Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Experiences with Female Pastors

My backstory doesn't include much in the way of preaching by women. Usually the only time I ever heard women speak was when I was junior high and the pastor was present to listen to her testimony. Which was awesome, but not much so in the way of a genuine encounter.

The first time I recall ever hearing a woman give an actual sermon, I was visiting my (now) wife Allison when she was finishing up her MDiv at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. After staying Friday and Saturday, I went with her to an Anglican church connected to the Bishop in Rwanda. The woman stood up to give the homily, and began with a quote from Karl Barth. I won't lie, a little part of my past jumped up and down inside my head, screaming something about liberalism. I shushed him and he went and sat in a corner in a huff.

The woman, Amanda was her name I believe, then delivered an impassioned sermon on Romans 5, pulling in conservative scholars and progressive scholars to convey a beautiful and oft-missed point about the pre-existent love of God before He came to us. I enjoyed every minute of her homily and spent the rest of the sermon enraptured, as even the little man in my mind turned around in his chair and took notes.

Another experience involved a bit of a peculiar situation. The church I was attending (American Baptist; egalitarian) had a women chaplain named Joy come in and preach. What made this interesting was not that a woman was standing behind the pulpit and preaching God's word with authority: I was already totally in favor of that. Instead, the service consisted of two separate congregations collapsed into one. The Spanish speaking service had come over, so Joy had to alternative between speaking both Spanish and English.

While difficult to keep with her, due to lack of given time on her part to finish the sermon (and the fact that I barely passed Spanish), her work was deft, erudite and lovely. She maintained a coherent point of reference within Scripture and clearly enjoyed the challenge. After we talked, she confessed to not preparing much and I was surprised. Fist bump.

The final experience I want to talk about was when a good friend of mine, Sarah Schwartz, delivered the word of God via the Internet to my ears. I know Sarah from Thrive and love chatting with her, but I didn't know she was called to be a pastor. And what a calling! I listened to her sermon while at work, and it covered the text in John 4 about the first Samaritan women messenger whom Jesus sends to her people.

Bringing in varying translational and historical details, she preached a magisterial sermon about many facets of this story, including the identity of women in this new world and the Messiah who affirmed and gifted her to bring many Samaritans into the fold of God. Simply put, the simplicity of the story was often lost on me, and Sarah, through the Holy Spirit, gave that story life.

You can find Sarah's story here.

There are many more stories I could write about, but in my journey towards egalitarianism, these are the stories that stand out most to me.

--Nick

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