In an article on sustaining pastoral excellence, the Rev. Sally Brower, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, writes:
“For women clergy, sustaining pastoral excellence is not only about spiritual practices and leadership skills. It is also about retaining gifted women pastors for whom ministry is all too often an ordeal of grace under fire.”
As a young female member of my church, my heart warms at the sound of a feminine voice resounding from our pulpit. Hearing the gospel articulated by a woman has a refreshing sense of strength and courage.
Women are not new to ministry — witness Mary, the Mother of our Lord, and her cousin Elizabeth. However, women are relatively new to the world of formal preaching and inclusion in denominational leadership roles, and this still-recent cultural shift can create unique challenges for female pastors.
A pregnant minister once told me that the number one question she is asked is, “Are you going to keep preaching?” “Yes, Lord willing,” she frequently replies. It is not a harmful question or an unexpected one, but I don’t believe that male pastors get asked the same question when their wives give birth or when they adopt a child.
On top of the biases that color others’ view of women in ministry are the questions that female pastors often ask themselves (ones that are equally reflective of our cultural expectations): How will I pay for childcare on a pastor’s salary? Make time to cook dinner and clean my house when I’m on call 24/7? Make visits to the hospital with a nursing baby? How do I come across as nurturing but not too soft? How can I be feminine without being hyper-emotional? How can I, as a woman, be unique — but not too different from men?
Do you find yourself longing to be in the company of other female ministers? Worshiping with one another is a way of sustaining one’s ministry and diving into these questions.
Join us at Homegrown: North Carolina’s Women’s Preaching Festival this fall, October 10 and 11 in Durham, N.C. to receive the word from and worship with other female clergy and explore all that women have to offer the church.