“Hi. I’m Jennifer. And I feel called to be a pastor.” Funny how ministry discernment can feel like the intro to an AA meeting (or at least how they are portrayed in movies and TV).
Last week I flew to Atlanta to meet with other Baptist Women in Ministry leaders. In order to fit the occasion, I put on my aqua “This is What a Preacher Looks Like” T-shirt. And I wore it to the airport. It wasn’t until I hit airport security that I realized I was practicing fearlessness. Who wants to be stuck on a plane with a self-proclaimed preacher? It was too warm for a jacket, so I had nothing to hide behind. I stepped up to the metal detectors with a smile, assuming I was a walking TSA target.
I passed through security with no issues, but ended up in several conversations at the gate. “So you are a preacher?” one woman asked. She was curious to hear about the sort of classes people take in seminary. The woman scanning tickets read my shirt aloud and seemed a bit perplexed – “interesting…” she said, pausing for a moment. “We’re glad to have you.”
On the plane, I ended up sitting next to a woman who was on her way to speak at a Christian conference. While her theology seemed rather different from mine, she encouraged me and even gave me a copy of a book she cowrote with her daughter.
In Atlanta, I had a fantastic time sharing stories with women who minister in a variety of wonderful ways. We all shared struggles of following our callings – from growing up in churches that taught God does not call women to death threats from communities who were afraid of women in leadership roles. There were also stories of great hope – from a church sharing hot food and company with folks stranded in an ice storm to helping college students explore their own sense of calling.
I returned home full of hope and encouragement for the church and for my own crazy ministry journey.
This weekend, I wore my “This is What a Preacher Looks Like” shirt again for the first day of preaching class (granted, covered by a sweatshirt – it was cold!). Allyn and I attended a lecture given by one of our heroes – Walter Brueggemann. Allyn convinced me to take off my sweatshirt and show off my T-shirt. I had a group of (non-Baptist) students ask where they could get their own.
While wearing a T-shirt hardly seems a great act of bravery, it has played a strangely significant role in my journey of calling. Growing up in a tradition where women are not allowed to preach, admitting that not only does God call women, but that God has called me is huge. And scary. Just today I admitted to a minister friend that I’m not sure I have what it takes. She was wise enough to remind me that none of us do. And isn’t that an amazing act of grace?
Read more from Jennifer at her blog.