Wednesday, February 23, 2011

“Dealing With Grief While Ministering: Wise Words from Minister Mary Edwards”

There is an unfortunate belief among some clergy (men and women) that transparency regarding inner pain is a sign of weakness or lack of faith. Therefore, many will hide their tears, their struggles and their pain to portray the image of a faith giant. For some, shedding tears or taking much needed time off to deal with a loss or a life-altering situation is to bring shame upon themselves and the vocation. Sometimes we find ourselves behaving like Moses who placed a veil over his face because he did not want the Israelites to see “the radiance” fading away (II Corinthians 3:13).

This behavior, however, is not healthy, spiritual or exemplary. When we pretend to be “iron men and women,” we give people the false impression that it is not Christ-like or holy to express our emotions. By example, we teach people the unhealthy technique of stuffing our emotions or denying their existence. While it is not recommended that a leader of any kind share every emotion and every feeling openly, it is important to “remove the veil” and allow people to see our humanity.

In today’s Shepastor we highlight excerpts from a blog article entitled, “Wise Words for Women,” by Minister Mary Edwards. In her article, “From Widowhood to Womanhood,” Minister Edwards shares wise words from her experience of abruptly becoming a widow and feeling the need to keep moving and ministering despite her pain and grief. May her insights provide an alternative approach and instruct all who mistake the “treadmill mentality” for faith and ministry.

Read Below and be blessed!

Shepastor Highlights: “Wise Words for Women” by Minister Mary Edwards
“From Widowhood to Womanhood: A wife in the morning and a widow in the afternoon.”

That’s how fast my life changed. And it can happen to anyone. In fact, it has happened to 13 million widows in the United States alone. What do you do? Who do you turn to for the answers you need?

I had to learn quickly. My husband, Rev. Eddie K. Edwards made his transition so fast that I wasn’t prepared. However, I’ve learned a few things that might be helpful to you…

Give Yourself Permission to Mourn

It’s okay to cry. In fact, I encourage you to do so. You will find that there is healing in tears. Regrettably, I didn’t allow myself to cry. One month following my husband’s death, I started a new ministry called Widows with Wisdom. The reason I didn’t allow myself to cry is because I was afraid that if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop. In fact, I had cried so many tears during his illness I suspected that they had dried up. So, instead of spending a lot of time grieving, I busied myself reaching out to other widows.

Confront Your Feelings…

Helping others is good. However, postponing a confrontation with your feelings by filing each day with frantic activity will only delay the grief process. Friends, the grief will remain until you deal with it.

Don’t allow others to tell you how to feel…

Don’t let anyone tell you how long you should grieve. It’s different for everyone. But if you don’t seem to handle it well, I encourage you to seek professional help.

To read more about Minister Edwards’ experience or to view her website, visit

Have you ever found yourself “wearing a veil” to cover grief, stress or anxiety? Do you have words of wisdom or insights for those who may struggle with this issue? 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, February 16, 2011

"The Inspiration Behind the Inspiration" Rev. Diane Lewis: Reflections Upon The Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall Wynn

During the month of February, we take time to reflect upon the many and varied contributions of African American people as well as the Civil Rights Movement. The most familiar voice, by far of the Civil Rights Movement was (and remains) the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Used to inspire millions across the decades, King’s “I Have A Dream” speech rings forth as the most prominent. Are you aware, however, that a young, female preacher inspired that speech?

The Reverend Diane Lewis, Associate Minister of the Arlington Street Church of God in Akron, Ohio specializes in helping congregations and the broader community become exposed to little known facts like the above during Black History Month.

Rev. Lewis has been an associate minister at Arlington Street Church of God since 1993. She has served as Sunday School Coordinator, Teacher, Director of Educational Programming, Developer and Coordinator of “College Coming to You,” a college access program, and most recently the director of Community Outreach. In that position she conducted an annual coat give away, career fair, community garden and “Fun Day.”

Rev. Lewis is also a historian, play-writer and researcher. Additionally, she is a licensed clinical counselor. Annually, Rev. Lewis produces “This Moment in Black History,” a blended presentation which includes drama, spoken word, song and mime.

In today’s Shepastor, Rev. Lewis shares her passion for “telling the story” of Black History in general as well as a particular female preacher’s role in the Movement. She provides excerpts from a skit she recently wrote and presented, “The Inspiration Behind the Inspiration.” The skit highlights the penetrating prayer of a young civil rights worker, the Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall Wynn. With creativity, vibrancy and power, Rev Lewis’ skit illustrated the magnitude of influence Rev. Wynn’s prayer had on Dr. King.

Read further and be blessed!

Shepastor Interview with The Reverend Diane Lewis
Associate Minister, Arlington Church of God
Akron, Ohio

How was this vision of an annual Black History program birthed within you?

It has been a life long labor of love. It is a passion, a desire for people who don’t know their own history to hear it and see it unfold. Having a glimpse of their history seems to somehow empower them. There is something within all of us that calls for the learning of our past – our heritage.

African Americans can’t always point to their beginnings in their immediate or extended family. When we explore our history, we are exploring our extended family, such that their story becomes our story in a very real way. This discovery is not limited to skin color. There is something within all of us that says everybody is somebody or at least recognizes that we are all a part of a body. We have that in our Christian faith, but it also applies to the entire human race.

I can see myself in the many and varied stories of history, based not on skin color but on the story. That is what gives me strength. That is what helps me to see – that’s the power of story. There is something about story – we gain strength from one another’s testimony. We may have to dig for it like mining for gold. We find it is a treasure. Like the woman in Jesus’ parable who discovered the pearl of great price, history is a treasure. Some of it is unwritten and it is our responsibility, when we find it to tell everybody.

The celebration of Black History, is not to denigrate or negate who others are. It is more about sharing and saying, “Look at what I found.! I am discovering more of me – it doesn’t mean less of you.”

During this year’s “This Moment In Black History,” you presented a powerful skit you titled, “The Inspiration Behind the Inspiration” about an African American Female Preacher who actually, inspired Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Say something about that.

“The Inspiration behind the Inspiration,” focused upon the late Dr. Prathia Hall Wynn. I was drawn to her because of her persistence. Sometimes when you are doing things you know somehow or another that you are making a difference because God called you, but you don’t see the impact right away. That was Dr. Wynn. Her persistence inspired me.
In 1962 in Terrell County, Georgia, students gathered for a rally on the grounds of Mount Olive Baptist Church. The church had been burned down by the Ku Klux Klan. Civil Rights leaders had invited Dr. King to come and encourage the students and the broader community to continue in the battle for civil rights. During the rally, a young student named Prathia Hall was called upon to pray.

“Prathia” had garnered a reputation for being a firebrand orator. She was the daughter of a Baptist preacher. Testimonials from students at the rally declare that Prathia repeatedly intoned the phrase, “I have a dream” throughout her prayer. While we don’t have the exact words of the prayer, I imagined the words she may have said. During our skit, the performer said this prayer,

“Father God tonight just a few of your handmaid students are here today, just to say thank you. Thank you for your mercy and your grace. Thank you for how you have kept us down through the years. Even now we believe you have called us to the work that you are doing. Lord, we are not asking for justice, since mercy suits our case and though storms may rise and winds may blow, we intend to hold on.

Oh God even if I have to go by myself I am going all the way. Here I stand, I open my mouth to the Lord, I won’t turn back, NO! Lord I take my stand against the enemy of righteousness and declare, You can throw me in jail, you can burn my church to the ground, but I still have a dream. I said I have a dream and I will not be discouraged, nor will I abandon my dream. Right about now, I can see a cloud about the size of a man’s hand and I believe it is gonna rain! Let it rain God, send down water from Zion. Rain down equal education, rain down, fair housing, rain down the right to vote and rain down freedom for all! Oh God this is my hope and this is my dream. I will not stoop I will not strut, and I will not stop until this dream becomes a reality.

I – have- a- dream! Amen, Amen and Amen!”

Young Prathia had no idea of the impact she was having upon Dr. King. He was so impressed and moved by the “I have a dream” concept that he went on to incorporate the phrase into his own sermons. In later years King gave Rev. Prathia the highest compliment saying, “Prathia is one platform speaker, I just assume not follow!”

Senior Pastor Susan K. Smith, (Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio) in her Washington Post article, “King’s Dream Began With a Woman Preacher,” states this about Dr. Wynn’s impact and influence upon the Civil Right’s Movement,

“Prathia Hall became a voice and a presence in the Black Church. She graduated from Temple University, and then became an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement. She joined up with freedom fighters who went South to advocate for the rights of black people to vote, and became one of its first field leaders… She later enrolled in Princeton Theological Seminary and after her father's death, was named pastor of his church in Philadelphia.”

Are you planning to offer “A Moment in Black History” in other places?

Plans are underway to reach an even wider audience with panel discussions, oratory contests, the use of local theaters and other media outlets to tell the story of many unsung and unheralded Black people.

To purchase a DVD or to invite Reverend Lewis to speak or present, please contact her at

More information about The Reverend Dr. Prathia Hall Wynn may be found by reading Pastor Karen Smith’s article at

Do you have a story to share about an “unsung” female preacher who has greatly impacted your life and the lives of others? 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, February 9, 2011

“Will the Catholic Church Ever Ordain Women? Interview with Gillian G.M. Small, Esq., Eucharistic Minister”

When asked the question, “Will the Catholic Church ever ordain women?” one respondent replied in broken English, but with great profundity…
“Ask God, not Pope. Not up to Pope, it up to God. He makes the rules not Pope.”

While some may argue, quite persuasively that the highest ranking official in the Catholic Church, does make the rules, we who walk by faith understand that in the end, God has the last say! To that end, in roads are being made, ever so slowly towards the recognition of women in the Catholic Church, beyond the traditional role of a nun.

Although the Vatican may still view the ordination of women as tantamount to heresy, more Catholics are warming up to the idea that women can and should be ordained. In September of 2010, the National Catholic Reporter, an independent news source, reported, “the latest poll of U.S. Catholics done by The New York Times and CBS News disclosed that 59 percent now favor the ordination of women to the priesthood, while 33 percent are opposed.”

As the shortage of male priests continues to daunt the Catholic church, God is opening doors for women to become more active participants during mass. Catholic women in increasing numbers are attending seminaries as well as special preparatory programs within the church. They do so to become equipped to serve through avenues currently open to them. One such woman is Gillian, G.M. Small. “Gill,” (pronounced, “Jill”) is a recent graduate of the St. Francis De Sales School of Pastoral Ministry, through the Diocese of Oakland. A proud Catholic woman, Gill does not spend time lamenting Rome’s current stance on the ordination of women. Instead, she is walking through the doors that God has opened and keeping her lamp, “trimmed and burning,” serving the Lord. Below Gill shares her journey into Christian service through the Catholic Church, her thoughts regarding doors opening for Catholic women and words of wisdom for those praying for the ultimate glass ceiling to come crashing down!

Read on and be blessed…

Shepastor Interview with Gillian G.M. Small, Esq., Eucharistic Minister
Graduate, St. Francis De Sales School of Pastoral Ministry, Diocese of Oakland, CA
Home town, Akron, Ohio, current resident of Oakland, California

How would you describe your “call” into the ministry? What, if any obstacles have you encountered as a Catholic woman pursuing that call?

Ministry for me is very broad. I’ve been involved in the ministry of music since I can remember. I’ve enjoyed singing hymns and antiphons and the like, and singing gospel music since the 7th grade. I continued with that and sang in high school and in the University of Akron Gospel Choir. When I graduated and came to California, I joined All Saints Catholic church where I taught Catholic education to 8th grade students.

Before Vatican II Council of Bishops, convened in the early 1960’s, we were not encouraged to read the Bible. We had instruction books and readings which contained the various books of the prophets and lessons in Sunday School. At that time I was about 26 years old. I discerned that there was a great need for continuing adult education in the Catholic faith. Most Catholics, unless they are working in the church in some specific capacity, after confirmation, don’t become involved in biblical study. They attend church, primarily because of obligatory reasons – not wanting to go to Hell.

I liked All Saints Church in Hayward because it was lively and had a younger staff of volunteers. I started getting involved in the Catholic Institute Studies and became an instructor. No one else wanted to take the 8th graders, so I took on the challenge. Fortunately, the students listened to my teaching, probably because I was closer to their age and they thought I was “cool.”

During one class, I asked them how many had bible in their homes. Maybe one or two raised their hands. I went over to the church and got a number of bibles, brought them to class and we played Bible hang man. That was their way of learning the Bible.

I was drawn to my current church, St. Columba after reading about the Gospel workshop choir. The pastor, Father Paul Vassar was a very progressive priest, active in social justice issues. He studied at Xavier in New Orleans and learned Black Catholic theology. St. Columba, a diverse, heavily African American Parish, flourished under his leadership. He encouraged African Americans Catholics to embrace their culture and heritage as we live out our faith.

Regarding obstacles, there are obvious limitations for Catholic women who want to take a more active role in the church as far as preaching. Only priests can do a homily (sermon). Lay men and women can give, “reflections.” Deacons and priests can read the Gospel. At present, only men can serve as deacons and priests.

Laypersons (men and women) can also distribute Holy Communion – these individuals are called, “Extraordinary Ministers” or “Eucharistic Ministers.” The ministers have gone through special training that prepares them to conduct 1st communion classes, confirmation classes, youth ministry and “the Right of Christian Initiation for Adults” (RCA). They may assist in the distribution of the bread and the wine, but only the priest can consecrate the elements.

The Catholic church now allows more reflections from women. Some parishes still will not allow women to even give a reflection. St. Columba is on the cutting edge in this regard. It has been a teaching church. We are down the street from Graduate Theological Union, so we get a lot of seminary interns. Many of them are women. We have observed that increasing numbers of Catholic women are pursuing their masters in theology.

You recently completed several years of ministerial training. Please share the name of the program and how the program uniquely prepares/equips you for service in the Catholic Church.

St Francis De Sales School of Pastoral Ministry, through the Diocese of Oakland. St. Fr was a man that taught laypeople of the congregation to assist the congregation in the pastoral ministry of the church. It was a 3-year certificate program in lay pastoral ministry.

There has been an emphasis on laity ministry since the Vatican II council – the church wanted to make certain that people were trained and equipped and not just remembering their confirmation class. The program covered the history of the Catholic Church, the interrelationship between the Catholic and the Protestant faiths, the Old and New Testaments, Catholic Social Justice, varying types of ministry, the sacraments, healing and service. It was a broad program that helped people to discern their ministry calling whether in liturgy, music, administration, teaching, marriage and couples counseling or theology of the body.

What, in your opinion, will it take for the Catholic Church to open its doors to female clergy ordination?

Besides and act of God,” It will take a very long time. In my opinion, priests will be able to marry before they ordain women. The Church uses the argument that women should not be ordained because Jesus did not have women for disciples or apostles. Many women are disputing that by saying that Mary was the first disciple. She truly was the first one to “carry the Gospel!” I say it is because of power and control.

One of our pastors, Father Kwame, says (paraphrased) that a time is going to come when the church will have to ordain women. As more priests come to accept women in the role of pastoral leadership, they will put pressure on their bishops to accept them as well. It is the Conference of Bishops that meet and make recommendation of policy. “They will have to make Rome listen.” Father Kwame also asks, (paraphrased) “When we are baptized, we are baptized as priest, prophet and king. How can we baptize laity in that name and remain unwilling to ordain women?”

What barriers do you see slowly crumbling regarding women serving in the Catholic Church?

The priests seeing that women are capable and equal, rather than subservient.When the Episcopal church started ordaining women, many of their priests left. The Catholic church accepted them, even though they had wives and children! They make all kind of exceptions for everyone except women! However, this is changing because the American Catholic Church/priests are becoming more accepting of women and are allowing them greater opportunities to serve.

What guidance would you give to Catholic women who feel called to serve in a “priestly role,” but lack direction and opportunity?

You have to be careful. In the words of the late past President Theodore Roosevelt, “Walk softly and carry a big stick!” Like water on a rock over time creates valleys, be persistent, accept/pursue as many leadership roles available. Be innovative, be proactive, be available. There aren’t as many available priests so the schools of pastoral ministry are coming up. I would encourage women to really take advantage of the program and the Church will eventually find that they have to rely upon the women because that is whose there.

What strategies ought we develop in order to provide clear paths to success?

We have to be proactive and consistent. We need to train and mentor other women to take over leadership positions as doors are opening. As priests are giving more and more responsibility to the laity, we need to step up and occupy those roles. Eventually, it will get to the point where the Church will be compelled to allow women to serve in the ordained ministry.

The scripture declares, “The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much” (James 5:16, KJV). Let us join our Catholic sisters in prayer as they continue to serve the Lord by faith, trusting, believing and pursuing the ordained ministry in the face of tremendous opposition. God has the last say!

In addition to her ministerial service, Gill is an attorney employed with the State of California's Department of Corporations as a senior corporation's counsel. Based in the San Francisco Office, she is the Department's acting general counsel and also practices securities and franchise regulation. Oh, and by the way, Gill is my sister!

Are you discouraged because of a glass ceiling? Do you have a word of encouragement for a sister or sisters who are in the midst of the struggle? 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, February 2, 2011

Shepastor Highlights: “Ten Lessons From Women Pastors,” by Sister Mary Luke Jones of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Indiana

This week, Shepastor again turns the spotlight upon the wonderful resource, Faith and Leadership: An offering of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity. Today’s offering highlights research conducted by Catholic nun, Sister Mary Luke Jones. At a gathering entitled, “A Still More Excellent Way,” in May, 2010, Sister Mary gave a presentation to the core leadership of the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence project.

Sister Mary is the project director of Women Touched By Grace, a “spiritual renewal program hosted by the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center in Beech Grove, Indiana.” The project brought together Catholic “religious” women and Protestant clergywomen for the purpose of gleaning words of wisdom, connectivity and commonalities between the two groups. 50 Protestant clergywomen and 70 Catholic Nuns came together to grapple with the issues that face ALL clergywomen despite obvious differences in their professed religion. During their time together, they gained more than knowledge, they developed a bond of love, respect and sisterhood.

Below is a description of the research as well as “Ten Lessons From Women Pastors.”

Shepastor Highlights: “The Wisdom of Women,” by Sister Mary Luke Jones of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Indiana

…Our goal was to bring the best of Catholic and Protestant practices to a group of already excellent pastors. Each of these women was well respected among her peers and treasured by her congregation. What did we think we were going to add? We knew one thing for sure -- we were going to love them. They made that very easy.

The Lilly Endowment’s grant initiative was specifically for pastors of congregations. Catholic women are denied ordination, so we chose to reach out to Protestant clergywomen, for a number of reasons. First, we like women. We think they can change the world. Second, we honor women for the role they play in family, church and society. Third, we value women because for too long they have been relegated to second place. And fourth, half of the brain power in our world lies in the heads of its women. If we do not mine it, it is at our own peril.

Good teachers will tell you that it is by their students they are taught. Here are 10 things we learned from our 50 clergywomen:

1. Everybody needs community. Fifty strangers came together and almost immediately formed bonds of friendship and compassion for one another. There is an innate desire to be a worthwhile member of a worthwhile group.

2. Pastors are lonely. Barriers imposed by the pastor’s need to hold confidences, to rise above the mundane and to have all the answers with none of the doubts often leads to isolation.

3. Women need the companionship of other women. Many of the women touched by grace find themselves surrounded by male clergy who just don’t get it!

4. Prayer is a deep place in one’s soul that cannot be reached by staying on the surface. Lectio divina , the recitation of the psalms, attention to Scripture and establishing a rhythm of prayer compels us to dive deep into our souls where we meet God.

5. Women clergy are distracted from their prayer lives in order to be administrators. It has been noted that being a pastor is like being a stray dog at a whistler’s convention. So many fires to put out, so many problems to solve, so many meetings to attend eat into the time a pastor needs to deepen her own prayer life.

6. When you get women pastors together, you can expect hilarity. Have you ever tried to play bingo with a bunch of Protestants? They just don’t get it! Can you imagine a basketball contest betweens nuns and clergywomen, complete with cheers? “Hail Mary, full of grace, put those sisters in their place.” (The sisters won, by the way.) Drinking wine, painting toenails, sharing stories, knitting, making cards, playing games … there was no end to the laughter when the women touched by grace came to Our Lady of Grace.

7. When people are treasured, they respond with a deep sigh. Each time the clergywomen came to Benedict Inn, they rushed in. Each time they left, they floated out. It is amazing what breathing in and breathing out can do for one’s psyche. Not only meeting but anticipating all their needs was important to us. A clock, a fan, a blanket, directions to a Thai restaurant, half-and-half for their coffee, a footstool, a hug, a listening ear, a gentle touch, a blessing were things we could easily give and wanted to give to these women who were so precious in our eyes.

8. Women clergy are committed to their vocation and hunger for effective ways to serve their congregations. More than anything, these women want to be good pastors. Their congregations are uppermost in their minds; the people they serve, paramount in their decisions. Without fail, the 50 clergywomen spent their class time taking notes, asking questions, sharing experiences, delving into the topics of creating community, prayer disciplines, transformational leadership, systems theory and spiritual mentoring with a determination to learn better ways to serve.

9. We are all monastics at heart. The Rule of St. Benedict belongs to all of us. Its challenge to seek God beckons us to find the divine in everyone and everything. Benedict knew that prayer and work, hospitality and peace are the things that make for a happy and fulfilled life. The wisdom of the Rule of Benedict and of the monastic life is that we can all live it. All of us -- vowed and lay, Catholic and Protestant, men and women -- are called to live lives of holiness. The women touched by grace latched on to that truth very early.

10. The things that separate Catholics and Protestants are not really that important. What we can learn from one another -- that is important. The first group of women touched by grace had the blessing of a trip to Italy to walk in the footsteps of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica, our founders. When we were in Norcia, the birthplace of these great saints, we had lunch with the sisters there, and through an interpreter I explained to the mother abbess that these women were all pastors of congregations. She replied, with a big sweep of her arm, “We are all one.” And isn’t that true? The walls of suspicion and rituals and beliefs that once separated us no longer existed. The mother abbess was simply echoing the words of Jesus: May they all be one.

So, there is my top-10 list. It is followed by thousands of other memories and nuggets of truth that are still being discovered. All in all, I can safely say, I fell in love and I’m planning to stay there!

To read more about Sister Mary and this wonderful project, visit,

Have you observed commonalities among clergywomen that transcend denomination or even religion? Do you have experiences or observations that you believe could help encourage and lift other female clergy? 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