The Day of the Girl Child

Devyn Chambers Johnson serves as co-pastor of Community Covenant Church in Springfield, Virginia. Devyn, and her husband Ryan, are proud parents to two active young daughters. In addition to serving as co-pastor Devyn is pursuing her Doctorate in Ministry with an emphasis in leadership and ministry development. 

My husband and I are raising two amazing girls who I know will change the world. Our oldest is a natural performer who loves life, exudes joy and turns any social situation into a party. Our youngest, a mere 15 months old, is more reserved but determined, thoughtful and independent.

And they make me see my call as a pastor differently.

I was raised a pastor’s daughter and the most common avenue for ministry that I saw available to women was that of a pastor’s wife. Ironically, I married a pastor and now wear dual hats as both a pastor and a pastor’s spouse.

But my girls see the world so incredibly differently than I did as a young girl.

This summer we drove passed our neighborhood Lutheran church, where my friend serves as pastor and where oldest had attended Vacation Bible School. She began to retell the story of how she got scared but Julia’s mommy let her sit in her office and helped her feel better.

Making conversation I pointed out that Julia’s mom is the pastor of that church. To which my daughter responded “Yeah! She’s really nice.”

Then out of curiosity, and because you never really know the mind of a four year old, I asked “Who’s the pastor at our church?”

And as a true four year old she replied with her newfound know-it-all exasperation “you are mom!”

And I couldn’t help but smile. Not because I needed some sort of affirmation from my four year old but because I realized that to her it was a ridiculously stupid question. Her mom is a pastor (and her dad too!) and while that reality is still foreign to some—it isn’t to her.

And it hit me—that for all the advocacy and training I can provide for women in ministry the greatest gift of my call is the gift of normalcy to a younger generation.

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    A Resounding “Yes”

    Post a Comment » Written on September 5th, 2017     
    Filed under: Project Deborah, Testimonies and Stories

    Brian Wiele has served since 2006 as the Lead Pastor of River Ridge Covenant Church in Olympia, Washington.  Brian and Linda have been married for 36 years, and have two children and two grandchildren.  He is an avid reader, and wishes he could play golf more frequently.

    At Gather ’17 – the annual meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church held in late June – something was formally renewed, a resounding “yes” from the delegates to work done so far and work still to be addressed. As that “yes” was affirmed, there was a silent accompanying “good-bye” said from afar by one person – a farewell spoken with joy and appreciation.  

    What was renewed?  The continuing work of the Covenant’s Commission on Biblical Gender Equality.  Formed in 2002, the question comes up every five years – should we continue the work of educating about and advocating for women in ministry?  In those fifteen years, dozens of your fellow Covenanters have served in that effort to create documents, awareness, and hope.  

    I am the one who said “good-bye” from afar, as I was not able to participate in Gather this year. I joined the commission in 2011, and served for two three-year terms. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I considered it a special honor to have been asked to lead the effort as chair for four years. Having left the Commission, I have been asked to share some reflections, looking back upon where we’ve come and peering forward into the future.

    I am thrilled with the progress that is being made.  We continue to rely upon solid resources [hyper-link to BGE resources here] that were prepared by the first members of the Commission.  But more importantly, we see an increase in gifted women thriving in various ministry callings, in the local church, in Covenant leadership, and in various segments of our culture.  As I write this, the new Chair of the Commission, Abby Jones, has begun her work as Lead Pastor at Paradise Valley Community Church in Phoenix.  Abby is the first woman to lead a multi-staff congregation in the Pacific Southwest Conference. May her tribe increase!

    As I think about the present situation, with many women languishing without a call, and search committees refusing to look at their profiles, I’m struggling for a different word to use beside “discouraged”.  I am grateful for and appreciate how the Covenant works, where each congregation makes their own decisions. As a result, denominational leadership has no leverage in bringing about change.  Part of the Covenant DNA is to “keep the peace”, which often prevents pastors from starting the women in leadership conversation in their churches out of fear of potential dissension and division.  This is our disheartening reality, which means in one sense not much has happened after fifteen years of work for the Commission.  

    I know well that pastoral concern, because that’s exactly how I operated for the first twenty years of my vocational ministry. My view on women in leadership had evolved by studying the scriptures more carefully, but I didn’t let my theology effect who preached on Sundays or who served as leadership Chair. That changed when my convictions were given a name, a gifted woman in our midst named Colette who was on a home assignment from her mission work in Mexico.

    Which is why I am hopeful in leaving the Commission. In 2017 we launched Project Deborah, a wonderful set of tools for pastors and congregations.  Looking at the Old Testament leader raised up by God, people are encouraged to ask the questions: who are the gifted women in our midst?  Could God be raising up a Deborah among us, and what are we doing about that?  The Commission believes that Project Deborah will have a long-term effect, as dozens of individual women will be affirmed and encouraged in their local settings.

    It may sound like I’m overstating the case, but my life has been changed by serving on the Commission for Biblical Gender Equality.  The issue of women in leadership has become far more for me than just another interpretive matter over which we can agree to disagree. To quote John Weborg, “all God’s people are called and gifted.” To prevent half the Church from fulfilling their call by misinterpreting a couple of difficult passages deeply offends me, and I believe it breaks God’s heart also. I will continue to advocate for women to serve passionately and faithfully in the Kingdom wherever God calls them.

    I am so grateful for the leadership and encouragement I have received from the staff of Develop Leaders, especially Mark Novak and Carol Lawson.  It has been a joy and an honor to serve alongside them and so many others in this crucial work. There is admittedly still much to be done, but I have no doubt that God also contributes a resounding “yes” to his daughters who faithfully serve Him.  

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      “That’s Where you Belong!” | Speaking Blessings in the Seasons of Life

      Post a Comment » Written on August 27th, 2017     
      Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
      Rev. Rose Lee-Norman is Associate Pastor of Family Ministry at Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and has served there for seven years. She lives in North Minneapolis with her husband Ryan. They have been married ten years and have two daughters, Esme and Isla. Rose is in a season of life that barely allows for much leisure and uninterrupted time, but when she has a day to herself she can be found reading, sewing and slowly redecorating (or at least dreaming about it) spaces she abides in.

      Many people ask what my mom thinks about my calling and vocation as a pastor. They ask because my mom is a devoted Catholic and raised my siblings and I in that tradition. It’s wonderful to be able to say that she fully supports me and even sometimes, after attending Mass in her small city first, drives almost an hour to listen to me preach.

      While she has always encouraged me in my calling to ministry, it was through her unbeknownst-to-her blessing she gave me 12 years ago that made all the difference.

      Twelve years ago I was an undergrad student at North Park University (NPU). I knew I was called from a young age to seek a vocation in ministry, but was met by confusion with that call in the setting of my Catholic upbringing. Through God’s guidance I attended Covenant Bible College – Ecuador and later NPU.
      It was a crisp fall day and a lazy weekend setting on campus as my mom and I walked around to the different buildings. When we came to an open area, she pointed and asked what that building ahead was. She was pointing to the seminary. I told her what it was and she said, “That’s where you belong!” She noted my desire to be a pastor and plainly stated a place like that is where a person like me belongs and should pursue.

      Her words were a blessing. Not a blessing in the way we often think about in our Western culture where God gives us stuff we want. But similar to the Old Testament ritual of speaking a blessing over a family member or God creating the world and blessing it for God’s purposes, my mother’s words were a blessing in that season of life that opened up a deeper potential and movement.

      Growing up Catholic and through my mother’s example I knew her faith was fundamental to her. In a way I did desire her blessing to go down another path and seek a vocation in ministry in Protestantism. While I did not go on to attend North Park Seminary, I did move to California and attended and graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary. It was a move I may not have taken without the blessing my mother gave me.

      Her blessing has become a pivotal milestone for me in my faith journey. As I pastor families at Sanctuary Covenant Church in North Minneapolis, MN, I know the value of blessing another person, especially someone of another generation, to speak the value into another person’s faith and life process. Research shows that when we integrate our faith and model that faith for a person of another generation in healthy and holistic ways our and their faith will grow and is much more likely to sustain for a lifetime. And blessings are a way to integrate our faith through the various seasons of life. When we see and recognize God in the ongoing movements and seasons of our life and name that, we speak great power into another person’s experience.

      Practically my husband and I have been trying to do this with our children. We have two daughters and before they go to bed we speak a blessing over them. It isn’t always the same, but we do try to connect it with what they’re experiencing in life in that season.

      Blessings though do not have to have that same ritual. As women (and maybe some male readers, too) we know the power of another person validating and empowering us through a season. Many of us could share the encouraging words or poignant challenges we’ve received through our vocation and faith journey. My prayer is that we are aware of our power and voice so we can bless another woman to show them that they belong.

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        Feminist Literature?

        Post a Comment » Written on August 22nd, 2017     
        Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
        Here is a link to a recent post on Ellie VerGowe’s –one of the Commission’s contributors — personal blog site. It is entitled “Reading for Liberation.”

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          Reframing: An Architectural Design Thinking Process of 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 | Rev. Gricel Medina

          Post a Comment » Written on August 17th, 2017     
          Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

          How can we better serve and inform an increasingly diverse egalitarian community? How can we ensure that egalitarian theology is clearly understood by people of many different backgrounds? How can we create bridges with conversation and avoid being intrusive or divisive? What are the unspoken needs that we are ignoring, dismissing, or are unaware of in our communities? This lecture challenges and emboldens you to utilize every opportunity to advance the egalitarian message. It will inspire you to go deeper in your understanding of your place at the table of diversity and mutuality.

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            8 Strategies

            Post a Comment » Written on August 16th, 2017     
            Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
            Rev. Gricel Medina is an ordained Covenant minister. She recently spoke as a plenary and workshop leader during Christians for Biblical Equality’s conference “Mutual by Design.” Her writing has been featured in both English and Spanish in various publications. Gricel previously has served on the Commission for Biblical Gender Equality and was the first Hispanic to serve as its chair. She wrote in June 2017 on “8 Strategies for Lifting Women in Leadership in Your Church.” She also has written for COV in the article entitled “Voices: Our Advocacy,Our Words.” In addition, here you will find more links to her writing.

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              Redemption’s Strong Song

              Post a Comment » Written on August 9th, 2017     
              Filed under: COV, Testimonies and Stories
              Sarah Monson is the worship arts minister at NewDay Covenant Church in Rochester, Minnesota.  She currently is in the final stages of her commissioning process with the Evangelical Covenant Church. Sarah has a beautifully strong voice which can be heard in her music, ministry and advocacy for women. Recently in COV she was featured in an article about her ministry with women who have been incarcerated. This well written piece is full of hope and healing in its story telling.

              If you are interested in reading more from Sarah, check out this article entitled “The Voice that Speaks to Women” also published in COV last March.

               

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                Single White Female Pastor

                Post a Comment » Written on August 3rd, 2017     
                Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
                The challenge to live one’s vocationally call with integrity while navigating the expectations of others is difficult. Being a single female seeking a pastoral call in a traditionally “man’s world” adds a whole other layer of complexity. Here is one woman’s reflection on her personal journey as a “Single White Female Pastor.”

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                  Dr. Jean Lambert, Covenant Theologian

                  Post a Comment » Written on June 19th, 2017     
                  Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

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                    Call Waiting

                    1 Comment » Written on June 13th, 2017     
                    Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

                    Susan Cosio is an ordained Covenant pastor, spiritual director and board-certified chaplain. She serves on the Pacific Southwest Conference (PSWC) Executive Board and is the creator and facilitator of a contemplative retreat for women in ministry called, “Echo: Women Who Hear and Respond to God’s Call.”

                    We still have a landline. That ages me, I guess. But we keep it for those long-shot callers who don’t have our cell phone numbers. (Although the only calls we actually get are from telemarketers and CVS Pharmacy reminding me to renew my prescriptions.)

                    And from my Mom.

                    Even though I’ve reminded her for years that the best way to reach me is on my cell, she insists on leaving me messages at home. She says she’s afraid she will interrupt me, or catch me at a bad time. She’s never been one to intrude.

                    So she leaves me a message, asking me to call back when I can.

                    “When it is convenient.”

                    “When you have time.”

                    “When you aren’t too busy.”

                    And then, I think she waits and hopes that I will get back to her. Which I do…at some point.   When I notice the blinking light that shows me she left a message.

                    I wonder if God ever feels the same way. Is God sending us messages in hopes that we will respond to His call? Are we sometimes too busy or distracted to even notice? Or perhaps not sure we want to get back to Him? Maybe we’ve started a dialogue with God only to be interrupted by someone or something else, like the “call waiting” beep that can interrupt a telephone conversation.

                    When God first called me into ministry, I pushed the “call waiting” button for a while. I had three young children and a husband with M.S. There were lots of other voices and needs distracting me. How did God expect me to get through seminary? And what would my friends and family think? Would people accept me as a woman in ministry? I had lots of excuses. I wanted to put that conversation on hold.

                    I can relate to the apprehensions of Moses. When God speaks to Moses from the burning bush, calling him to lead the Israelites, God says the powerful, identifying words, “I AM.”

                    But Moses feebly protests, “Who am I?”

                    Moses covers his face and is afraid to look at God. He cites reasons he isn’t equipped for the job, starting with his fear of how people will respond. He focuses on his own inadequacies, instead of on the powerful One who calls.

                    The prophet Isaiah is also undone by the presence of the Lord, falling on his face as a “man of unclean lips.” But when God asks, “Whom shall I send as a messenger to this people?” Isaiah boldly proclaims, “Here I am. Send me.”

                    When the angel appears to Mary, to tell her she will conceive the Son of God, she responds, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you said about me come true.”

                    It isn’t an easy assignment. But she is willing to accept it.

                    It can be intimidating to see ourselves as pastors, missionaries, and chaplains. These are not easy roles. For women in ministry, the obstacles and distractions often seem even more daunting than they are for men.

                    But God promises to equip us for the roles He calls us to. And God promises to walk with us and lead the way.

                    As a hospital chaplain, I often find myself in challenging, overwhelming situations. I never know what crises I will face from day to day. But I am reassured by the knowledge that Jesus is always with me in the room.

                    God’s reassurance to Moses is, “I AM the one who calls and sends you out.” His promise to Mary—and to us— is, “I am here.”

                    Our response to God should be to echo back, “Here I am.”

                    Here I am Lord. Use Me. Here I am Lord. Send me.

                    God is often like my Mom, patient and lovingly waiting. He is not one to use his power to intrude and control our lives. He knows we are often distracted by other things. But God’s Call to us is the most important message we will receive. Let’s not keep that call waiting.

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