Although I have been safely nestled into a welcoming and affirming congregation for over a year now, there are still many times I encounter people and situations in which I feel like an outsider because I am a woman preacher. This past week I had a conversation with someone who explained to me that couple wouldn’t attend our church because I was the minister and because I was a woman, but it was the way it was phrased that caught me off guard:
Well, he doesn’t believe in women ministers.
I know what this person was trying to explain to me, but I couldn’t help equating the statement with the belief in Santa Claus, , especially at this time of year. Even if this gentleman doesn’t believe in women ministers, it doesn’t change the fact that there are women ministers all over the United States and all over the world. Certainly, there aren’t as many women ministers as there are men ministers (this sounds funny, doesn’t it? You don’t often hear the term men ministers, they’re just called ministers), but to deny that we all exist strikes me as odd.
It isn’t the first time I’ve been told that there won’t be people who attend our church based solely on the fact that I am woman, and it’s not something I take for granted. I know my congregation was taking a risk when they decided to call me. I know they were eliminating the possibility of some potential members in our congregation, and I am grateful for their bravery every day.
I also know when I visit people in the nursing home or in the hospital, I challenge their understanding of who a minister is and who can be a minister. And I am glad I do, not for my sake, but for the sake of the people who don’t know (or don’t believe) there are women ministers in the communities they live and work. It isn’t about proving something to people, but more about opening the eyes of those who have never encountered a woman preacher or pastor. In answering my call, I am not trying to change anyone’s belief or conviction about women in ministry. I am trying to answer the call God has placed on my life, and as I am on my way doing the things a minister does, I am trying to follow Jesus example of loving whomever I encounter.