Wednesday, August 25, 2010

“We’ve Come this Far By Faith: Women Together Lifting and Serving One Another”

For approximately one year, I have been privileged to work with a wonderful team of clergywomen to develop, plan and carry out last week’s female clergy conference, “Women Together Lifting and Serving One Another.” Rev. Yvonne Carter, Managing Director, Event Development - ABC Home Mission Societies; Rev. Dr. Wilma Johnson, Senior Pastor (and Host Pastor for the conference) of New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church and Rev. Marilyn Turner, Associate Executive Director, Program Ministries ABHMS prayed, strategized, “conference called” and surrendered our work to God and He gets the glory!

Clergywomen from across the country came to Detroit, Michigan to attend the conference. What a glorious, victorious, powerful time we had in the LORD! The conference was held on the “campus” of the New Prospect Baptist Church where the Rev. Dr. Wilma R. Johnson joyfully serves as Senior Pastor. What an amazing ministry they have! Each day a warm, welcoming and accommodating team of volunteers met us and assisted us in anyway needed.

The women worshipped together, prayed together, cried together, praised together and shared testimonies together regarding our ministry experiences and life journeys. Excellent, anointed, Holy Ghost filled women served as worship leaders, panelists, preachers and workshop facilitators. Together we grappled with issues among and between women – what helps and hinders our relationships and how we can push past the hurts of yesterday in order to embrace the blessings ahead.

Through powerful sermons and workshops, we were challenged to admit that we are not “Superwomen,” but called to take hold of that “one thing” (as Jesus told Martha) – to rest and be in relationship with Jesus Christ. Something was available for everyone! Workshops were designed to further equip, enhance, encourage and instruct senior pastors as well as ministers serving in a variety of capacities (associate/assistant ministers, pastoral counselors and chaplains).

Here’s a taste of the wonderful opportunities we experienced…

DYNAMIC WORSHIP LEADERS: Sister Joyce Lake and Sister Lizzett Alvarado

For Senior Pastors:

Workshop SP 1
Giving Away My Joy: Navigating the Waters of Pastoral Leadership”
Dr. Wilma Johnson, Pastor, New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church,
Detroit, Mich. God wants us to be successful in our leadership roles.
This workshop focused upon awakening our hearts to can reach God-sized visions
and goals.

Workshop SP 2
Pastor as Person: Balancing Life and Ministry”
Rev. Peg Nowling, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Lafayette, Ind.
Conquering the Oz Syndrome: Using the classic “Wizard of Oz,” we discussed
how to examine and own our choices and move ahead to find the
lives we need and want.

Additional Ministries…

Workshop SM 3

“Whole Woman/Whole Ministry”
Rev. Michelle M. Holmes, Vice President/Chief Financial Officer,
American Baptist Seminary of the West, Berkeley, Calif.

Feeling out of balance—taking care of ministry, but not yourself? This
interactive workshop shared ways to maintain balance when ministry
demands conspire to keep us off balance.

Workshop SM 4
Classism, Power, and Influence—Challenges in Ministry in and Beyond
the Local Church and Religious Community”
Rev. Marilyn P. Turner, Associate Executive Director, Center for Mission
and Ministry, American Baptist Home Mission Societies

This workshop explored the roots of and cures for some of the
“girls’-club-isms” that can threaten the ministry potential of women.

General Ministry

Workshop GM 5
Defining the Ministry: We All Have Gifts…Stay in your Lane”
Dr. Deedee Coleman, Pastor, Russell Street Baptist Church, Detroit, Mich.
This workshop helped participants define the ministry they have been called
to do. It was designed to explore how to stay in your lane by using and
nurturing the gifts God has given you! It also explored the dos and don’ts of
ministry along with staying focused on your task while supporting and
encouraging others.

Workshop GM 6
The Power, Purpose, and Importance of Prayer in the Life of the Minister”
Dr. Liliana DaValle, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches
of Rhode Island

This workshop explored the dynamics of a vibrant prayer life as a
necessary and indispensable tool for a healthy and successful ministry.

Focus of the Panel Discussion… “Issues of Support and Encouragement Between and Among Women in Ministry”

As female clergy coming together to “lift and serve one another,” it is
important to identify issues that tend to affect our relationships as
women. The panel discussion explored historic, theological and
cultural factors that inhibit fruitful mentoring and supportive ministry
partnerships. Panelists shared their perspectives and offered suggestions
concerning how we can overcome those factors when they exist and
sincerely support one another in Christian love.
Panel Moderator
Rev. Christine A. Smith, Pastor, Covenant Baptist Church, Wickliffe, Ohio

Rev. Judy G. Allbee, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches
of Connecticut
Rev. Patricia P. Hernandez, Consultant for Leadership Development,
American Baptist Churches of Michigan
Ms. Lunick Papin, Haitian Alliance, Bridgeport, Conn.
Rev. Naomi Kirstein, Pastor, Wellspring Community Church,
Des Moines, Iowa
Rev. Wilma Johnson, Pastor, New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church,
Detroit, Mich.
Rev. Marilyn P. Turner, Associate Executive Director, Center for Mission
and Ministry, American Baptist Home Mission Societies

Friday Evening Spiritual Direction Sessions
Rev. Patricia P. Hernandez, Certified in Spiritual Direction,
Shalom Institute of Spiritual Formation, Bethesda, Md.
The spiritual life is concerned with our relationship with God. Spiritual
direction involves paying attention to the movement of God in our lives.
Participants were given the opportunity to sign up on-site for a one-on-one session with Rev. Hernandez.

Rev. Marie Onwubuariri MacArthur Community Baptist Church,
San Pablo, Calif.; Preached Thursday Evening, “The Super Woman Takes a Seat!”
Luke 10: 38-42

Dr. Jan McCormack Assistant Professor of Chaplaincy and
Pastoral Counseling
, Denver Seminary, Littleton, Colo.;
Friday Afternoon Self-Care Seminar: “The Death of the Superwoman Syndrome”

Dr. Charles Adams Pastor, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church,
Detroit, Mich.; Friday Evening Worship

Oh what a time, what time! If you did not make it – you missed a tremendous blessing. However, here’s some good news – the women have requested that we do this again next year! Let’s pray together that God will open the necessary doors to make this time of refreshing and renewal available again in the coming year. Also, you will have an opportunity to meet some of the wonderful sisters I was privileged to meet during the conference through the upcoming blogs. Their testimonies will inspire, uplift and encourage you as their journeys come to life through the sharing of their ministerial experiences.

Have questions about the conference? Were you a participant? Do you have a testimony of praise and/or special insight that you would like to share? Post a comment or send me an email at

In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"We've Come This Far by Faith: Let God Use You! Interview with The Rev. Sylvia Wilson

In 1987, I arrived on the campus of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia. I did not know a soul, literally! The dorm I was assigned to was newly built and had not been completed. Students assigned to that dorm had to find a place to stay until the dorm was opened. As students began to gravitate towards one school/dorm official or another, I stood there shocked and frozen. Where in the world would I go? One by one, cars pulled away, students laughing and making acquaintances walked down the campus sidewalks and I just stood there with my suitcases and boxes.

Suddenly, a beautiful dark brown skinned lady with a silver afro approached me and said, “Hi, my name is Sylvia. I’m one of the students from Johnson C. Smith seminary. Do you have a place to stay? If not, you can come to my house until the dorms are ready.” What a blessing and a relief! She took another young lady and I into her home for two months until our dorm was ready. She gave us room and board freely and never complained a word. That’s just Rev. Syliva Wilson! She taught us the true meaning of ministry by letting God use her to assist two young, struggling seminarians and encouraging us to go forward and do our best.

In today’s blog, Rev. Wilson candidly shares the importance of letting God use us in practical ways whether in the pastorate or some other ministry.

Interview with Rev. Sylvia Wilson
Honorably Retired Presbyterian Clergywoman
Atlanta, Georgia

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

“I had an audible call to ministry in my late 30’s. I lived in Kansas City at the time. I was heading to a 4H meeting in Minnesota. We had a bus load of people. Over night we were staying at a hotel. They put 4 adult women in two twin beds. That night was when the call came. I heard God say, ‘Stop worrying about the small things and get on with my business!’"

What did you interpret that to mean?

“That God wanted me to minister in practical ways. I had toyed with the idea of working in the church from working in the Presbytery office. I loved the work, loved the environment and I loved the people.”

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

“After I started crying from being filled with the spirit, and after I woke up everybody in the room, I told them. They were excited. Later I shared it with the Presbytery staff. In our denomination, a call needs to be affirmed by a body. Even when God calls, there has to be an affirmation by another body of believers.”

Did you experience any opposition or negative responses to the sharing of your call.

“None that I was aware of.”

How would you describe your journey into the ministry?

“I would say my journey into the ministry started with seminary – ITC, Johnson C. Smith. It was a series of fortuitous events because I did not have any models of women preachers, especially black women. Even at the age of 40, I’d not seen women preachers. One of my other concerns was that I had been Afro Centric for a long time – I wanted to work in the Black Community, but my denomination was predominantly white. But soon, a new understanding was opened for me. I attended a conference and Katie Cannon was leading an early morning Bible Study.

She at that time was a candidate for the Ph.D. Degree. Her approach to the interpretation of scripture clicked with me even as a novice layperson. Plus she had a big ole ‘fro.’ She was teaching what I came to know as Liberation Theology.

I still did not know a place to go and get training. I looked at seminaries in and around Kansas City. A secretary at the Presbytery office said, ‘Sylvia, have you heard of Johnson C. Smith?’ That’s how I found out about JCS. There was a meeting in Atlanta so I visited ITC and fell in love with it. It was right- It did what I thought God was calling me to do and it made sense to me.”

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

"In addition to Dr. Katie Cannon…
My pastor in Kansas City, The Rev. Dr. Sam Mann. I think the seeds are planted for our call early in life, so Rev. Mann reinforced theological understandings that I gained as a 6 and 7 year old child in a Baptist Church, where the Pastor was Rev. Hollins. Dr. Jacquelyn Grant with the 'Womanist Approach,' that is not as objectionable to men as feminist theology. She expanded my understanding of the groups that were laboring under oppression and discrimination. She helped me to see that we as women are also an oppressed minority. Rev. Ella Busby, a classmate, also modeled for me the importance of remaining anchored and focused upon your relationship with God and the call placed upon your life.”

Have you ever served as a senior/solo pastor?
How many years?
“6-8 years collectively”

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

“Yes and No. There are some female clergy who go out of their way to assist those who are younger in the ministry – future generations of female leadership (clergy and lay). On the other hand, I have seen many clergy women who are just as self-centered and pre-occupied as some brethren. There are those who are looking to climb ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ (as opposed to the corporate ladder!) We all know them. I think that this is especially a challenge for those who are in denominations with hierarchy.”

What challenges did you face in your role as senior/solo pastor?
“I think the challenges that I faced had primarily to do with not having a model or mentor in general - Not knowing the questions to ask, Just not knowing. I developed the necessary strategies later rather than sooner. My biggest challenges came from a lack of information. . . not attacks. I believe that was the case because I was an older person."

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

"Be open to other possibilities because there are many ways to preach and it doesn’t have to be solely as a pastor. We get so focused on becoming a pastor when that may or may not be our call. There are many ways to serve God’s people in addition to preaching from the pulpit.

In terms of creating greater opportunities for females to be a shepherd of the flock – Number one, we have to prepare ourselves in a variety of ways, theologically speaking and especially for us emotionally speaking, we need to network and we have to spiritually prepare ourselves. Ministry requires a strong spiritual center so that you can continue to hear the voice of God amidst all of the minutia as you consider various areas of interest."

What words of wisdom or advice would you share with women who feel called to become a senior pastor?

"I believe those of us who are called to be pastors are to pastor if it is only a, a few weeks, a few months, a few years or longer. We have an obligation to those who come behind us to give it our best and to love God’s people. I think women are socialized to do that better than perhaps our brothers in the ministry. Pastoring is a place to show the best of who we are as human beings. Show kindness, love and respect. It doesn’t mean being a door mat, but we can demonstrate the fruit of the spirit. Sometimes we set that aside as we go into these official positions – that’s not what Christ did. Use Christ as the model instead of the Bishop!”

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

Recognize that it is a hard ‘row to hoe!’ We must take care of ourselves – that is imperative. I’m tired of seeing us die, overweight and going into drugs and promiscuity out of sadness, stress, frustration and pain.

God is doing a new thing. Church as we once knew it will not be anymore. In established congregations, the membership is changing dramatically. Communication and expectations are changing dramatically. The old ways of being ‘church’ don’t necessarily fit. We have to pray for discernment of what is coming.

The other side of it is outside of the church. There are Christians who are not associated with any congregation. They want a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and they are willing to work, but they are not going to take the ‘stuff’ that older generations took. They have too many options.

We have to talk with the younger generations, listen to them, take them seriously and we need to push them to give answers that make sense. We’ve got to be patient with them. They’ve got to learn their own lessons- they can’t learn our lessons. We’ve got to love them unconditionally.

Have fun – When ministry is no longer enjoyable there is something wrong. You have got to get some fulfillment out of it. God has no desire to have ministry tear us apart as much as we allow it to do so.” End of Interview

Everyone is not called to become a senior/solo pastor. What is your calling? Has God called you to preach, but not necessarily pastor? Has God called you to serve in some other capacity? What words of encouragement and or advice would you like to share with other clergy sisters? Post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"We've Come This Far By Faith: More Wisdom from the Sisters"

The collective insights from clergywomen given below reveal the power of prayer, faith, patience, courage, persistence and healthy relationships. Their words are a treasure trove of guidance for sisters pondering the pastoral call.

In response to the survey question, “What advice would you give clergywomen entering or preparing to enter the pastorate?” female pastors from across the country shared the following words of wisdom…

Be patient and wait on your season.
Allow God to open the doors and close others.
Be yourself.
Express your ministry with your own style and flavor.
Allow the scriptures to lead you and guide you in decisions that you make.
Be firm in a spirit of love.
Don’t avoid conflict but leave your emotional baggage at home when resolving conflict in the church.”

“Know that you are called!!! Validation from God must be enough. Don't take it personally when others criticize or condemn you for being a woman pastor. Build your ministry with men and women who are gifted and called. Of course, use discernment but know that you cannot build a ministry alone. Don't lose your femininity! God knew you were a woman when He called you.”

“Have fun. Use your gifts.
Don't try to be like anyone else. Follow the leading of the Spirit. Love the congregation and let them love you. Most of all, love Jesus and love yourself enough to take care of yourself.”

“Do not be surprised when conflict is exhibited in the church. Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. When sexism does emerge, recognize it and love your enemies. Do not depend on church members to like you, but keep your sense of God's love for you fully nourished in your spirit. Pray constantly. Keep your sense of humor. Do not take criticism too seriously, but do listen to critiques to learn. Love your people. Keep clear on your boundaries. Behave ethically, for you will be judged twice as harshly as a man would be. Find a support group of colleagues and engage in spiritual direction and/or psychotherapy. Love your Lord and let your gifts shine! Give a hand up to the sisters in ministry who come after you.”

“Know that you are called.
If you are married, make certain that your husband is behind you 100%.
Be patient - people change slowly. Remember God brings about change.
Surround yourselves with those who will support you.
Find a good mentor - male or female.
Realize there will be tough days, days you will feel that you are not making a difference, days you will question your call, and days you will cry. But remember this, there will also be really great days when you will feel God's anointing, and a peace and joy that passes all understanding.

Don't have a chip on your shoulder. In other words, don't think that every challenge you face is due to the fact that you are a woman. Some are and some aren't.
Know how to pick your battles.
Have a sense of humor.
Be yourself.”

“Take the time to get to know your congregants and the history of the congregation before attempting change. This would hold true for all who would become senior pastors not just for women.
Find a collegial group of men and women where you can hear and be heard.
Learn from the experiences of others and don't hesitate to ‘share’ forward.”

“Keep a group of friends with whom you can share frustrations, struggles, highs and lows. Don't get consumed with success. Remember that God called women to pastor as women and not as men would pastor. Many women model men's style of pastoring, which is unfortunate. Perhaps it's because we have not had enough female models, but it is imperative that we realize that we bring a unique set of gifts and compassion and empathy to the position.”

“Stick with it, if God has called you He will provide a place of ministry even when it seems impossible.”

Thank you Sisters for your wisdom! Do you have words of wisdom to share concerning pastoral ministry? Are you wrestling with answering the call? Are you in the midst of a difficult pastoral situation and need guidance and prayer? Post a comment and or send me an email at

An exciting opportunity for female clergy is happening next week - read below...

American Baptist Home Mission Societies is excited to take the lead in planning an intercultural gathering of women in ministry.

The one and one-half day gathering—“Women Together: Lifting and Serving One Another,” August 19-20 in Detroit, Mich.—will include workshops designed specifically for female senior pastors as well as workshops specific to women engaged in other ministry professions, such as assistant and associate pastors/ministers, chaplains, pastoral counselors and Christian educators, along with those involved in denominational work.

Ministry presents unique challenges and opportunities for women, but there is a need for encouragement and support, fellowship and lifelong learning, that is common. Together, more can be accomplished than women often can achieve on their own. Support this effort to bring together a diverse group of American Baptist Churches USA women in ministry by participating, telling other women about it, and praying about it. American Baptist women will be featured in the workshops, worship services and panel discussions. The registration fee for the gathering is moderately priced at $80 per person. Hotel accommodations have been reserved at the Westin Hotel at the group rate of $75, plus tax, for double occupancy.

Download the conference brochure.
Register online. (Registration remains open - registration will be available on site!)
For conference information, e-mail Yvonne Carter (

Hope to see you there!

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

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"We've Come This Far By Faith: Pastor Portia Wills Lee Shares Insights for prospective Female Pastors

During my initial phase of research with female clergy, I was privileged to interview The Reverend Portia Wills Lee, Senior Pastor of Trinity Tabernacle Baptist Church in Mableton, Georgia. Having started and successfully built, nurtured and developed the church she now serves, Pastor Wills Lee shares valuable insights for clergywomen who are seeking guidance concerning the call to become a senior pastor. Informed by her own experiences and faith journey, Pastor Wills Lee’s words are wise, strong, and candid. Truly she has come “this far by faith!”

Interview with
The Reverend Portia Wills Lee
Senior Pastor, Trinity Tabernacle Baptist Church
Mableton, Georgia

What guidance would you give to our fellow sister clergy who feel called to become pastors, but lack direction and opportunity?

“I would say to remain teachable. Always know that there are people who are willing to assist you. So many sisters are just not teachable. It’s as if they feel that they don’t have to learn from the experiences of those who have gone before them. They should understand that there is a process and things are not going to be handed to you.

Be willing to learn from anyone in the church. It does not have to be from persons with a formal degree from a seminary. See value in everyone. Have respect for everyone. When people see that you are respectful of everyone, they will have greater respect for you. They will love you and set you apart from those who are standoffish.

Don’t be afraid to go to small churches where you can get some experience. You need to be with someone who will let you walk with them so that you can see the day to day life of a pastor.

Some associate ministers would rather go to larger churches; but when they do, they are often limited to sitting in the pews. As a result, they cut themselves off from greater opportunities of service. Some simply want to be able to say that they belong to a large church.”

What words of encouragement and insight would you share with those who have already become senior pastors but are seeking encouragement or suggestions for enhancing their ministries and/or additional pastoral opportunities?”

“Often we want to reap the work of the harvest quickly, and that just doesn’t always happen. The words that encourage me are ‘they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.’ There are valley situations they we have to go through, but the Lord will be with us. Sometimes you have to sit and wait. It’s not easy waiting, and it’s not easy waiting for the Lord when you are going through painful situations. Sometimes God wants to move us, and sometimes He wants us to wait.

Encouraging for me are the Apostle Paul’s words that we will reap the harvest if we ‘faint not’ and ‘do not grow weary in well doing.’ We have to learn to avoid measuring ourselves by what we think our service looks like to someone else. When we fall prey to worrying about how others measure the ministry in which we serve, we begin to feel inferior and insecure. For instance, using size as the barometer of value can be particularly discouraging. Everyone was not called to pastor a large church.

We must learn to become content wherever God has us, making the most of whatever God has given to us in this season. We must keep our eyes on pleasing God, and remain focused upon Jesus. That will help us to stay in peace.

It is important to avoid unhealthy thinking such as, ‘God is not pleased with me because the church is not growing numerically.’ Focus upon spiritual growth within the ministry and how God is using you in the lives of people where He has placed you. Doing so will make your place of service more palatable.

Spiritual overflow, like the olive that gives oil, can’t come until we are crushed. In order for God to have us where he wants us to be, there are seasons of crushing in our lives.”

What can be done to shatter the stained glass ceiling for female clergy?

“If sisters would just understand that nothing is handed to them. They spend so much time pointing fingers about what others are not doing for them, that they don’t do for themselves. Find ministry work that they can do themselves. Don’t expect that somebody is going to give you something. Often times you have to go and seek it. Understand that wherever you are and whatever God has you doing – the simple things – that’s ministry.

God will not honor you until you honor God with your gifts and talents and stop waiting to make a break thru in some major ministry. Get your hands dirty. Become a part of the ministry. Teach Sunday School. Teach Bible Study. Start at a small church. We miss so many opportunities because we keep thinking that somebody is just going to open the door for us.”

Are you praying about becoming a pastor? Are you already serving in the pastorate but are contemplating/praying over a move? Do you have words of wisdom or encouragement to share with other female clergy regarding the above? 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