God.

The Lord has blessed me to be a change agent in the lives of those He loves. People in prisons, and people in Hospitals, have much in common. They both, at varying levels experience the loss of their identity, personal possessions, friends, family, hope, and name. They become a number.

Explain the concept of “pipeline to prison” in America and
the impact individuals, families and communities?

The pipeline to prison in America, begins with the "Cradle to Prison Pipeline." Our goal must be to break the pipeline. There are many generational factors that lead to the pipeline theory. In some families and communities, grandfathers, fathers and sons all went to prison, and the cycle continued.

Many African American, and Hispanic boys as early as five years of age, find themselves in the pipeline. Father in Jail, Mother at work,
teenage single mother at home, boys not going to school. The community, individuals, and families are all affected by the pipeline, because
there are moral issues involved that perpetuate this system. Real life examples include 12 year old girls having to drop out of school, due to pregnancy. This leads to single parenting, poverty, depression, isolation, desperation and in many cases, crime.

As her children get to be a certain age, they begin to feel the lack of attention or love, and thus they begin to act out in school. Soon they begin getting into fights, get suspended for long periods of time for violating the Zero tolerance policy. They wander the streets and get picked up for truancy and the list goes on. The two main culprits in this dilemma (as I see it) are race, and poverty. In order to break the pipeline, we all have to get involved. Schools need to provide better educational opportunities for the students, and increase participation in the Big Brothers, and Big Sisters program who can mentor and tutor the children. Communities have to become more invested in building lives and not correctional facilities!

How can clergy help?

Clergy can help by becoming stations of hope, committed to being that prophetic voice for those who have no voice, to advocate for the least of these, and become community leaders and mentors for those who sit in the pews.

How can churches help?

Churches can help by being a healing community, reaching out to the families of the incarcerated. They can develop a Bible study for the incarcerated. Begin educating church members, through Scriptural illustrations of ministry to prisoners and the “least of these.” Show love to all people. Develop faith bonds with the returning person. Write letters to prisoners prior to release.

What guidance would you give to individuals desiring to get involved in prison ministry?

Become a good listener and let the person tell their story. Don't interrupt. Provide support for the returning person. Ask if the person is amenable to your praying for him/her. Keep the relationship from getting too personal. Give the person room. Don't try to accomplish everything in one fell swoop. Do not give out personal information (phone number, etc).

Are you involved in ministry to “at-risk” youth? Do you have a testimony concerning God’s movement in the lives of young people, catching them before they fell into the abyss of the prison system? We want to hear from you! Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

“Who Will Go? Continuing The Prison Ministry Discussion: Interview with The Rev. Mylion Waite”

Today’s blog continues the conversation of clergywomen involved in Prison Ministry. Our featured pastor for this segment is The Reverend Mylion Waite, Director of the Antioch Baptist Church Prison Ministry in Cleveland, Ohio and Pastor of the Open Door Fellowship Worship Hour, a ministry to the incarcerated and their families. With a heart for those families devastated by a loss of loved ones to the prison industry, Rev. Waite serves with great dedication and compassion. Below she shares her experience with this particular ministry and gives guidance to those desiring to get involved. As the Lord raised the question in the Book of Isaiah, “Who will go for us (Isaiah 6:8)?” Rev Waite’s ministry challenges us to consider our part in “the going.”

Shepastor Interview with
The Reverend Mylion Waite
Director of Antioch Baptist Church Prison Ministry,
Cleveland, Ohio
Pastor of the Open Door Fellowship Worship Hour

Tell us how you became involved in prison ministry and in what capacities have you served regarding this ministry.

I became involved after visiting the Northeast Pre-release Center with one of my church members who had a burning passion to minister to incarcerated women. Following the visit, I founded the Open Door Fellowship Worship Hour --a ministry to individuals incarcerated, those returning home and their families. Open Door offers two worship services monthly for the people previously incarcerated. This gathering of 40 to fifty allows families to share their trials, tribulations, joys and successes while encouraging them to stay strong in the faith.

Additionally, the ministry has a pen-pal and birthday card ministry to those incarcerated, as well as trained instructors for Crossroads Bible Correspondence courses. We have developed a lending library at the Oriana Halfway house. We have a County jail ministry, and a ministry to boys and girls in the juvenile detention center. We also have a biweekly visitation ministry to Grafton, Lorain Correctional Institutions where our members present the Iron Sharpens Irons workshop to help men with life skills and adjustment with reentry issues. The program also offers mentoring and after prison support with bus passes, food and clothing--these represent a modicum of what the Antioch Prison ministry offers to individuals and their families. I serve as the director of the prison ministry and pastor of Open Door.

Explain the concept of “pipeline to prison” in America

“Pipeline to Prison” is a phrase that captures the circumstances that children are born into that too often predict their likeliness of going to prison. These trajectories include, race, poverty, single parent homes, school dropout, lack of health care, including mental health. These forces combine to make it difficult for a youngster to transition successfully into adulthood.

How does this impact individuals, families and communities?

There are 2.7 million American Children with a parent behind bars. One in 9 AA American Children, one in 28 Hispanic Children and one in 57 White Children have incarcerated parents (Collateral Cost). This is devastating to family life and to society. Imprisonment makes it tough to maintain family ties or to support a family after release. Children with fathers in prison are significantly more likely than other children, to go to prison themselves. One in three African American boys can expect to go to prison themselves. In addition, large numbers of ex-offenders in a community destabilizes the community as people move in and out of prison, causing neighborhoods to loose incomes, role models for children and husbands for mothers.

How can clergy help?

Clergy can help by first acknowledging the problem and its impact on family life. Clergy can encourage prison ministries in their churches, urging people to follow Christ’s command to remember those in prison, as though they themselves are locked away.

How can churches help?

Churches can partner with community groups to help find jobs for the person returning to society, be a mentor, hire someone, welcome the ex-offender to the full life of the congregation, invite an ex-offender to speak at your church, offer support to children whose parent may be away, i.e. Angel Tree, etc.

What guidance would you give to individuals desiring to get involved in prison ministry?

Individuals desiring to help should get training from a reputable prison ministry program and learn the do's and don'ts of prison ministry. Be guided by the Holy Spirit as to why they should be involved. This is a rich mission field that requires first the heart of Christ and the willingness to get beyond presuppositions and biases towards those with prison records.

Does your congregation have an active prison ministry? Are you involved with ministry to the families of the incarcerated? What experiences have you had that may provide valuable insight into the “doing” of this much needed ministry? We want to hear from you! Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Prisoner Re-entry and Aftercare Ministry, Highlights: Minister Fela Barrueto"

Over the next few blogs, I will highlight the work of female clergy in Prison Ministry. Today, we will take a look at the work of Minister Fela Barrueto, National Coordinator, Prisoner Re-entry and Aftercare Ministry, American Baptist Home Missions Societies.

A native of Peru, Minister Fela Barrueto began her work with then, ABC National Ministries in 1996. While attending Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, earning a masters degree in Theological Studies, she worked in various administrative support positions, including the NEW LIFE 2010 initiative and Hispanic and Portuguese-speaking ministries.

I had the privilege of meeting Minister Fela about a year ago. A beautiful, humble spirit, Minister Fela speaks with great compassion and enthusiasm regarding the plight of the incarcerated, their families and the struggles they face as they seek to re-enter society. Although I have not yet done a personal interview with Minister Fela, I have observed her dedication, love and support for the incarcerated. She is currently helping our local Cleveland Baptist Association to initiate a task force for prisoner re-entry and aftercare within our churches.

Portions of the information below is taken directly from the American Baptist Website, under “Justice Ministries.”
Here are some tragic statistics Minister Fela shares...


“The reality of incarceration is not only painful and devastating, but also closer to us than we would like to admit. By the end of 2009, more than 1.6 million people were reported to be behind bars, either in state or federal prisons.

Prison population in the United States by the end of 2009: 1,613,656
Parents of minors: 809,800
Almost 11/2 million minors have a parent in prison.
More than 7.3 million individuals in the United States are either on probation or parole or in jail or prison.

Probation 42,933,163
Parole 824,365
Prison 1,512,576
Jail 780,581

This means that one in every 31 adults is under correctional control in the United States.

Total U.S. adult population: 232,403,959
Correctional population: 7,410,685

The prison system is the fastest growing industry in America. The system is also facing financial crisis and, therefore, opting for early releases at an extremely growing rate. Are our communities prepared for this huge influx of returning citizens? Are our churches ready to open their doors and welcome individuals that deserve a second chance? Are we prepared to deal with the conflicts caused by having victims and perpetrators entering to the same place of worship?”


Family Freedom Kit: “What Shall We Then Do?”
American Baptist Home Mission Societies has adopted The Family Freedom Kit: “What Shall We Then Do?” to share with churches to help them produce healing communities. Designed to prepare churches and communities to open their doors to returning citizens and their families, this holistic tool is available at no cost.

· Prisoner Re-entry and Aftercare Ministry Toolkit
· The Christian Citizen

If you would like more information or believe that God is calling you to get involved, here’s how reach Minister Fela Barrueto:

Fela Barrueto
National Coordinator, Prisoner Re-entry and Aftercare Ministry Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Services
Telephone: 800-ABC-3USA, x2493
FAX: 610-768-2470
Prisoner Re-entry and Aftercare Ministry
P.O. Box 851
Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851

If you are currently serving in a prison ministry or have a testimony or praise to share concerning ministry to the incarcerated, post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"God is Still Working Miracles: Interview With Rev. Dr. Alicia J. Malone"

As a teenager having committed my life to Christ, I had a beloved mentor and friend from church named Betty. She knew that I had a calling upon my life and would frequently tell me about another young lady that she knew God called into the ministry. She was so proud of this young woman and spoke of her fondly and often. She eventually shared with me that her beloved “minister friend” name Alicia had a baby and afterwards suffered a debilitating stroke. Betty and I prayed often for this young women that I never met. However, I always remembered her story and it inspired me to keep going and being faithful in ministry.

Approximately thirty years later as I sat in a workshop in Chicago, Illinois, a beautiful woman walking with a cane entered the room. I listened in amazement as she introduced herself as “Rev. Dr. Alicia Malone from Akron, Ohio (my home town).” Could this be Betty’s “Alicia?” I couldn’t stand the suspense one minute longer. “Do you have a friend named Betty that lives in Akron, Ohio? Did you suffer a stroke after having a baby?” I asked. “Yes!” I told her that she did not know me, but I’d heard of her many years ago and her story helped to keep me going forward in ministry. Today I am privileged to share her courageous, miraculous and inspirational story on Shepastor. Praise God for His wonderful healing power, grace, mercy, peace and restoration!

Shepastor Interview with
The Reverend Dr. Alicia J. Malone
Founder and Executive Director
Bondage Breakers, Inc.
Akron, Ohio

When did you first “hear” a call to the ministry and how long was it before you were licensed?

I always loved the church and the work of the ministry. People frequently said that I had a call on my life, but I was not trying to go there! I ignored the call.

In July 1980 I had my son. Eight days later, I experienced a cranial aneurysm and four strokes. My family was told that I would only survive 24 hours. I lay comatose until September 2nd, 1980.

I remember waking up as they were transferring me to the rehabilitation center. The only thing I could remember about the place I was being transferred to was that it was a sanitarium. I thought my family was putting me away forever. At Edwin Shaw Rehabilitation Center, I had to learn how to walk, talk, and care for myself all over again, at age 27. The entire process took 2 years and 4 months. Even though I had graduated from Akron University in 1976 with an Associates Degree, I had to begin the learning process at the 4th grade level. This was very humiliating – being a college graduate and a professional. I had a wonderful job, flying all over the country as a Nuclear Component Correspondent. I was administrating contracts for the Untied States Navy. But God said, you have given man enough of your time and energy – I am going to get glory out of your life!

God “accosted me,” re-routed me and got my attention! He did not just get my attention in 1980 – He got my total allegiance forever!

I first heard the call to ministry in 1989 after attending an American Baptist Church Women’s Conference. On the way home the lady riding with me had fallen asleep. I was thinking about all that I had heard, which was very good. I was fully active in the missionary ministry at that time.

I heard a voice say, “I’m calling you to ministry.” I looked around and started calling the passenger. She was sleeping and indicated that “ she didn’t say anything.”

She advised me to go and talk to my Pastor. That was in June in 1989. It was the start of something beautiful and burdensome.

It was beautiful because God had called me. It was burdensome because women were not being accepted into ministry at that time. I was the first woman responding to the call at that church.

How did your pastor respond ?

I shared my call experience with him. He said, in an effort to discourage me, “If the Lord spoke, He also told you what kind of ministry. That was his way of responding without affirming my calling. He said, “Since you don’t know what the Lord is calling you to, go back and ask the Lord where is He calling you to serve.”

Since I was not trying to get up into the pastorate, I didn’t talk about the call for two years. I did not say another word. I continued doing the work of the ministry. I wasn’t discouraged, and continued singing in the choir, work in the missionary society, work in jail and prison ministry.

At the start of the Gulf war, pastor called an all out prayer vigil for men and women in the service. I went to support the men and women. As I entered, I heard God say, “Remind Pastor Kemp of My calling of you.” I said, “Lord, get off of my shoulder – It’s been two years – I’m not thinking about it (the call)!”

But I went to the pastor and asked him if he remembered our previous conversation. He said yes. He began the process of licensure. I had to sit before the deacons. All but one confirmed and affirmed my gifts and calling and wanted me to be licensed.

How long after that were you ordained?

I was licensed June, 1991 and was ordained in 1995.

You have a passion for Prison Ministry. How did you become so deeply involved in prison ministry?

In 1982 I started Moody Bible Institute. From Moody, I began working in the Summit County jail for the GED program. I believe that it was pre-ordained. I have an older brother who spent 95% of his life incarcerated beginning at age 7.

I asked myself, what kind of God would take a broken vessel like me and put me back together again? My search has always been, “who is this God?” At the prompting of my Pastor, I went to the McCreary Theological Center for Black church studies. This was uncomfortable because I spent most of my life around white folks.

Tell me about your ministry – Bondage Breakers Inc.

Bondage Breaker’s, Inc. is borne out of my love for God and the broken in our midst. Its purpose and goal has always been to provide a “safety net” for those coming out of incarceration and/or confinement. BBI is in it’s 20th year, as of November 1st and has not lost it’s desire or compulsion to minister to “the least of these my brethren…Mt. 25:36ff.” It began in my basement, moved to Mt. Olive in 1996, three years later we moved to our current location. The movement represents God’s constant approval of His servant and the charge laid before her. (in my opinion)

What words of advice would you give to female clergy desiring to enter the prison ministry?

Be certain that “God is calling you!” Lay before the Lord and like Eli told Samuel to do, “Speak LORD, thy servant is listening.” I’d admonish women to not give up their femininity, by emulating the male pastors or persona, but “be who God has called you to be.” If God has called you to a specific arena, “occupy till he comes.” When discouragement, criticisms, doubt and fears arise, “Look unto the hills from which cometh all your help…Ps. 121:1.” God sees you, us, and he knows what he desires to do with each of us. “Let God have his way!”

How can interested individuals contact you?

They can reach me by calling 330-867-2325 home/330-701-0576 cell or contact the office of Bondage Breakers, Inc. at 330-376-6245. If all else fails send an email to: I would love to hear from you all! Blessings and peace be upon you all!

Thanks Pastor Chris! Love abides and abounds!

What a powerful story! God “got the attention” of Dr. Alicia and she has dedicated her life to serving the Lord with gladness, “forever more!” She now gives unselfishly of herself on a daily basis, seeking to encourage, lift, support and advocate for individuals who have entered the prison system, providing during and aftercare ministry. What is your life’s calling? Has God “gotten your attention?” We want to hear from you! Post a comment or send us an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"God Has Another Plan: Interview with The Reverend Peg Nowling"

“My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He works so steadily.

Oft times He weaves in sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper
And I, the underside…”

The above poem speaks to the surprising beauty that God weaves with the various “threads” of our lives, creating our “tapestry” of ministry. Our featured clergywoman today, The Reverend Peg Nowling, Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lafayette, Indiana describes her journey which was full of surprises - filled with joy, tempered with reality, peppered with pain and strengthened with God’s grace. We are especially grateful for Rev. Peg’s willingness to share her journey even as she prepares to get married this week! Her words of encouragement and caution are filled with wisdom and maturity. Be blessed by her testimony below…

Shepastor Interview with
The Reverend Peg Nowling
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church
Lafayette, Indiana

At what age did you first “hear” a call to the ministry?

Not until I was in my late 30s. Before that I felt the call to be a wife and mother. Then divorce changed my life. My story is that I was helping our pastor and his wife move from the parsonage in a difficult ending to his ministry. Standing in their garage I heard this: “Someday you will go through this.”

I was not unaccustomed to hearing God, but I had no plans to marry a pastor so this wasn’t going to happen to me. I saw the pain my pastor and his wife were going through and thought, “NO WAY!” I forgot about that until I was sitting in orientation at seminary.

My call came gradually, I think. God often does that with me, gives it to me in pieces so I can chew on it and swallow. In 1987 I went back to college to be a teacher but soon discovered that wasn’t my thing. My boss encouraged me to do what I had always wanted to do so I decided to head to law school, a dream since high school.

As I got closer to taking the LSAT I was overcome with a sense of wrongness. By then I knew my law career would be my ministry and I was captivated by separation of church and state law. I sought some counseling and applied to seminary instead.

Did you share your call experience with anyone? If so, how did they respond?

Yes, I did but it was more about helping me understand my call as opposed to “this is it!” I didn’t have many role models for being a woman pastor.
My parents didn’t know what to do with me. Another relative said I was going to hell for going into ministry. But overall, I remember affirmations.

How long did it take after acknowledging your call to becoming licensed and or ordained?

Not long really. I was licensed during my first year of seminary and ordained five months after graduation from seminary.

How would you describe your journey into the ministry?

Lovely and challenging. Inner city ministry is rewarding work but when I arrived I had no idea what I was doing. But they were patient and taught me. Changing from an active lay person in the region to a seminary student/minister was full of affirmations too. Indianapolis is a great region for women to be affirmed so I was lucky there.

I was blessed by doing my field education in a United Methodist inner city parish where I got into the trenches quickly. I remember that not everything was perfect or easy but my memories seem to be in the “Go get ‘em” category as opposed to “NOOOOO.”

What role models impacted your perception of ministry (male and female)?

Mary Day Miller, now in Fredricktown, OH, may have been the first solo/senior pastor I met and she became a friend and mentor. She came out of the Southern Baptist tradition so my entrance into ministry was much easier than her.

One of my senior pastors at the UMC parish was Jim Mulholland, one of my best friends still today. Jim’s passion for city ministry was infectious and determined. He taught, guided, prodded, pushed and loved me into the person I am today. He is truly one of the best advocates for women in ministry around and without his influence I am not sure where I’d be today.

Judy Fackenthal, pastor of Garfield Park Baptist Church in Indianapolis, has also been my dear friend and role model. She is another city pastor who understands the challenges of the people we are serving. She is of great support in dealing with churches in difficult situations. She also understands how to love people and there have been times I’ve desperately needed help in doing that!

My soon-to-be husband has been a role model for 15 years and more so all the time. He is a good pastor and a wonderful human being. I have learned from him about ministry and life. We read each other’s sermons each week for critique and affirmation. He is one of my biggest encouragers.

Over the years, my role models have changed to meet the needs of the time. I have leaned on people who manage conflict well at certain times, or people who preach well…..etc. I have a great number of role models!

What is your current area of ministry? How did you become who you are (multifaceted question I know!)

As I write this I am winding down my 9 ½ year ministry as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lafayette, Indiana. I am getting married on October 22 to the Rev. Dr. W. Kenneth Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church of Rochester, NY where I will move. There I will be learning how to be married after 28 years of singleness, easing into the role of pastor’s spouse, and redecorating his home to make it ours. I will teach the Baptist polity class at Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School in the spring semester and I expect to take training to become an intentional interim minister. And I will write! God has said “Write!” It remains to be seen if God has said, “PUBLISH!”

Getting to who I am today is a long and winding road. By the third year of seminary I knew I was called to pastor but I also had a strong sense of wanting to teach so I thought I’d pastor a few years, then pursue a Ph.D. in ethics. But I never did.

I am a work in progress. This new adventure on which I find myself is a fascinating one. I never wanted to be a pastor’s spouse and yet here I am. I’ll learn but I will also carve out my own niche in Rochester.

Is it your experience that female pastors are strong advocates for other female clergy? Why or why not?

I think most are superficial advocates. By that I mean they believe that women should be in ministry if the call is there. I also think we don’t rally around each other enough. (The same can be said of men here.)
It is often hard to get women pastors to make time for each other. We pastors get so caught up in doing ministry we do not make ourselves a priority nor do we make supporting each other a priority.

What challenges have you faced in your role as a clergywoman?

Every time I think that the battle may be won, something happens to remind me how far we still have to go. In the past year I was fired from a wedding because grandpa wouldn’t come if a woman pastor was involved; I was not asked to participate in the funeral of a member I knew well because of gender. Sometimes I stand up in worship and see people get up and leave. They didn’t read my name on the sign, I guess.
It never ends but it doesn’t define me either. I’ve grown tougher skin over time. Ministry is hard work. If you can’t handle conflict, find another profession.

Churches are frightened these days about their future and they want us to make it better when, in reality, we need to change to get better. Many don’t want to change. They want to turn back the clock and bring back the people who left the church over the last squabble. It is hard to be all things to all people and read their minds. It is tough work, really tough, but so rewarding.

What suggestions do you have to help create greater opportunities for females desiring to become pastors (what can others do to help open doors for female clergy)?

I would love to see each area/region have someone in leadership of a WIM group. It can come out of Minister’s Council, but it needs to be present. We can do so much more together than we can on our own.

What words of wisdom or advice would you share with women who feel called to the ministry (pastorate or other ministries)?

One of the things we noticed in field education was that we were getting students coming to seminary to be healed rather than to be healers. (Not the majority but increasing numbers.) We understood that students don’t always know what they were being called to, but they should come to the M.Div. program grasping that they were called to be healers in a hurting world.

If you are not really clear that pastoral ministry is where you are being called, audit a few classes at a seminary instead of jumping headlong into a time-consuming and costly degree program.

You can be a minister without being ordained and the world definitely needs more and more people willing to be lay ministers. Churches cannot afford to pay everyone to do everything.

Having said that, if you are called, surround yourself with men and women who will encourage, affirm and challenge you. You will do yourself no favors by having people around you who only say nice things. Find people you trust to be discerning and honest.

Each year I gave this Fredrick Buechner quote to my students:
“Vocation” comes from the Latin vocare (to call) and means the work a [person] is called to by God.

“There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of society, say, or the superego, or self interest.
“The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need to do and (b) that the world needs to have done. If you find your work rewarding, you have presumably met requirement (a), but if your work does not benefit others, the chances are you have missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work does benefit others, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you are unhappy with it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your customers much either.”

“… The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Frederick Buechner,
Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC

You can be called to ministry and serve well without going to seminary or quitting your day job. But if you do feel called to professional ministry, know that it will be the hardest and yet most rewarding experience.

What words of encouragement and caution would you give to those who are currently serving in a ministerial role?

When “she” talks about the ‘good old days,’ it is much more than a filled church. It may be when her husband was still alive and coming home each evening at 5:30 p.m. from work, when the kids came home for lunch and she ironed all their clothes….that sort of thing….life with meaning and purpose. She didn’t expect to be widowed at 55, live to be 90 with her children scattered all over the country and they seldom come home.

We can’t change their worlds but we can listen and try to understand. We must continually work to not own their pain and try to fix it. Follow your heart and God’s guidance and be the pastor YOU are called to be instead of what your congregation thinks they want. You can’t give them what they want but you can give them what you have to bring. Bring it with love, understanding and good conflict mediation skills and forge ahead!

Have a life. Your own life, not the church’s. You cannot constantly be pouring yourself out without putting something good in. We cannot be pastors to healthy churches if we are not emotionally and physically healthy. Take care of yourself!!!!!

Is there anything else you’d like to share that you believe would help other clergywomen along the journey?

If I have learned anything from my own experiences, as well as the experiences of those I interviewed on my sabbatical, it is this: Don’t whine. Find a trustworthy outlet in a friend or therapist to vent, yell or scream but little is achieved by whining about the hard knocks you are enduring. I’ve done it and it doesn’t work!

I interviewed a college president, seminary president, two state legislators, pastors and business women and while they had all been through hard times, they didn’t whine about them. Life hurts and it isn’t fair. Sometimes the problems we endure are problems all clergy endure and we shouldn’t make every hardship about gender. Some of our best advocates are men and our harshest critics women, but men go through “crap” too.

I suggest everyone have a pastoral counselor or therapist. I discovered this during one of those hard times and began driving 2 hours each way, once a month to see her. She continues to be part of my support system even though I haven’t seen her monthly for almost two years. I check in every few months and she did our premarital counseling. She is my friend and confidante for life! She makes me look at myself honestly and warmly. She has helped me find my good qualities when I couldn’t see and the ones to work on when I was in denial. You can’t do ministry alone.

Has God surprised you by changing the course of your life for ministry? Have you experienced God’s “weaving a tapestry” of joy and sorrow as you serve in the ministry? We want to hear from you! Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"The Angels Watchin O'er Me My Lord!" Interview with The Rev. Dr. Alice Greene

The journeys of the clergywomen shared on this blog are many and varied. Some had a very difficult time on the road towards licensure and ordination, some chose other avenues of ministry and some were embraced and encouraged by their pastors, leaders and mentors. Our featured clergywoman for today was blessed to be among those who were readily encouraged and embraced. Senior Pastor, advocate, leader, scholar and author, The Reverend Dr. Alice Greene provides for us a beautiful picture of faith, obedience and perseverance. Trusting the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit, she surrendered her life as an attorney, went to seminary and became a pastor. She has served as President of the American Baptist National Ministers Council and currently serves on the Steering Committee for the American Baptist Women In Ministry. Rev. Alice recently published a book, Angels All Around (highlights discussed in today’s blog). Read her story below…

Shepastor Blog Interview
The Reverend Dr. Alice Greene
Senior Pastor, Irving Park Baptist Church
Chicago, Illinois

At what age did you first “hear” a call to the ministry?

I began to realize that God had been calling me into ministry when I was in my late 30’s. The call was gentle, but consistent. I didn’t have any female role models or family members who were in ministry, and so it took me a while to understand what was going on.

Did you share your call experience with anyone? If so, how did they respond?

I first shared my call with a pastor who responded by asking me to write a sermon. I found that very difficult to do at the time, and thought that I must have been mistaken. The call was persistent and more insistent over a period of about 10 years, so that by the time I was in my late 40’s I knew that the call was real and decided to attend seminary.

How long did it take after acknowledging your call to becoming licensed and or ordained?

I was fortunately in a church where the first woman had already been ordained. I responded to God’s call by leaving my full time job, enrolling in seminary full time and taking on a part time job at the church. I was licensed about one year after announcing my call, and ordained about 9 months after graduating with a M.Div. degree

How would you describe your journey into the ministry?

The journey was an especially blessed time for me. I loved seminary and felt a clear confirmation of my call by the joy that I experienced there. My only regret is that it took me so long to fully understand what God was doing in my life.

What role models impacted your perception of ministry (male and female)?

My pastors had all been male, and at the church I attended they tended to be very powerful speakers. I initially felt inadequate for preaching, because I felt that preachers should have powerful speaking voices. I started out intending to be a Christian educator rather than a preacher, and had no intention of becoming a pastor. I did take a preaching class, however, and it was the professor in that class who helped me to learn that God’s call was to me, just as I was, and that I didn’t need to be like anyone else to fulfill God’s call to me. Preaching became a joy.

What is your current area of ministry? How did you become who you are (multifaceted question I know!)

I am presently the pastor of a multicultural church on the Northwest side of Chicago. After seminary, working on the staff of a large church led me to finally realize that God intended me to be a pastor. The search for the right position was difficult, though. God’s divine intervention caused me to leave the church where I worked to move back to my hometown and take care of my mother. Then God directed me to the church where I am now the pastor. We found each other one month after I stepped out on faith and moved, not knowing what the future held for me!

Is it your experience that female pastors are strong advocates for other female clergy? Why or why not?

I knew very few female pastors in the African American Baptist world in which I served. The few Baptist female pastors that I knew were not from traditional African American denominations. They were supportive of women clergy, participating in collegiate clergy groups and willing to share experiences, advice and support.

What challenges have you faced in your role as a clergywoman?

The greatest challenge I’ve found has been in the “glass ceiling” that so many of our Baptist churches have when it comes to women pastors. Many of our African American Baptist churches will accept women as teachers and associate pastors in charge of various ministries, but calling a woman pastor continues to be difficult for them.

What suggestions do you have to help create greater opportunities for females desiring to become pastors? (Specifically, what can others do to help open doors for female clergy?)

I’m presently working with others in our American Baptist denomination to develop networks and plans to support the cause of women’s leadership in our churches. There are many supportive people who we are encouraging to come together in networks to educate others about women’s call to ministry, to advocate for women in ministry, to cultivate the calls of women into ministry and to celebrate women’s gifts for ministry.

You just wrote a book, Angels All Around. Tell us about the book, how you came to write it and what you hope it will accomplish.

Angels All Around is a novel that I was inspired to write with the hope that it would help people think more deeply about their connection to their Creator. The idea that we are all created by God for God’s good purposes led me to want to encourage people to remember that goodness from which and for which they were created. This idea morphed into a somewhat fanciful novel about angels that are sent into the world as humans with things to accomplish for God, but being born into the world strips away all memory of their angelic existence. As humans, they have the difficult job of remembering who they really are and what they are to do.

The two main characters of the book are sent into the world by God to meet and marry so that they can become the parents of a special child, but the female is born an African American on Chicago’s south side, and the male is born into a Jewish family in New York City. By the time they meet, she’s already married and he’s a war hero and a ladies man. The book revolves around the difficulties these two have remembering what they are to do and the spiritual warfare that is waging around them.

My hope and prayer is that this book will inspire others to know that they were intended to use their gift of life for God’s good purposes.

You’ve also started a blog. Tell us about the blog and share the site address

The blog is for people who read Angels All Around, so that they can share their thoughts about the book with each other.

What words of wisdom or advice would you share with women who feel called to the ministry (pastorate or other ministries)?

We all need to be reminded that our calls come from God and that we are here to serve God. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that God can’t use you for whatever purpose that God may have for you. Let God lead you, and don’t be surprised or afraid to allow God to take you to new places and to do new things--possibly more than once in your life! God’s plan for you will be better than any plan that you may have for yourself.

What words of encouragement and caution would you give to those who are currently serving in a ministerial role?

Expect difficulties. Learn from them. They are for your growth and deepening. Don’t ever let the troubles you may face discourage you, because if you have made the shelter of the Most High your dwelling place, God will send angels to protect you from the demonic forces in this world. Remember that angels are more powerful than demons.

Were you encouraged by mentors and friends as you shared your calling into the Ministry? Is there a role model that particularly influenced and blessed you as you listened and wrestled with God’s call upon your life? Do you have a word of wisdom and or encouragement to share with other sisters who believe that they too are called to serve in the Gospel Ministry? We want to hear from you! Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"So, God Does Not Call Women or Girls - Let's Talk to Rev. Amy Greene About That!"

“You ‘misheard’ the call – God doesn’t call girls or women to preach. You were probably called to be a pastor’s wife, Christian Educator or missionary!” But the Reverend Amy Greene, Director of Clinical Pastoral Education and Assistant Director of Spiritual Care of the Cleveland Clinic knew she’d “heard” God’s voice correctly. In today’s blog, Rev. Amy shares with conviction, her call experience, the pain of rejection and her triumph over the voices of skeptics.

Shepastor Blog Interview
with The Reverend Amy Greene
Director of Clinical Pastoral Education
Assistant Director of Spiritual Care
The Cleveland Clinic

At what age did you first “hear” a call to the ministry?

I remember very vividly an experience around age 9, about the time of my baptism. I was reading my Bible (as I did often) and I had the thought, “If I was a boy, I would know I was supposed to be a preacher.” I remember feeling confused that God would put that desire in my heart without noticing that “he” (as I thought of God at the time) had made me a girl and not a boy. I remember feeling sort of doomed to wander and figure it out, which is what ended up happening, in a way.

Did you share your call experience with anyone? If so, how did they respond?

I did start telling folks that I felt called and I remember my Sunday School teachers and parents dismissing it and telling me that “God doesn’t call girls/women to preach” and that I had “misheard” the call -- that God would only call me to be a pastor’s wife, missionary or Christian Educator. I remember even then thinking “No way” to all three. I knew the power was in the pulpit and I knew it was that or nothing.

How did you understand and process “the call?”

I tried to put it aside but it never quite went away. Finally, when I was 21, I found out about a very unusual Southern Baptist church called Oakhurst Baptist in Atlanta. It was known for being “not typical.” When I visited, I saw with my own eyes my “first ever” real live female Baptist preacher – Nancy Hastings Sehested. I began to wonder if I had heard the call correctly after all, since clearly it was possible for a woman to be a real preacher—I could see her with my own eyes. Not only that, she was a powerful preacher and she knew her Bible.

How would you describe your journey into the ministry? (Please share the environment in which you were raised, religious influences such as denomination, church etc.)

I went to seminary in my early 20s because I simply couldn’t bear not to go. I didn’t feel any sense of hope that I’d be able to be a senior minister (i.e. be in the pulpit regularly). I definitely did not feel called to children’s and youth ministry. I had become a journalist in college (majoring in it and working for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and I was still working there when I just got too restless to stay. I thought I would become a religion editor or write about religion and faith in some form or fashion. In some ways the next few years are a ping-pong match inside myself over the question of whether I was a writer with a really great theological education (from Union in New York) or whether I was a minister who loved to write. I finally got clear about it the year the Olympics came to town (1996) and I was back on the newspaper staff, making great money but feeling like I was wasting my time. I had put a lot of things on hold to raise our two sons, and I had only been willing to take part-time work. That limited my options in ministry even more severely. When my youngest was almost 10, I decided to go do CPE to become a hospice chaplain. The rest, as they say, is history. I got completely bitten by the CPE bug, and got recruited by my supervisors to train for certification as a supervisor myself. My writing skills and passion helped a lot and I got through the process quickly. I have been supervising CPE for more than 10 years and I am just as excited and passionate about it as ever.

Three years ago I got a call from a head-hunter asking me if I wanted to consider directing the CPE program at the Cleveland Clinic. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I really hadn’t heard much about the Clinic. Also I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up a great life in Atlanta for the cold, frozen north. Fortunately my husband was ready for an adventure since our sons had both left for college. It has been the fastest and most exhilarating three years of my life to be at the Clinic. I am still a Baptist. I was ordained by Oakhurst when it was still Southern Baptist but I became American Baptist later, as did the church. I belong to Peace Community Church in Oberlin, which is American Baptist in spite of getting kicked out of the Association in Cleveland (just like Oakhurst got kicked out of everything Southern Baptist in Atlanta) – for their stands on justice issues. It’s a long drive, but I have to hang my hat in a place that takes a stand for principles of inclusiveness, priesthood of all believers, autonomy of the local congregation, intelligent biblical study, justice and modern scientific understanding – just to name a few. How much time do we have?

What role models have impacted your perception of ministry (male and female)?

Both pastors at Oakhurst at the time – Mel Williams and Nancy Sehested – were my models and mentors. They remain important figures in my life, though I rarely see them. They embodied integrity and fidelity to their Baptist roots. My formative CPE supervisors were both Baptists, though I’m sure there are good ones who aren’t (that’s a joke). I would say my current boss is a mentor to me now, though we function very much as partners and learn from each other. Many of my students are role models for me, especially when they have faced struggles I have not. I hope I never get too “growed” (as my Appalachian ancestors would put it) to need role models.

In what area of ministry do you now serve? How did you get there?

See above. I am Director of Clinical Pastoral Education at one of the best hospitals in the world. I can only say I got here by sheer grace. I got called by the Director of the Spiritual Care Department (my boss and friend, Rev. Dennis Kenny) several times before I said yes. I was too stupid to say yes the first time. Thankfully I got another chance. I really can only believe it was Providence that got me here – that and a wonderfully supportive husband and grown sons who said, “Ma, it’s your turn…you should go.”

What challenges did you face (or are you facing) in your particular ministerial role?

The biggest one is that Rev. Kenny and I both want to offer excellent spiritual care as well as excellent education for ministry here at the Clinic but we have a very small staff. We both have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew. We both have a tendency to forget that it’s God who neither slumbers nor sleeps, not us.

Is it your experience that female pastors are strong advocates for other female clergy? Why or why not?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I find that women help women according to their personalities and their own stories. Some are jealous and bitter about their own struggles and so don’t want to see anyone else succeed. I find I really like mentoring young women, but I enjoy young men just as much. Everybody has the same struggles these days…how to live out an authentic call in a complex age. I love ministry in the clinical setting because it is by and large a lot less sexist than the average congregation (there are many women doctors, executives, etc). Also, women have had freedoms and opportunities in chaplaincy a little longer than in most mainline congregational settings.

What suggestions do you have to help create greater opportunities for female clergy?
(Specifically, what can church leaders, congregations and male clergy do to help open doors for clergywomen?)

Just be fair. If someone is called and proves they are capable, gender shouldn’t matter – nor should race, class, physical ability. If we take Acts 2 seriously, we have to stop deciding for God whom God will call and use.

What words of wisdom or advice would you share with women who feel called to become a senior pastor or to serve in some other form of ministry?

Hang in there. Trust God, not denominations. I remember very distinctly, in a moment of sheer despair (after finishing a demanding M.Div. program and moving back South), feeling that I would never actually have a job as a minister. I heard that inner voice that is not my own say, “If you believe the Southern Baptist Convention called you to preach, then I can’t help you. But if you believe the great I AM called you, just keep moving forward.” I know it wasn’t my wishful thinking because it scared me too much. I would have preferred (at the time) to give it up. My advice, which was given to me before I went to seminary and I’ve paraphrased over the years, is “If you can resist going into ministry, do resist it. And don’t be blaming God if you’re miserable. If you “run from the call” and don’t feel happy, then just face the fact that you are not doing what you really want to be doing. Don’t imagine yourself to be so important that God can’t go on doing God’s work without you. Just say yes to the life you want.”

What words of encouragement and caution would you give to those who are currently serving in that role?

Don’t get isolated. Don’t think you’re the only one doing it. Don’t think you’re special. Don’t think putting everyone else ahead of you is holy. Love God and others as (which means “in the same way that”) you love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, you’re not loving anybody else either – you’re just using their crises to feel needed. Don’t fool yourself.

Is there anything else that you would like to add to encourage clergywomen?

If it was in fact God who called you, you needn’t worry about anything. If it was not, turn back now.

Are you sensing that God has placed a call to preach or pastor upon your life yet others are saying, “Not so?” Do you have a story of victory over the voices of doubt and negativity regarding your acceptance of the call? We want to hear from you! Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Agriculture, Horses and Campus Ministry?" Rev. Donna Hughes-Hargraves's Story

Weekly, as we share the experiences of clergywomen across the country and world, it is important to hear from women serving in a variety of ministry venues. Today’s blog features The Reverend Donna Hughes-Hargraves, Executive Director of United Protestant Campus Ministries. Never hearing a woman preach before and majoring in Agriculture and Horse Science, one may wonder how Rev. Donna became a campus minister! God, however, guided her unique journey to prepare her to minister to young people on college campuses nationally and internationally.

Shepastor Blog Interview with
The Reverend Donna Hughes-Hargraves,
Executive Director of United Protestant Campus Ministries
Cleveland, Ohio

At what age did you first “hear” a call to the ministry?

I was 28 when I heard the call to ministry.

Did you share your call experience with anyone? If so, how did they respond?

Yes - while in graduate school studying another subject, I immediately changed my emphasis to the Master of Divinity program. I contacted my annual conference to tell them I was studying to become a pastor. The most interesting thing about their response (year 1990) was their suggestion to find another conference due to the conservative-ism of the seminary… so I did. When I changed to the M.Div, women were only 10% of that major’s population. I had lots of male and female seminary students who questioned our enrollment in the program. So the seminary was accepting of women, but the student body was not.

How long did it take after acknowledging your call to become licensed and or ordained?

After finishing three years of seminary, I was ordained a deacon. Two years out of seminary I served a church and then it was two more years until I became an elder. Since then the system has changed.

How would you describe your journey into the ministry?

I was always involved in church, but like I said before, I had no idea women could be pastors. I was dedicated to being a veterinarian and or just working with livestock as a county extension agent with some horse work thrown in. Being a pastor never occurred to me even though I did youth ministry for a few years.

While I was in graduate school majoring in Agriculture and Horse Science (at Texas A&M) I went to a large Methodist church. They had part- time junior and senior high youth workers. Both workers left and they were in need of a youth leader, so I was asked to fill in part-time. I also worked in student affairs at Texas A&M. Upon graduation, I went to China for a year to teach English at an Agricultural college. I knew that I liked working with youth and animals, but wasn’t quite sure how the two blended together. During my studies, I ran across research that suggested animals have been helpful in working with disturbed youth. While my interest and desire to work with youth began to grow, I never thought of being a pastor.

When I came back from China, I could not find a job. A friend encouraged me to come to seminary to learn about the Bible and possibly find a job working with youth. I studied in the youth program. While at the seminary (only two months) I heard a female minister preach. Upon hearing her preach I “heard” God say, that is what I want you to do. I had never seen a woman preach even though I was born and raised in the United Methodist Church and we have been ordaining women for a long time. Although she was in Christian Ed and was not an ordained clergyperson, I’d never seen a woman in the pulpit before and seeing her drew me to accept my call to preach.

What role models impacted your perception of ministry (male and female)?

One of my pastors was a great preacher but did not have a personality outside the pulpit, I didn’t want to be that person. I had more “what not to do” role models as far as pastors go.

I did, however, have two great mentors and friends that served as positive role models. When I first went into the pastorate, I had a three- point charge (serving three small, rural congregations). I lived in South Dakota and there weren’t that many folks around. Two pastors from the local community saw me struggling and clue-less about doing the practical, day to day things of pastoring. They took me under their wings, met with me every week for breakfast for two years and mentored me through.

What is your current area of ministry? How did you become who you are (multifaceted question I know!)

I am a campus minister. I served rural churches for three years in North and South Dakota. Realized I am not a small town/rural pastor so pursued campus ministry since I had worked at Texas A&M in Student affairs for awhile. I served at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for 6 years. I then went back into parish ministry and served in Iowa for 7 years, had a pretty difficult church experience and went back into the type of ministry that has fed my spirit the most, working with college students. I have been at United Protestant Campus Ministries of Cleveland for 15 months.

Is it your experience that female pastors are strong advocates for other female clergy? Why or why not?

Often I find that women do not mentor other female clergy. We often get so involved in our own ministry or being part of the men’s club we forget that women clergy need encouragement and mentors. I remember when I was in seminary, there were not that many female clergy around. When I’d hear them preach, I wanted to talk with them about how they got to be where they were, tips for preaching, doing ministry, etc., However, many of them were somewhat “put-off-ish,” and were too busy to share or provide guidance or support. It felt like they were saying, ‘I had to climb up both ways through the snow – I had to fight to make it on my own, so just suck it up and get out there on your own.’ Even in the church, some of the most difficult people (unfortunately) were middle age women, working age – educated even more so than the men.

What challenges have you faced in your role as a clergywoman?

People still have issues with women in leadership, often other women have the most difficulty with us. I am also small in stature and that with being a woman makes it difficult to always be taken seriously.

What suggestions do you have to help create greater opportunities for females desiring to become pastors?

We need to make ourselves visible so that young women know it is an option for ministry. We also need to be in places that may be difficult for us as a female pastor so that we have a voice. We can’t be shy or give up the fight.

What words of wisdom or advice would you share with women who feel called to the ministry (pastorate or other ministries)?

Trust that God is in the process, find a good clergy mentor who is female, surround yourself with a good, faithful and encouraging committee.

Have you “heard” God calling you to serve in ministry, but not necessarily as a senior pastor? Are you a campus minister, pastoral counselor, chaplain or serving in some other area of ministry? We want to hear from you. Post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris