Archive for June, 2016

40 Years

1 Comment » Written on June 28th, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Cathy K.Bio: Rev. Cathy Kaminski is the lead pastor at Trinity Community Church in Cincinnati, OH. She is privileged to be among the female pastors in the Evangelical Covenant Church. This is a post to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the decision to ordain women in ministry.

This past weekend the Evangelical Covenant Church celebrated its 131st annual meeting. Gather 2016 also marked 40 years since the Covenant decided to ordain women in ministry. 40 years of faithful women setting an example. 40 years of blazing new paths. 40 years of pioneers navigating waters of heart-ache, triumph, frustration, grace, and everything in between. On day one of Gather 2016, one speaker noted the reality that “The floor that you stand on is someone else’s ceiling.” This truth shakes me to my core. As a woman in ministry I often feel like I’m in an old boys’ club. People see my gender before they recognize my calling. My sexuality seems to define me more than my identity as an image bearer of God. I find myself trying to prove my place at the table instead of allowing the gifts God instilled in my personhood to speak for themselves. Yet, when I stop and listen to this profound statement I am instantly humbled. “My floor is someone else’s ceiling.”

As hard as my experience is, as difficult as my fellow sisters in ministry have it, we all stand on the ceiling of the faithful Christ-followers who have gone before. We have a long way to go, we have many more doors to open and walls to break down. But first, I’d like to take a moment and thank the women who went where no woman had gone before. I recognize them. Their sacrifice. Their bravery. Their faithfulness to follow God. And I am profoundly in their debt.

But God has used women as ambassadors for His Kingdom for way longer than 40 years. To do our Covenant sisters justice, we must go farther back. I hope we can see the ceiling that THEY stood upon. For generations and generations women have demonstrated giftedness and embodied calling even if not formally recognized by the church. And it is the culmination of their witness that brought the whole denomination to a place to celebrate God’s calling on our sisters.

Before women like Carol Nordstrom and Sherron Hughes-Tremper were ordained to the Evangelical Covenant Church, there were many who went before. Victoria Weltner was the first to graduate from North Park Theological Seminary in 1903. Dr. Mildred Nordren, the first single female missionary in the Covenant. We should know their stories and celebrate them. We should know women throughout Church history like Katherine von Bora, St Olga of Kiev, Matilda of Tuscany, Hedwig of Silesia, St Catherine of Siena, St Theresa of Avila. We should know women of the bible like Junia, Phoebe, Lydia, Chloe, Dorcas, Jael, Deborah, Tamar, Rahab. We should celebrate the stories of the unnamed women like the maidservant of Namaan’s wife, the woman at the well, Pharaoh’s daughter, daughters of Jephthah, Heman’s daughter, the widow who gave a tithe of two coins. Why don’t we know their stories? Why don’t we preach them on Sundays? Teach them in our Christian formation classes? Tell our sons and daughters about their courage and their faith? (If you don’t know one of these women, look them up and share what you find!)

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Since before the birth of the Church women have stood on the ceilings of these women celebrated in scripture. Each generation building on the progress of the ones who went before. Today we tell the stories of these women. Today we celebrate the women in the Covenant. Today we pray for the next generation who will call our ceilings THEIR floors. In the picture above are the faces of 25 women serving the Covenant Church. Some missionary, others pastors, some directors, others lay leaders, but all ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope we tell their stories. I hope we name and celebrated their gifts and callings. I hope we all recognize the potential to add to the collective witness of faithful women. Every woman stands on the witness of those who came before, may others one day stand on us!


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Muffins with Mom Misstep

5 comments Written on June 21st, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Muffins with MomJo Ann Deasy is an ordained Covenant pastor currently serving as the director of institutional initiatives and student research at the Association of Theological Schools in Pittsburgh, PA.

Last year, in honor of Mother’s Day, my son’s daycare hosted “Muffins with Mom.” While a lovely idea, the event was held at 10:00 am which meant that all of us working mom’s dropped our children off at daycare, rushed to work for an hour or so, and then returned for the celebration. While fun for a minute or two, the event soon devolved into a room of screaming children who did not understand why their mother’s were leaving them once again to return to work. Despite the inconvenience, almost all of the mom’s in my son’s classroom came.

A month later the same daycare held “Donuts with Dad.” Scheduled from 7:00 am to 9:00 am, the event was designed to allow dad’s to spend a few extra moments at drop-off time with their children before heading to work. So convenient for them. Despite trying to work around their schedules, though, many dads didn’t show up or managed to eat their donut before they even got to the classroom. When I showed up at the tail end of this year’s celebration, there was not a single dad still celebrating with their child.

After the “Muffins with Mom” event, several of us spent a few moments in the parking lot sharing the guilt that drove us to be present and the frustration at another Mother’s Day celebration that seemed to be about everyone except mom herself. No one had bothered to ask us what might actually make us feel celebrated. No one had made adjustments for working moms, even in a daycare facility that was designed to watch children while both parents were at work.

So, what does this have to do with biblical gender equality? First, it highlights the assumptions made about gender roles in our society. We often assume that Mom’s don’t work, or if they do work they must have more flexible schedules, or being a mom must be more important than their job and surely their bosses will understand. And even if other people don’t feel that way, as moms we often carry those feelings. The guilt at not being available all of the time, of having other priorities whether work or relationships or self-care or ministry or education.

We also assume that fathers are not willing or able to make the same time available for their children. We actually often make men feel guilty if family is a priority over work, if they are stay at home dads, if their jobs don’t pay as much or they choose to work part-time.

Biblical Gender Equality is not about all women working or everyone neglecting children and family. Instead, it is about supporting men and women as they seek to make the best possible decisions in response to God’s call to care for and provide for each other, their children, and the world that we have been called to minister to. It is about making space to allow people to listen to the call of God on their lives, even if it is out of sync with cultural norms. It is about giving men freedom to care for their children and women the freedom to follow their call whether to ministry or to a job that might provide for her family financially.

Biblical Gender Equality is also about listening. Asking women, and men for that matter, what makes them feel cared for, valued, supported.

I am grateful that our daycare did listen. Not that they had much choice. With so many working moms in the community, they received a lot of feedback on that first “Muffins with Mom.” This year the event was shifted to earlier in the morning, allowing us to extend our drop off time for a few minutes before heading to work. Yes, once again most of the moms showed up and stayed longer, but it was a start. It was the beginning of a larger discussion about what it means to support both women and men as we try to navigate this life together.

When was the last time your church sat down with the moms in your community and asked if they felt supported? Or how you might support them better? Have you asked them how you might support them in their work outside the home? What about the fathers? Have you asked how you might support them not just in their jobs, but in their relationships with their children? As we look at our ministries to families, do we make space for discernment and choices that might look different than the norm? Do we, as a congregation, see ourselves as part of that equation? Part of the community, a resource that should be considered as we all seek to live lives that honor God and one another?

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The Mexico I Didn’t Know

1 Comment » Written on June 15th, 2016     
Filed under: Resources, Testimonies and Stories

Evelmyn Ivens works at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) in Chicago and graduated from North Park Theological Seminary in 2013 with a MA in Theological Studies. Enjoys traveling and learning about other cultures. She’s passionate about issues of immigration, hunger, poverty, and human trafficking.

Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico, however, this time was a different type of trip. Covenant World Relief graciously invited me to visit some of their partners in Mexico, and in 8 days we travelled to 3 different cities. One of the things I was most excited about this trip, was that I would have the opportunity to see and experience my country of origin from a different perspective, because every time I go to Mexico, it’s always to visit family, and this time I would get to see another side of mi tierra (my land).

Our group left very early on a Wednesday morning and arrived to the city of Monterrey. The last time I had been in Monterrey I was about 5 or 6 years old, and now it very much felt like a first-time visit. There we visited the Family Development Foundation click here:(FUNDEFAM), CWR works with them in peace-making and holistic community development. The first day we joined a group of women, who meet in the community Cerro de la Campana. We were told that this group began to meet in the community because for a number of these women their husbands would not allow then to go to meetings at the FUNDEFAM building, even though it’s walking distance from their neighborhood.

That afternoon it was the first time this group was having a bible study, they have cooking and jewelry classes as well. Yet, that day it was their bible study and it was on John 4, Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman. This is one of my favorite stories, and to listen to it in the context we were in, it was very powerful. As the women were discussing the story at one point the conversation turned into machismo and how to challenge it within their own families. What a moment! Because I know and understand the culture, I was very excited to hear how things are changing in the Mexican culture, and how community transformation is happening and that it usually begins with the women. To listen how they support and empower each other, and build community, was beautiful. FUNDEFAM is doing fantastic ministry, with good and healthy leadership, by breaking down some of the most rooted systems and cultural structures by helping women understand their value and their voice.

Our next stop was Mexico City where we got to meet some of the Mexican covenanters and visited a couple of Covenant churches. We also participated in an activity with MAEM (that ministers to the abused and exploited in Mexico). Before the trip I had been asked to preach in Mexico City, and because this year I’m trying different things I said yes. However, as the day was approaching and even though I had a good idea of what I would be sharing about, I was very nervous. Spanish is my first language but all of biblical and theological knowledge I’ve learned is in English and Western thought, and I was very concern of how this would turn out.  As my anxiety grew and maybe I looked stressed, Meagan Gillian came to me and told me “you are a daughter of this land and you will do great.” I got a bit emotional, because never in my life thought that I would have the privilege of preaching for the first-time ever in Mexico! Sunday came and the preaching went well, I felt overwhelmed with so many emotions because I was experiencing God in a different and profound way.

Then the last part of our trip was Oaxaca City, a place that I always wanted to visit because my mother’s family is from there, so this is kind of the motherland. What a beautiful city, so many color, so much culture, so much history. In Oaxaca we visited Fuentes Libres (micro-finance and kids-clubs). There we had the opportunity to be at a meeting in one of the community banks, and learned how they start, how they work, and how they are impacting the lives of so many women, and as a result the lives of their families and their communities. We also visited a kids club and along with the kids we learned about personal finances, income, and expenses, and budgets, and how to make it fun.

I left Mexico with my heart full, also very encouraged and inspired by all the women we met. To say the least this was a very personal trip for me, it was good for my soul to be in touch with my roots and to be with my people. I reconnected with a friend who I hadn’t seen for many years, and spent half a day with my sisters and cousins, and we laughed so much, and we had great conversations. Sometimes you just need to be with people who have known you for a long time and to remind you who you are, and I am very thankful for that.


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4 comments Written on June 7th, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Megan Herrold is a pastoral intern at Resurrection Covenant Church in Chicago. She is currently pursuing an MA in Christian Formation at North Park Theological Seminary, and is the seminary’s student representative on the ECC Commission on Biblical Gender Equality.

old-church-1057062-639x432A couple of months ago we had our spring meeting for the Committee on Biblical Gender Equality. During that conversation, someone asked the question, “Why is this important?” As in, why do we think it’s important that women are welcome to be ordained? Why do we think it’s important that all people in our denomination welcome women to be ordained? It’s a question I’ve been thinking about again as we get closer to this month’s Annual Meeting.

I can’t say that we had a clear-cut answer, though the question wasn’t really asked in a way that required one.

I can’t even say that I had a clear-cut answer. But I wanted one, at least for myself. I’m just the type of person who likes to have reasons for what she believes.

It just happened that this meeting came the day after my midterm in my Old Testament class. The exam primarily focused on Genesis, including the story of the Fall into sin laid out in Genesis 3-11. I’ll be honest, until this point, I had only thought of the Fall as Adam and Eve eating fruit in the third chapter of the book, and this class gave me new appreciation for the fuller depiction of sin and its many facets that Genesis gives us.

The message overall was the idea that the effect of sin on God’s good creation broke relationships between God, ourselves, other people, and the rest of creation. In my eyes, today this means that people do not have space to live life to the fullest. There are barriers in the world that keep us from living into God’s good plan for our lives—individually and as a community.

So that’s my answer to the question of why this is important. When we don’t welcome certain groups of people into ordination, or really into any profession or role in society, we put up barriers in the face of what God may be trying to do.

There’s a reason I’m talking about welcoming women into ordination. There are plenty of people who may not be particularly opposed to ordained women, but also don’t care a lot about the idea that some people do oppose them. That there are barriers. I think of this as acceptance without welcome.

Acceptance without welcome does not break down barriers. It doesn’t help provide space for people to live life to the fullest, to live into God’s plan for them.

This year the ECC celebrates 40 years of ordaining women. We also mourn and lament with those who have been hurt by a lack of welcome into ordination. For the last four decades, we’ve been striving to convince people why we should welcome women who seek ordination. I think most of us now agree, and if you don’t agree at this point, I don’t necessarily expect anything I say to convince you.

Instead I’m writing to those of us who agree with the practice of ordaining women, but don’t really think of it as an issue anymore. And I say “those of us” because I find myself in this group sometimes. Since I first felt called to ministry ten years ago, I’ve had much more support than discouragement in my pursuit of that call. It’s consequently easy for me to forget that this is not the experience for many other women, even though I grew up in a church that did not support women’s ordination or female church leaders.

Yet I’ve heard stories of male pastors who support women in ministry, but don’t want to speak up about it in their less-supportive congregations because to do so might put their job in jeopardy. I’ve heard of women who’ve been told that there are no pastoral roles for them in certain ECC conferences because those congregations aren’t looking for a woman as their pastor. (I hesitate to share vague stories of unidentified people and places, but I’ve heard enough such stories that I’m convinced these are indicative of a larger pattern.) And when I expressed an interest in doing my North Park Field Education internship in a certain part of the country, I was told about a specific congregation that they don’t recommend for female interns because they won’t receive as much support in their call.

To me, these are all examples of how we can accept the idea of women in ministry, yet fail to consciously welcome women to that role. To really make space for all people to live according to God’s plan, we can’t just not put up barriers. We also have to help remove the barriers that are already there. And once again when I say we, I’m including myself: I have to remember that when I don’t take risks to speak out on behalf of women, I’m practicing acceptance without welcome.

The effects of sin in our lives—individually and as a community—are not removed without constant work and striving to live according to God’s will. The effects of sin do not go away because we stop sinning. We need to take concrete action to reverse that impact, and to ensure that all people whom God calls as ministers in any capacity have the space to respond to that call.

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