My story of answering a call to ministry is also a story about being able to imagine and dream of a God and a religion that welcomes and includes all people. When I voiced a call to preach to my home church, the minister I shared with responded, “We don’t believe in that.”
What he meant is that as a Southern Baptist Church, the leadership did not believe that women were called to be ministers, preachers, or pastors. Instead, women were called to be support staff, preachers’ wives, and mothers.
What I heard as he clung to a closed theology was, “We don’t believe in you.” I had grown up in this closed theology, but somehow as I found the courage to answer a call to preach and pastor, there was a ray of hope that the community of faith who had nurtured and supported me, the community of faith I had spent countless hours serving, would somehow release their tight grip on dogma and embrace me instead.
It was heartbreaking and disappointing. It made me doubt whether I had heard my call correctly. It made me doubt whether I was full of pride or ambition. It made me doubt myself.
But then I found other women, many who shared a similar story, who were living into their call, yes even in Baptist congregations and that ray of hope returned. I clung to that hope even when people told me to look into becoming Methodist; even when people told me that communities of faith just weren’t ready to call a woman as pastor of their church quite yet.
Still I clung to that ray of hope, which led me to pastor a church start in Lexington, SC, which led me to pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship.
That ray of hope that led me and stayed me in the midst of doubt and uncertainty has become a new hope to pastor and lead a community of faith where truly all are welcome and included.