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

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Interrupted By God: Interview with Dean Tracey Lind"

A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to have a very rich and meaningful conversation with one of our great city leaders and clergy women, The Very Reverend Tracey Lind, Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio. With energy, transparency and conviction, “Tracey” (as she prefers to be called) shared snippets of the many and varied experiences that helped to shape and mold her into the clergy woman that she is today. Included in this blog are highlights of our discussion as well as excerpts from her book, Interrupted by God – Glimpses from the Edge (2004, Pilgrim’s Press).

A portion of her bio reads…

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind is Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral as well as a city planner and author. Her ministry includes work for environmental justice, interfaith relations, sustainable urban planning, arts and culture, and the diversity of the Episcopal Church.

Lind came to Trinity in 2000 and led the development of Trinity Commons, an award-winning, environmentally-sustainable campus that is home to Trinity Cathedral and the Diocese of Ohio. During her tenure, Trinity has experienced tremendous growth and development as a diocesan cathedral, a vibrant and inclusive community of faith, and a leading institution in the heart of the city.
As Dean of Trinity, Lind speaks, teaches and preaches around the country, including at the Chautauqua Institution, the Episcopal College Conference, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a variety of churches, conferences, seminaries and theological schools.

Shepastor Blog Interview With Dean Tracey Lind
(Some answers – with permission, are quotes from Dean Lind’s Book, Interrupted by God – Glimpses from the Edge)

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

Age 11. I was raised in a Jewish and Christian home. It took me to age 25 to determine if I would be a Rabbi or Christian minister. (The quotes below from chapter 5 expand upon this response…)

My mother’s family came from England. To the best of our knowledge, her ancestors arrived in Jamestown during the seventeenth century, settled in the upcountry of Virginia, and eventually moved west to Southern Ohio in the late eighteenth century…

My father’s ancestors were Austrian-German Jews who came to this country with the great wave of nineteenth century immigration…

I think of myself as half-Jewish and half-Christian, and I consider my rich heritage a mixed blessing. As a child, I wanted to be a preacher – I just wasn’t sure whether I should be a rabbi or a minister. Since my mother wasn’t Jewish, I wasn’t considered a real Jew, so I didn’t think I could be a rabbi – and anyway, I assumed I could never learn Hebrew. When I imagined becoming a minister, I couldn’t figure out how to do that either – you see, I wasn’t baptized, so I wasn’t a real Christian, and I didn’t want to be baptized because I had learned somewhere (an untruth, I now believe) that the Nazis baptized Jewish babies and then sent them to the gas chambers. Anyhow, I was a girl, and back then girls couldn’t be ordained either as rabbis or ministers. But I loved being in the house of God, and I loved playing “Saturday-go-to-temple” and “Sunday-go-to-church.” I still remember setting up the chairs in our family room, putting my stuffed toys and dolls in straight rows, and preaching to the silent, appreciative and complacent congregation of inanimate worshippers.

How did you “process” the Call?

(Excerpt from Introduction to Chapter 5, The Question… as well as other statements from the chapter…)

Thirty-five years ago I sat in a classroom with fifty other adolescents watching the movie Let My People Go. It was the first documentary of the Holocaust, and I’ll always be haunted by the memory of emaciated corpses being pushed down a slide in the Warsaw Ghetto. At the end of the film, a young rabbi tried to elicit responses from a stunned and silent class of usually loud and obnoxious ninth graders. I’ll never forget the moment when he looked at me, the only kid with a non-Jewish parent, and said: “Tracey, you don’t look Jewish. You could have passed. What would you have done? Would you have died for your faith or denied it?” I didn’t have an answer. I didn’t know what it meant to pass. I didn’t know what it meant to die for one’s faith. I didn’t really know what my faith was. I only knew that I was angry, embarrassed, confused and alone. So I just stared back at him and finally said, “I don’t know.”

That accusatory statement, “You could have passed,” followed by the probing question, “What would you have done,” has haunted me all the days of my life. It has permeated my dreams; it has kept me awake; it has stood with me in the pulpit; and it has influenced every major life decision I have made. And just when I think I have put the accusation to rest and answered the question, it re-emerges as a beast from the deep recesses of the ocean called my unconscious. This question, “will I pass or will I claim who I am and what I believe regardless of its cost, even to death?” is the angel with whom I wrestle causing me to walk with a limp. It is the burning bush in front of which I stand barefooted, the slow burning flame that keeps alive my passion but does not consume my spirit. Whenever I travel into the wilderness of my soul, I am tempted to avoid this question’s pain and confusion. Yet, it remains the blinding flash of light that forces me to my knees when I try to run away.

You had a very intense conversation with God concerning your calling. Could you say a word about that?

(Book Excerpt…)

My first semester at Union Theological Seminary in New York City was a wrestling match with God. Exhausted from taking on someone bigger and stronger than me, I found myself walking down 42nd Street one day in January asking God to let me go. And then it happened. Suddenly, a voice called out to me from within me saying, “I’m not going to let go of you.” “What do you want with me?” I asked. “I want your life,” the voice answered. “Why me?” I responded. “Why not?” the voice replied. At this point, I realized that something was happening and I needed to stop and pay attention to this voice.. I went into a near-by McDonald’s restaurant, ordered my usual cheeseburger, fries, and coke and began frantically scribbling down a conversation with this voice from within.

The voice called me by name, identified itself as God, confronted me with my own issues and private wounds, contradicted my theology, answered lots of questions, called me to the ordained priesthood, and reassured me when I protested. The voice said, “I brought you to New York for a reason, to look beyond yourself and those like you… I want you to celebrate my Eucharist…You must feed my people…You will guide people to come to me through this and other acts…You will help people to love each other and me…. You’ve changed, why can’t others… It’s a loving revolution so be my hands and my mouth, not your own.”

In the course of the conversation, I questioned why the voice was talking with me, and it responded, “Because you’ve been asking for it.” It was true. I had been asking, begging, even challenging God to be clear with me, to help me answer The Question. And here I was – on a cold January afternoon, sitting in a McDonald’s Restaurant on 42nd Street in Manhattan, having this private conversation with a voice. At the end of our time together, I asked, “If you’re inside of me, then how can you be God.” The voice replied in words I’ll never forget, “What’s so special about me is that I’m inside of anyone and everyone who wants to know me. And, if the world would hear me and follow me, my kingdom would come.” With that comment, the conversation ended. I got up and walked home in quiet amazement, wondering if I had really spoken with almighty God. Like Mary, I kept silent and treasured these words, pondering them in my heart.

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

Yes I did. I wrote one of my seminary professors a letter, sharing my call experience. She wrote back and told me that I had no choice but to respond. She told me, “Faith is a two way street – it is a gift from God and the decision is to accept the gift.”

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

Men and women have deeply influenced my life. As a child, I was in awe of Dr. MLK, Jr. I’ve also been greatly influenced by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (For two years, I slept in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s old room at Union Theological Seminary in New York City), Mother Teresa, My Bishop and great leader of the Episcopal Church - Paul Moore and my seminary professor, Dr. Carter Haywood. I’m also inspired and impacted greatly by the urban clergy in the South Bronx - Roman Catholic Sisters who galvanize people in the faith – how they are able to embody the prophetic words of Jesus in the world – how they are able to hold onto their faith without claiming it is the only truth.

Are female pastors strong advocates for other female clergy? Why or why not?
The pastors I respect are advocates for competent and faithful clergy, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. I don’t believe in advocating for individuals just because of who they are, but because they are competent and called.
What challenges have you faced in your role as a clergywoman?

I have always been the first woman in my positions. What do they call you – Ms., Elder, 1st name? When I lead with strength, I have been perceived as aggressive. When men lead with strength, they are respected, beloved and viewed as a “tough but strong pastor.” When a woman is strong and holds staff and others accountable, she is viewed as a “B…” Oftentimes women pastors are viewed as “everybody’s mommy.” It is sometimes a challenge because we attract those who weren’t nurtured. We therefore find ourselves trying be all things to all people and become apologetic when we can’t.

We also find it challenging to stand up for the benefits we deserve such as salary, housing, car, vacation etc. We feel the need to suffer for some reason.

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

Mentor young women. Stay in touch with young women. Suggest names of competent, called and faithful women if you are in a position to do so. Be honest with those you mentor – tell them, “try this” or “consider that.” Give them honest feed back from their sermons. Network, influence and promote them. Be a positive role model, mentor and colleague. Offer support.

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

Develop your strengths and don’t focus on your weaknesses. Be creative about what the doing of ministry looks like. Don’t believe you have to do it alone. Don’t feel that you need to take on the bad habits of some men. Change the rules a little bit. Develop the priesthood of all believers. Don’t try to micro manage. Use technology wisely – don’t fight it. Take preaching seriously – remember those 15 or 20 minutes are a great privilege. Take days off – take your vacations, eat and sleep well. Enjoy your spouse or significant other. Say your prayers – take care of yourself.

Have you ever experienced “God’s interruptions?” Have you ever decided that you were going to do or be something and God had other ideas? Do you have experiences or words of wisdom or encouragement that you’d like to share with others regarding this topic? If so, post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sermon Highlights: "The Superwoman Takes a Seat!" Rev. Marie Onwubuariri

In this our final “Women Together Lifting and Serving One Another” reflection, I’d like to share highlights from a poignant, timely and powerful message delivered by our featured preacher during Thursday evening worship, the Reverend Marie Onwubuariri.

Taken from the familiar “Mary and Martha” text, Luke 10:38-42, Reverend Onwubuariri creatively spoke to us from the subject, “The Super Woman Takes a Seat.”

I will not try to re-preach her message, but rather share a few highlights that spoke volumes to we “superwomen” in ministry that need to take a seat…

Rev. Marie shared that she had an “ah-ha” moment after participating in a covenant group of other Asian women, studying Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak. She realized that she suffered from the “Martha Syndrome,” busy, busy, busy doing ministry but burning out.

Parker Palmer says the following about vocation…
What a long time it can take to become the person one
has always been! How often in the process we mask ourselves
in faces that are not our own. How much dissolving and
shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep
identity--the true self within every human being that is the
seed of authentic vocation…
Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just
beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I
already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice "out
there" calling me to become something I am not. It comes
from a voice "in here" calling me to be the person I was born
to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.

Often, we are so busy reaching, striving, doing, working – being “superwoman,” taking care of parents, husband, children, sisters, friends, foes, colleagues, congregation etc., that we miss out on our true vocation – what we were born to be. Rev. Marie discovered this as she participated in the “clearness committee process.” Simply put, the clearness committee is a concept taken from the Quakers.

A person seeking clearness asks for a committee to be formed. The committee, together with the person first sits in silence. Out of the silence, the focus person explains about what he or she is seeking clearness. The role of the other committee members is not to give advice or counsel, but to ask questions in the midst of a silent atmosphere of worship that may help the person find clarity.

For Rev. Marie, clarity came as she realized that her culture, relationships and theology helped to shape her superwoman mentality. If she was going to be true to her calling, her vocation, the superwoman had to take a seat. Like Martha, Rev. Marie came face to face with Jesus’ words, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42but one thing is necessary…
We must center ourselves, take a seat and listen for the one thing, another way to reach deeper and develop a stronger relationship with the ONE.

Superwoman, take a seat!

Are you suffering from the “superwoman syndrome?” Are you so busy serving, doing, going, preparing, being the perfectionist, crossing every “I” and dotting every “T” that you are ignoring the “one thing that is needed” - a deeper relationship with the LORD? We’d like to hear from you. Take a moment, post a comment or send me an email at

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

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Reflections on Lifting and Serving One Another"

As I reflect upon the rich experience of gathering with my “clergy sisters” at the ABC Home Missions Society’s “Women Together Lifting and Serving One Another” conference a few weeks ago, my mind keeps returning to a common theme expressed by those I met…

“How wonderful it is that we can come together as women and genuinely support, pray for and encourage one another.”

The joyous surprise expressed in the above statement subtly suggests a reality that we must begin to address: our fractured relationships as women.

Although we avoid discussing frankly those issues between and among us as women – those things that divide us, hurt us, create mistrust between us, we must face, confront and prayerfully strip the power from the proverbial elephant in the room!

During our panel discussion, one sister was bold enough to raise the question, “Why do leaders in the church remain silent regarding the things that divide us as women?” A hush fell over the panel – we wrestle to talk about it. But talk about it we must!

We must begin to honestly, lovingly and prayerfully dissect and discuss the origins and systems – historical, societal and theological issues that hinder our unity.

- What keeps us from rejoicing when one sister rises up?
- What hinders us from trusting one another?
- What stops us from saying, “Girl, you got it goin on!”
- What makes the “Cat” jump up in us, causing us to tear one another down?
- What makes us sit back and watch another sister struggle to climb through a crack in the ceiling while we sit and sip a cup of tea on the other side?

Until we can honestly deal with these issues that are very real – we will greatly struggle to lift and serve one another.

I leave with you portions of a powerful message delivered Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President, Bennett College for Women, September 4, 2008…

“…We need to think about the ways that we, in this community, can embrace, enrich, and enforce each other. My sisterfriend, Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, likes to talk about geese and the way they lift each other, and I want us to think of ourselves as those geese, more powerful together than we are alone.

Picture the geese taking flight from the Canadian shoreline. They lift off the water in a squawking discourse. Yet, very quickly, a line begins to emerge, and it straightens, arches and bends sharply to form a perfect V shape. Canadian geese fly in V formation for a practical reason. A flock of geese flying in formation can move faster and maintain flight longer than any goose flying alone. We must be more like the geese. Synergistic. Working together. Studying together. Learning together.

By flying in the V formation, the whole flock of geese adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. People with a sense of community get where they are going more quickly and more easily because they are traveling together, getting synergy from each other.

…Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front. It’s like groups. When one sister tries to fall out of study mode, her group will push, prod and encourage her to fall back in line. If we are as smart as geese we will stay in formation with those headed in our direction. It’s the company we keep.

When the lead goose gets tired, she rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. We have to take turns doing the hardest jobs, with people or with geese. We have to have each other’s back. We have to give each other a rest, a break. It’s the company we keep. Canadian geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. We all need that honk sometimes, that cheering, that encouragement. If geese can do it for other geese, why can’t we do it for each other?

When a goose is sick or is wounded and falls, two geese fall out of formation to help and protect her. They stay with her until she is either able to fly or until she is dead, then they launch out on theirown or with another formation until they catch up with their own group. Like geese, we need to commit to stand by each other, protect each other, and sometimes find new folk who are going in one direction.

Geese have synergy. Do we? Synergy is defined as one plus one equals more than two. This is a synergy that we need here at Bennett. Sticking together. Holding strong with each other. Encouraging each other. Supporting our weariness. Protecting the wounded. Focusing on the good stuff, the ability to reach our highest and best when we do it together.”

Sisters, let’s seek the Lord for ways to follow the example of the geese!

If you’d like to share your experience or post a comment, please post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,

In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reflections From Clergywomen's Conference: Minister Carol Shannon

Over the next few weeks, “Shepastor” will feature thoughts from female clergy who attended the conference, “Women Together Lifting and Serving One Another.”

Today’s blog is an interview with an amazing clergywoman named, Minister Carol Shannon. Minister Shannon just completed a three-year term as the National Coordinator of Church and Community Ministries with American Baptist Women’s Ministries. Minister Shannon also triumphs over an eye disease called, Keratoconus, which is the progressive thinning of the cornea. As a result of this disease, Minister Shannon was visually impaired. This however, did not stop her from answering and pursuing her call to Ministry.

By faith, she accepted her calling, shared her calling with family, friends and her pastor who ultimately licensed her to preach. God so ordained that Minister Shannon received a cornea transplant approximately seven months before her initial sermon. She has been featured in, “Divine Inspiration Magazine.” The article can be found at

Below she shares here impressions of the conference a few weeks ago…

Shepastor Interview with Minister Carol Shannon
Associate Minister of Second Baptist Church of Media
Media, Pennsylvania

A few weeks ago, it was my honor and privilege to meet you at the American Baptist Home Mission’s Society’s Female Clergy Conference, “Women Together Lifting and Serving One Another.”

What drew you to the conference?

“I was searching for some answers. There was a press in my spirit that I had to be there. I didn’t know what, but I knew that there would be an answer in regards to the situation I’m in. I travel a lot with the women’s ministry and with my own ministry. There are times when we don’t want to be on the program but to be ministered to.”

How would you characterize the atmosphere of the gathering?

“I think it had a genuine openness that you may or may not experience when females get together.”

What did you find most helpful about the conference?

“Our time of sharing – the classes were good, but sharing with other clergywomen in ministry who are serving in other areas – not just the pulpit was very inspirational and helpful. It is important to remember that all areas of ministry – not just the pulpit - are needed. The openness in sharing in ministry-sometimes we think that we have this “hold” or “guard” on our ministry and we won’t share, but sharing is so important because it may help someone walk into their place of purpose.”

Was there anything that you would add or change about the conference?

“The one thing that I would add, is to make sure that we don’t forget lay ministers or licensed clergy (not yet ordained). Licensed preachers need to see themselves in leadership roles or serving on the program. That is important so it doesn’t look like you need to be an ordained minister or pastor in order to do ministry.”

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

“I was about 35 years old.”

How did you experience the call?

“In light of the fact that I had this visual impairment, I was reading the word on my computer and God gave me Isaiah 61. It kept pressing on my spirit. As I struggled to read the words, just staring at the computer screen, I began to question the Lord… ‘I can’t see, how am I going to preach and read your word if I can’t see?’ And the Lord gave me 1 Peter 4:11 which talks about God dealing with the abilities that He has given us.. Like Mary, I just pondered it in my heart. Afterwards, I asked the Lord to confirm what I thought I heard Him saying. He did just that. When I would hear sermons, or scriptures, or when my pastor was preaching (at the time he was preaching on wrestling with God) I kept hearing Isaiah 61 or another scripture related to preaching the Gospel. I told no one, not even my husband. For a while, it kind of stopped there.”

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

“I shared it with my husband first and he was not surprised at all. He said, ‘ok I always knew you had a call on your life because of the way you handle the Word.’ At the time I was serving as a youth leader. He was watching me come up with the lessons and teaching the children. He told me that it came naturally and he was not surprised.

Then I told my best girlfriend. She was not surprised either. She said that God just took the energy and boldness that I had in the world and made it be for Him.

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

“It took approximately a year and a half to become licensed.”

How would you describe your journey into the ministry?

“Challenging. I was a trailblazer. I didn’t have anyone to walk the path before me. I was the first female licensed at my church. It was new for everyone - myself, the congregation, the pastor. Like a mother for the first time, there weren’t any manuals to follow. I was challenged by my own prejudices – what do I do with me? How do I handle me etc. I came from the school of thought that women could not be preachers - very challenging. The Lord was calling me into a new arena. I’m a shy person. He was calling me to be out front. In my family, I was the first female to answer the call. I come from a family of preachers. One family member said, ‘You’ll become a preacher over my dead body!’ I told them to be careful because God may serve them just that! Over all they supported my calling, but they questioned, what to do with me. My family of pastors did not have female clergy in their pulpit.”

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

“A lady in the congregation gave me the book, Those Preachin Women by Dr. Ella Mitchell. She said the Lord pressed upon her spirit to give me a bunch of books. Another book was, Daughters of Thunder. She also gave me Christian Ed books. My cousin who is a preacher began to take me to hear female preachers and introduced and encouraged me to talk to them. My uncle also encouraged me to go out and hear ‘educated’ preachers so that I would not develop bad habits as a female minister. He said, ‘You will not be silly in ministry!’”

How did you become who you are (multifaceted question I know!)?

“I think more or less my over all life experiences. I believe the last 5 years of my eye disease really helped shape who I am in terms of knowing God is with me. I truly live the scripture, ‘we walk by faith and not by sight.’ I was living the impossible if you will - Going to school on public transportation, not being able to see the steps I’m walking down, taking night classes with night blindness - I was living the impossible. Things that didn’t make sense, but I was making it – God was with me. Not only did I go to school, I was on the Dean’s list! I think that the women he allowed me to meet during the time of my mobility training at the Blind Center and then that type of training itself helped to mold me. The training ‘ messes with your ego’ because you are still sighted to some degree, but still having to use a cane. It humbles you. He gave me Proverbs 16:18, ‘Pride goes before a fall.’

Dealing with the challenges that I had to become licensed to even be recognized – that was a challenge in and of itself. These were the critical factors that have shaped and molded who I am.”

You are the founder and director of a clergywomen’s ministry. Please say a word about that…

“Yes I am the founder and director of, “Women of Excellence With Purpose.” The goal of the ministry is to teach and exhort women to use their gifts to do the work of the ministry that God has called them to.
( Our motto is “Destined to Grow and Determined to Do it” We have a special affinity for those women called and or serving in the Gospel Ministry. We long to provide a nurturing and mentoring environment.”

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

“Not being allowed on some pulpits, or being asked to preach from the floor, only being recognized as a preacher on women’s Sunday or something that pertains to women. Any other time I’m just “sister so and so.” Not being taught pulpit etiquette, but required to know it. Although the men were taught. The men were corrected, but I was left to fend for myself.”

What suggestions do you have to help create greater opportunities for female clergy?

"Clergywomen should do 2 things – be willing to share their story – be transparent whether it is a struggle or not. If God has allowed you to move along in ministry, don’t forget to reach back and help open the door for someone else.

In my struggle, I found it helpful when I moved out of my nitch and went and looked at other cultures and denominations. I looked at other women who did not necessarily agree with me, but had similar circumstances or experiences. Our likenesses helped to support and nurture me to move to the next place.

Others who are not female clergy can help by opening the doors that they are in a position to open. More importantly they can help by joining us in prayer that hearts are changed towards women in ministry.”

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

"Remain humble and walk humbly before the Lord. Don’t exert your authority in areas where it is not appropriate."

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

"I just hope and pray that as women we begin to accept one another, accept and embrace our differences and if by chance we had a bitter experience coming into ministry, prayerfully we will not try to “haze” others as they come along. We want to be better, not bitter."

Minister Shannon’s testimony is powerful and insightful. Did you attended the conference? Do you have insights and/or experiences that you would like to share? Post a comment or send me an email at

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