I had not realised, until I was ordained, just how blessed I was in the many strong women who surrounded me all my life. I’m one of five sisters, with an independent mother who went back to school for a graduate degree in civil engineering while I was in high school. The youth group pastor and director of Christian Education at my childhood church was a woman who gave me my first opportunity to preach (at the tender age of 14 or so). With so many examples of strong women around me, it never occurred to me that my gender might be a bar or an impediment to whatever I wanted to do with my life. As an adult, I have been surrounded with intelligent, strong women in leadership roles—military officers, entrepreneurs, professors of everything from information technology to Hebrew to ethics.
But when I was out there on my own, serving a new church in a new town, with no support system in place, I longed for those connections. I had started a blog, being a bit of a techno-geek, and just vain enough to think people might want to read what I wrote, which was mostly about ministry and books. After a month or two—and I am not even sure how it came about—I stumbled upon a “blog ring” of women clergy and their allies and supporters. The encouragement and support I received, and the stories they told, the prayer requests they shared—this was what I had missed so much.
These women were bright, aching to share their gifts with the communities they served, articulate, funny, spiritual, and real. Their blogs invited us to share each others’ lives, the deep sadnesses and the great joys, the petty annoyances and the first tender sprouts of hope. We began to meet up “in real life” and to “come out” and share our names and locations and to become friends away from our computers. And always, we shared what we experienced in this amazing, frightening, hopeful, messy, and blessed vocation.
There’s a Woman in the Pulpit is a snapshot glimpse of our blogs in the aggregate—a “special edition” of RevGalBlogPals, so to speak. One of us has just had a God moment to share, another is grieving the death of a matriarch, someone else is celebrating the gift of sabbatical, and yet another muses on the power of children’s ministry. Each of the pieces is a taste of our collective stories—how we were called; how we continue to feel called, even in the midst of heartache and frustration; the pain, hope and joy we’ve encountered on the way to ordination, to our first congregation, to our first child, to new directions for our ministry, to retirement; calls for help and suggestions with snags and bumps in our ministries; support and prayers for the difficult times in our personal lives.
The RevGals became my online support and encouragement system, a feedback loop of care for them and care for me, in the way good support groups are. They are those women I missed ten years ago, those strong, bright, leading women of God.
If you are a woman considering ministry in any form (ordained or not) or if you support and love a woman who is responding to God’s call on her life, read this book. It’s full of insight into what it means, on a daily basis, to serve God and God’s people; to have to put aside your own grief or joy to be with others as they celebrate or grieve; to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” in order to survive in some ministry contexts; to try to blend family and career in a calling that is notorious for being hard on families; to be a figure of authority when you don’t feel very authoritative and even when others challenge your authority; all the bright and shiny moments and also the dull and gloomy moments.
If you enjoy excellent writing, truth-telling even when it hurts, poetry, laughter, questions, quiet meditations—read this book.
I am humbled by the magical writing of my clergy sisters in this book; to be included is an honour and a gift.