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
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 Shepastor1@hotmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,