Without women there would be no church.
You can take that statement and apply it in many ways: From Mary who tells the disciples she has seen the Lord to the numerous women who show up at churches and lead from volunteering to preaching (where allowed).
My nod to Women’s History Month is about my personal history and the women in ministry who shaped me.
I grew up in a church in New Macedonia MB Church in Centreville, Illinois where my grandpa Rev O.V, Carter was the pastor. In that small, rural church I heard women preach and saw them be ordained. I learned later in college how uncommon this was and I continue today astounded by the inclusivity of my grandpa during his leadership.
In reflection here, I’m sharing names of some of the women who gave me images being in church leadership during my formative years. If you know my story, I was on track to be a journalist not a pastor so looking back I can see how these women’s walks of faith were shaping me.
1. Be Honest
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
First is Rev. Lou Branson. She’s the first woman I saw and heard preach from the pulpit (not a lectern on the same level as the congregation). . She was a tall, commanding and comforting presence. In my memory she always wore a hat. Rev. Branson was honest. She didn’t mince words but seemed intentional with what and how she spoke.
Her husband Vertis was a deacon and sat on the first row. He loved her. A quiet man usually, but he came to life when he supported her while preaching. It was beautiful to see.
Honesty is important in my leadership today. It starts with being honest with myself. When I’m not, I have a good friend who asks the best, hardest questions that help me get real with me before I can do so with anyone else.
Furthermore, honest preaching is vulnerable. I hope that my preaching connects me with others rather than elevates or repels me. We’re all on this journey of faith with its twists and bumps.
2. Show Up
Second is Rev. Patricia Tate. She started out leading the Youth Choir before becoming a minister. Truth is she was always ministering. It’s because of her and Jesus that I was baptized. When your grandpa’s the pastor all eyes are on you. When you share that you believe in Jesus, you do so at the front of the church and all eyes are on you. I wasn’t interested in being on display. Rev. Tate pulled aside one day and asked me if I believed and why hadn’t I gone forward? She managed for an altar call or “opening the doors of the church” during a choir rehearsal during the week (less people). And that’s where I confessed and professed my faith in Jesus. I was 15 years old.
Rev. Tate was a constant presence in my life at church. She loved and invested in us youth. She had youthful energy and joy as well for as long as I can remember.
It’s said that 90% of leadership is showing up. The sentiment is that you can’t lease what you don’t show up for. Showing up is physical but also emotional, spiritual and mental. BE in the room, be with people, because as you do you learn what’s needed and what’s next to lead.
3. Learn and Teach
"Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly. " Timothy 2:15 CEB
Third is Rev. Rose Alexander. To start Rev. Alexander had the best sense of humor. I remember laughing when she was around. At the same time, she took Bible study seriously and her messages revealed that she loved to learn and then teach. She just stood flat footed and taught the Bible. I loved seeing her preparation come to life. When someone lives something so much, you can’t help but be intrigued as well. She drew me in because her passion for study was so. evident. And her humor still managed to show up as well.
I don’t think that every good preacher is a pray-er. But I do think every good pray-er is a preacher.
Rev. Alexander believed in the power of prayer and intercession. I saw prayers answered for her in life particularly around becoming a family.
She taught me to learn and teach. Spend time studying but don’t be too serious. And also to root my life in prayer.
These women and many more have shaped the leader I am today. They were representations of women in church leadership that I didn’t know where forming my eventual journey. I give God thanks for the diverse examples of leadership these women and others have been in my life. I’m clear that I stand on the shoulders of women I know, and most I will never know who led with or without permission from patriarchy.
I hold my heart and sing praises for the women in church leadership this Women’s History Month.
Action Brings Clarity
Whether you’re in church leadership as a volunteer or paid, I pray you consider your leadership in these three areas.
Whose shaped your faith and leadership?
© Charity Goodwin, 2023.