Archive for February, 2017

Christian Relationships

1 Comment » Written on February 21st, 2017     
Filed under: Project Deborah, Testimonies and Stories
The following is the eighth and final post in a series of brief stories from a group of eight women who describe their personal experience(s) in being either mentored or encouraged to follow the calling of God to become a pastor. This is part of an initiative of the Commission on Biblical Gender Equality to be known as Project Deborah. Our hope is that you might also respond to God’s “nudge” to develop a Deborah that may be in your midst. 

Sarah Ago is Pastor of Compassion, Justice and Missions at Hillside Covenant Church in Walnut Grove, California.

I am a woman called to minister as a pastor in the body of Christ. My ministry journey is layered with men who called out my pastoral gifting and stoked the fire of my ministry. I find it especially sweet that the loudest voices of affirmation for my work are brothers who regularly cheer me on. They speak life to me. Their words breathe the oxygen of perseverance into my lungs when the journey seems impossible. They are my band of brothers.

Here are just a few of their contributions to my ministry.

I think of one dear brother that I served with in my first ministry job as an intern. Pastoral ministry was not in my purview. It was a new idea to me since I had grown up in conservative churches where men did all of the leading.

This brother said something to me that I never forgot. He said, “If you were a pastor, I would go to your church.” That statement took me by surprise and planted a seed in my heart. I thought to myself, if he, a seminary graduate and pastor, would entrust his spiritual feeding to me, maybe I should consider that a ministry calling was in me.

Another brother opened the door for me to preach my first sermon. Based solely on the recommendation of a friend, he asked me to preach at our young adult service. He had every reason to want to hear me himself or read through my manuscript beforehand! But, he chose to simply trust me. He opened a door that I had not even knocked on and gave me my start in preaching.

A brother that I currently serve with affirms my gifts and trusts me to address difficult and controversial subjects in Sunday morning sermons. He has opened the pulpit to me, inviting me to partner with him in preaching. He affirms my leadership and wholeheartedly receives my contributions to various avenues of ministry at the church. His partnership is a special gift.

During difficult seasons in ministry, another brother regularly checks in and mentors me through challenges and obstacles. He consistently spurs me on, challenges me, and advocates for me. He tells me to keep going when I want to give up. His counsel has kept me from making decisions I would regret.

A current colleague gently nudges me forward in my calling. He receives pastoral care from me and he offers me that same care. He prays for me in my sermon preparation, gives me feedback on my messages, and affirms and encourages me daily.

I am thankful for my husband of thirteen years who never stops believing in me. In many ways, he opened up the world of church ministry to me! He is the reason we moved to California, and it is in this place that my ministry journey in churches began.

Personal note: In the most adorable way, he gets nervous for me every time I preach, and he always has positive comments for me afterward.

There are more—the man who was instrumental during the period of my ordination, the man who gave me my first ministry job, the man who mentored me during another transition in ministry, the man who advocated for me as a nursing mom seeking to pastor during that challenging time, men in my congregation who express deep appreciation for my teaching and leadership. The list goes on.

I am simply grateful for each of them. These men of God embody the kingdom partnership that needs to happen in the body of Christ.

My band of brothers, the men who support my ministry, does not seek to rescue me from difficulties. They do not demean me by assuming weakness. They are not intimidated by my human emotions. They do not demand of me or pretend to know what is best. They are simply life-giving and at times, challenging, voices. They care enough to ask the tough questions and to show me where my thinking is faulty or incomplete.

They are eyes that see God’s call upon me. They are a supportive and affirming presence along what is often a difficult ministry journey.

Women are oppressed all around the world today, as it has been throughout history. That fact must never be ignored or overlooked. We need to be aware of it. It is vital that we advocate for the full equality of women in society and in church.

But, we should also recognize the men among us who are living differently. These men have chosen to see their sisters as equals. They champion and partner with us, benefiting the work of the kingdom around the world.

To the men who read this, I ask you, “Which female leaders do you need to affirm, encourage, and nudge forward?” You might be the voice that plants the seed in their heart that reveals their calling. You might be the voice that keeps them moving forward when they feel like giving up.  You might be the voice that figuratively holds up their arms when their strength is gone.

To the women who read this, I ask you to look at your life and identify the men who have been life-giving voices to you. Who has opened doors? Who has planted seeds? Who has affirmed you? Celebrate those life-giving male voices.

The advocacy role that men can play for women in ministry cannot be overstated. My band of brothers has repeatedly opened doors, nudged me forward, and encouraged me on my journey. Men, I ask you to consider who you can affirm in this way. Your support just might launch a woman’s ministry or sustain a woman in ministry who wants to give up.

 

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Acknowledgement and Celebration of My Call

2 comments Written on February 14th, 2017     
Filed under: Project Deborah, Testimonies and Stories
This is both the 125th anniversary of the Evangelical Covenant Church as well as the 40th anniversary of the ECC’s decision to ordain women as pastors. The following post is the seventh in a series of brief stories from a group of eight women who describe their personal experience(s) in being either mentored or encouraged to follow the calling of God to become a pastor. This is part of an initiative of the Commission on Biblical Gender Equality to be known as Project Deborah. Our hope is that you might also respond to God’s “nudge” to develop a Deborah that may be in your midst. 

Rose Lee-Norman is Associate Pastor of Family Ministry at Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis Minnesota.

When I came to Sanctuary Covenant Church 6.5 years ago I knew it would be a call unlike any other. It was a call that aligned so many of my passions – urban ministry in North Minneapolis, a call to reconciliation and justice, and children and family discipleship, yet I was still so young and new in my calling as a pastor. I have grown and been stretched in many ways  and by many people over the year. In particular was our Senior Pastor Pastor Dennis Edwards who not only acknowledged my call to ministry, but also pushed me further in it. Through his shepherding I have grown in ways I never thought possible. I have conquered almost every ministry fear I had going in to my call and I have felt supported through every step of the way.

Not only does he give me equal and regular opportunities to preach and lead as the other male associate pastors on staff, he has affirmed and uplifted my specific gifts in significant ways. Not long after I began preaching more regularly we co-preached during a church-wide series on reconciliation. As we preached on reconciliation among gender and specifically giftings in the church, he said something that will forever be etched in my mind and my heart. He said that when I am preaching and leading our church he is under my authority and teaching. It is something so simple, yet was and still is so significant. God used that moment and those words to legitimize my call in a very deep way. It wasn’t his approval I needed of my call, but his acknowledgement and celebration of it that made such an impact. His humble and intentional leadership has allowed me to discover my gifts, to make mistakes, to value my calling, and to utilize and strengthen my pastoral leadership. I am thankful for his faithful shepherding and stewardship of my development as a pastor.

 

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Woman with a Vision

1 Comment » Written on February 7th, 2017     
Filed under: Project Deborah, Testimonies and Stories
This is the sixth of a series of eight posts that are introducing Project Deborah, an initiative of the Commission for Biblical Gender Equality to inspire leaders to mentor and encourage women to respond to God’s call. These are the stories of those who have had such experiences along their journey. Rev. Dany Flores is Pastor at Iglesia del Pacto Vida Plena, Oak Park, Illinois. She was ordained in 2013.

I am a first generation in my family to immigrate in the United States. In my testimony I always say that the greatest thing that the United States has given me has been exposure to the Good News. I am the first generation in my family of Christians. I consider myself a brave woman with a vision; I see obstacles as opportunities and ways that one can grow.  Very early on in my walk with Christ I knew that God was going to use me. I was involved in many different ministries from singing on the worship team to being director of Sunday School at my local church.

I have been in a variety of leadership roles in the Central Conference such as Executive board, as well as for the denomination level as treasurer for MHIPE.

God has given me the privilege to be an ordained minister in Word and Sacrament within the ECC. I thank God for Rev. Jolene B. Carlson for being my mentor during my second church plant, Vida Plena Covenant Church. Jolene was someone who was willing to listen to my story. She was able to guide me and encourage me to trust in the Lord in the many “hats” that as women we have in society, trust that the Lord has called me as minister, trust that the Lord was in the midst of my parenting, trust that the Lord would grant me wisdom in my marriage, so that I could serve with love and devotion. This mentorship has allowed me to be of influence in the Latino community encouraging my brothers and sisters to continue with their theological studies, so that they too can serve with love and devotion.

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