Women in Ministry: Together on the Journey
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Mary and Elizabeth are both pregnant. They have both been on the receiving end of miracles from the Lord. They have both been promised that the sons they are carrying will have important roles in the coming of the kingdom of God. God’s call to each of them has been unexpected and unique. Up until this point in the story, both women have been alone while hearing and responding to God’s call.
But in this moment—when Elizabeth greets Mary in the doorway of her home—they realize they are not alone. There are few sentiments more powerful than the two little words “me too.” Knowing that you are not alone—in your experience, in your beliefs, in your vocation—can make a world of difference. I believe that is one of the reasons Mary breaks into song in the very next passage. After Elizabeth has witnessed, affirmed, and celebrated God’s call on Mary’s life, she feels the freedom to relax and rejoice in her unique vocation.
One of the reasons I love this passage is that I, too, have received an unusual call from God. Through a series of conversations with my parents and closest friends, a burning desire to study theology at a graduate level, and a unique skill set that includes preaching, teaching, and leading worship, God called me into pastoral ministry. The call was surprising because it was the early 1990s and I was a Church of Christ girl. I had known a lot of preachers through the course of my life, but 100% of them were male. When I answered the call I knew exactly two women who called themselves ministers in Churches of Christ. There were only two. But there were two. I was not alone.
My vocational life has been shaped by a desire to bring together Church of Christ women in ministry. I believe that, like Mary, we all long to know others who share unique vocations similar to our own. We all long to have our callings witnessed, affirmed, and celebrated by others who can say, “God has called me, too.” Over the years a group formed. We called it the Women in Ministry Network. The three grew to 10, which grew to 40. And now we have over 300 women in an active Community of Women Ministers Facebook group that provides vital, ongoing support to women with significant ties to the Churches of Christ who are called to ministry. The internet brings us together, spanning the miles that separate us and reminding us that we are not alone. And while these online relationships are powerful and necessary, there is also a deep need for us to come together physically so that our relationships can be anchored in flesh and blood interactions with human beings who have facial expressions and voices and audible laughs. It is for this reason that we meet annually in person.
Our next gathering is scheduled for March 4-6, 2019. We will be meeting at the Highland Oaks Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas. All women in ministry and leadership are invited to join us. Our gathering will include women who minister to children, youth, women, and seniors; women who preach and women who lead worship; women who are elders and women who are deacons. Women who are seminary students, chaplains, educators, spiritual directors, missionaries, writers, leaders of parachurch ministries, and more. Women who are currently employed, women who are giving their time as volunteers, women who are looking for work, and women who are taking a break from professional ministry for family or other reasons. Women who currently worship with a Church of Christ, women who grew up in the Church of Christ but are in ministry elsewhere, women who have one foot in the Church of Christ and one foot somewhere else, and women who are in the process of looking around and just aren't sure where they will end up. All different. All unique. But united in some important commonalities.
So if you are a woman who has been called by God into ministry or church leadership, consider joining us (register here). You will be blessed if you do. Because we all need people who will believe with us and will bless us for our willingness to follow wherever God leads. We all need sisters who will stand by us in faith and say the words Elizabeth said to Mary: "You are blessed because you believe the Lord will do what he said he would do."