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December 27, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.48.05 AMBy Kelly Lyngaard.

I’ve fallen in love with a local ministry, The Walter Hoving Home, that my church supports.

The Hoving Home is located in Garrison, NY (also in Las Vegas and Pasedena, CA). It is a residential, spiritually-based rehabilitation center serving women ages 18 and over who have been involved in drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, and other life-controlling problems. Their mission is to rebuild women’s lives that have been shattered by addiction.

The Hoving Home is an independent 501c3 Ministry that my church has been involved in for a long time. In fact the way I learned about it is because a couple of women in the program spoke at our church’s women’s event 2 years ago. Following that, I got involved and joined the board of the Hoving Home. A few months later I founded Unshattered.

My church has been exceedingly supportive and sees the Hoving Home, and Unshattered as key ministries that they support. In fact, we just did a capital campaign – part of which is raising money to support ministries like (and specifically) the Hoving Home. We have several women who are now on staff and/or graduates of the program attending the church

We recently had our women’s Christmas event and it is focused on how the Church can invest in and support the home. The Unshattered team will sell purses and we’ll have the director of the home share with the church how they can invest and support.

It’s independent, but we’re key supporter of this local ministry. To be clear though, I wasn’t asked by the church to be involved, they just happened to be the conduit by which I was exposed. The church presents the ministry as one they believe in and encourage us to find a way to be involved as much or as little as we choose.

In order to run their locations in NY, CA and NV, the home asks each woman to raise $500 a month in support, but as you can imagine, most of these gals don’t have the income or support network to afford that. However, the home doesn’t turn anyone away who can’t pay, nor do they accept any government funding. Fundraising and programs such as Unshattered help to meet the financial needs of the home.

I have always loved making new things from old, several years ago I made a bag out of my grandfather’s worn out suede coat (pictures and story of why I started Unshattered here:http://unshatteredny.wordpress.com/why-unshattered/).  Last year I figured out how to turn that into a business supporting the Hoving Home. Now the women in the recovery program are making bags out of scraps (used curtains, leather coats, etc) to raise money for the Walter Hoving Home. I LOVE watching them blossom from the identity of an addict to that of an artist and entrepreneur! These bags made out of thrown away, beat up, useless items are a tangible representation of how God restores these women into women of beauty and purpose.

Here’s a great example of a refashion one of our artists did – a messenger bag out of a military coat: http://unshatteredny.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/howd-she-do-that/

What I love the most about the business is not just the handbags the ladies craft, but the joy on their faces when people admire and purchase their work. They begin to see themselves as more than addicts and they become artists and entrepreneurs. Each handbag is designed and made by a woman in residence who is winning her fight against addiction. We sell our handbags through Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/shop/UnshatteredNY ), events and home parties. 100% of our sales go back to the Walter Hoving Home.

At our first big event this year it was so fun to see them women interact with the customers and to receive the praise and affirmation of their hard work. One of the women, who had been prostituting to support her habit before entering the program was traveling with me and on the way home she said, “I can’t believe we made $1200 in one night!!! On purses!!!” she paused for a second and then said, “I mean, I’ve made $1200 in one night before, but not like that!!” Ha!

The women of the home have completely captured my heart and when they demonstrate that they really want to change their lives, I’m all in to help. We’ve done well for our first year, >$18K of revenue with >$14K of profit all going directly to the Hoving Home.

I’m not in full time ministry but this is becoming and increasingly important portion of my life that influences and inspires me. Believe me, I get way more out of helping them than they do from me!

Kelly Lyndgaard
Founder, Unshattered

December 27, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 7.15.07 AMFrom Arise, a publication of Christians for Biblical Equality, and at the link you can meander around to find their very fine publication, The Priscilla Papers.

After graduating from Florida State University, Chelsea Boetcker taught math at a high school in the inner city, where she developed a passion for working with abused teens. Chelsea is now working on a MA in counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary and hopes to later pursue a PhD in theology.

I remember the first time I knew I wanted to be a pastor. I was in eighth grade, just returning from a mission trip. The youth pastor asked for a student volunteer to speak in front of the congregation about the trip. I was shocked to recognize my own hand in the air and yet, I felt compelled to seize the opportunity. He agreed, qualifying that I could speak only during the first hour, the less attended 8 o’clock service. I knew it showed his lack of belief in me, but I didn’t care. I was thrilled!

My church believed that women were not allowed to teach the Bible in front of the congregation, a conviction they based heavily on 1 Timothy, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Tim. 2:12). However, they were allowed to give their testimonies in front of the church. The time finally came and with shaking knees, I climbed up the steps to the podium. But after that first sentence, the nerves left. I spoke with clarity about the way my life had been irreversibly change by the trip. I even “broke the rules” unknowingly, by reciting and interpreting Scripture of the church. That was the moment I knew I was born to teach the word of God.

However, my church taught that my dreams went against the Bible and were not proper for a woman. I learned about verses like 1 Timothy 2 and others such as, “women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission.” (1 Cor. 14:34). The few times that I boldly shared my dream of leading a church with my male pastors, I was met with reasons why those dreams were inappropriate.

One particular conversation stands out. I asked one pastor, “Why is it unbiblical for women to become pastors? Are women not as intelligent as men?” “Yes, but the Bible says they are the weaker vessel,” the pastor responded. Then, I asked, “So, because we aren’t as strong as men, we can’t teach the word?” “Well no,” he said, “that’s not quite it. It’s just that men cover women and are responsible for them.” “But it doesn’t make sense,” I insisted. “Well it’s just what the Bible says. We have a high view of Scripture,” he answered. I was left confused and shut down, afraid to ask any more questions for fear of being seen as someone who didn’t value Scripture. I walked away from that conversation hating that I was born a woman!

It took years for me to go back and start researching on my own. I continued to question whether I truly believed that women were not permitted to teach. The more I read, the more I discovered a major split between theologians regarding this topic. And yet, there are many theological issues churches disagree on. So I had to ask myself–why did leaders like D.A. Carson, John Piper, and Tim Keller believe that an egalitarian stance hindered the gospel? To me, the arguments against female leadership did not make sense.

Finally, I started reading commentaries written by what my church deemed “liberal” theologians and Christians. I discovered that verses that seemed to limit women to certain roles in the church could be read in a different light! I began to wonder if maybe Paul wrote those verses in the context of his letters to those specific churches. Maybe they weren’t permanent commands, but merely temporary rules to ensure an orderly church service.

Eventually, I left my home to get a MA in counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary. The program was extremely tough, both physically and emotionally. A huge part of the program called for me to face the demons of my past. Surrounded by classmates who loved and supported me, I finally found the freedom to break with some Christians’ narrow beliefs on the role of women. I could finally believe that women were allowed to preach the word. I now saw these old verses from a new perspective.

I started with the toughest verse regarding women’s inability to teach in front of a congregation: 1 Timothy 2:12. It seemed straightforward, when read without the verses that appear before and after it. But, look at the rest of the verses leading up to verse twelve, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control…with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works.” (1 Tim. 2:8-10). Many scholars now argue that Paul may be correcting the disorderly practices of a specific church.

Another contradiction I noticed is that this is the only verse that limits women from teaching; Paul did not emphasize this in his letters to other churches. In fact, I believe the verses in Romans 12:6-8 reveal how the gift of teaching isn’t just appropriated to men. In verses 6 and 7, Paul urges, “Having gifts that differ…let us use them…if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching.” The gifts of the Spirit are handed out to men and women alike. The narratives of biblical heroes like Deborah, Junia, Lydia, and Priscilla confirm this statement on gifts and even more revealingly, Paul himself named ten significant female contributors beside whom he worked.

What should we do with these contradictions? Just ignore the reality of women who are called by the Holy Spirit to teach? It’s easy for men who are not barred from any church office to refuse to grapple with these verses. But for women like me, these verses can leave us feeling powerless and hopeless. At least they did, until I finally gave myself the freedom to push back and study hard to find the Scripture’s true meaning.

December 26, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 1.52.15 PM
A post by Tammy Melchien, another Good News story about women in ministry.
I’ve been on the staff of COMMUNITY Christian Church here in the Chicago area for over 12 years (Dave Ferguson is our Lead Pastor and we have 13 sites in the city and suburbs). While we still have a ways to go in being intentional about developing more women for staff leadership ministry, COMMUNITY has always been a “permission-giving” place in my experience.
In fact, 4 years ago they supported me as I chased the dream of planting our first campus on the north side of the city of Chicago in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. I became our first female church planter and campus pastor and led the site up until this past spring.
The biggest thing I learned about myself through this role is that I absolutely loved teaching on Sunday mornings. I had a few experiences here and there to do that before moving to the city, but now as a Campus Pastor I became a regular  Sunday morning teacher.
When the man who led our church-wide teaching team for the past 17 years unexpectedly resigned this past January, I was honored and excited to be given the opportunity to step into a new role as COMMUNITY’s Teaching Team Pastor. The focus of my job is now on leading the team of pastors (including our founding pastors Dave and Jon Ferguson) who develop the weekly messages given at all of our locations.
I continue to serve as a Teaching Pastor twice a month at the location that I started here in Lincoln Square, and now get to travel to our other campuses once or twice a month to teach at those locations as well. I am loving this role and am grateful that the leadership of our church had no issue with putting a woman in this position.
I am not going to say that there haven’t been times when I’ve felt overlooked as a female leader at COMMUNITY or that I believe we’re doing all we can to intentionally develop female leaders (Dave and I have had many conversations about this and he agrees), but I do feel like my story is a good news story about women in ministry.
December 26, 2014

For more on Adelita Garza.

December 24, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 7.24.49 PMBy Joshua Canada:

Growing up in a Fundamental Black Baptist tradition I had little exposure to women in Pastoral Roles. In retrospect there were plenty of women in Spiritual Leadership, but they tended to be the sunday school teachers, choir directors, prayer team leaders etc. As I went further into this Christian faith that I was born into, my views on gender and the pastorate began to deviate from the norms of my childhood.
When my wife and I moved out to Santa Barbara California I knew that belonging to a faith community that affirmed both men and women was important. When we landed at Free Methodist of Santa Barbara, we were fairly confident that we had found a good fit. The pastoral staff had gender balance and women were represented in a number of explicit leadership roles, from the Local Board of Administration to leading the local body in worship.
Our church and the Free Methodist denomination is not perfect in its attends to walk against the moving sidewalk of male privilege, but I admire the efforts we are taking. One example is an occurrence at one of our recent Annual Conferences. After a vigorous presentation of our history (which include gender equity) a few pastors were brought up to the stage to pray. The pastors were from varying ethnic backgrounds, difference “style” of churches, and different parts of our district . . . but they were all male. As they were praying, one realized the contradiction. He prayed intently for the women in our denomination, to be leaders in the church and in society, he prayed against the cultural and philosophical barriers that prevent women from being their fullest selves in leadership. Of course, ideally we would have recognized the misstep of having all males before we made the step, but the combination and repentance and empowerment was a beautiful recourse. Afterwards, my wife and I talked about it, although she is a Social Worker, not a Pastor, she was enlivened with energy and a galvanized in her growth as a leader in society and the church. She has never been prayed for in her leadership so explicitly and especially never by a male.

The Free Methodist Church USA supports gender equity and it impacts not only our efforts to be sure that we are giving equitable opportunity to women and men to step into denominational and congregational leadership, but the men and women sitting in our pews, chairs, and living rooms. Men are being challenged to put down their power and give more deference to the female in their lives. This means men are being forced to consider what it looks like to support their spouse in her professional desires and encourage and validate their female friends when they encounter gender bias in the workplace. Women are being encouraged to push beyond the cultural limitations and seek God’s will for their life without the barriers of a male-centric ministry or professional culture.

Again, we are not perfect in our efforts nor is every Free Methodist Church as equitable as we would hope they were, but justice and equity are not a one and done activity. Justice and equity require the long haul and recycling back to the issues that keep us from Shalom and more fully revealing the Kingdom of God.
December 24, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.22.13 PMAs a child, I was enthralled with the things of God. I felt faith. I felt the mystery of this God I could not see, but whose presence I deeply felt. The stories of the Bible were magical. Something in my imaginative nature connected with the sense of the people of God, spread across time and space, and I loved it.

My dad was my very first mentor, praying with me each night, answering all of my inquisitive ponderings. It was my dad who introduced me to studying the Bible. When I was in third grade Dad came home with a box of colored pencils and an inductive Bible study book designed for children. It was the book of John, which to this day remains my favorite Gospel. My dad and I spent the next few months making lists, comparing and contrasting, and looking up Greek words in his concordance and lexicon. I ate it up.

When we finished the study of John, my dad asked if I would like to join the group of college students that met in our home to do their own inductive Bible study. I joined the group and was granted the extra benefit of staying up past my bedtime to participate. Again, I ate it up. I listened to the students ask questions and debate finer points of doctrine or theology.

More than that, I received my first glimpse into what true Christian community could be. We prayed for each other, knew each other, and explored the things of God together. I also saw the Word of God as a living breathing thing that I wanted to immerse myself in, each new book was a new adventure, and by the time I graduated high school I had studied most of the Old and New Testaments this way. I had learned that God wanted me to pursue him, that it was good to ask questions and seek truth, and that these things often happened in community.

I went to college at Taylor University, which shaped my life and taught me about Christian community in more ways than I can say. I entered college passionate about discipleship. I wanted to win over the world, which my first roommate found incredibly strange. I toned it down a bit, and learned a lot about people and a lot about myself.  By the end of my college experience I had spent a couple of years heavily invested in student development and believed I had found my calling, a way to love people and walk with them in their spiritual lives. So I completed a Master’s Degree in Student Development and spent a year as an RD before moving to Chicago to be married.

It was at this time that I started attending Church of the Redeemer Anglican in Highland Park. At this point, most of my deep and positive experiences of Christian community came from outside of the church. In fact, I was not sure I even sure if I believed in the corporate church anymore. At best I had been in churches that felt lifeless, and at the worst I had been in places that felt stifling and hurtful.

Then came Redeemer. The first few months I felt such walls in me. I hated the sermons because they seemed to call for so much of me, the parts I was not willing to give, especially in church. Could this place be trusted? And then after months of feeling this way I began to cry during the sermons instead, tears of relief, of connection. This pastor got it. He loved people, and it was evident, yet there was no compromising of the truth of scripture, of God. And then one Sunday that pastor asked me how I was and I was honest with my current discouragement and began to cry, only to look up to see the pastor himself welling up a bit, and not only that, but taking my angst. What was this, such genuine human connection at church?

Something in me shifted, and Redeemer began to “redeem” church for me. I could feel all of the passion that I had felt for Christian community outside the church welling up in me for this place.

About a year later, Redeemer was in need of a Children and Family Pastor, and long story short, I was hired for the position. I took it thinking that it would be more administrative in nature, a director, perhaps of Children’s Ministry. But the amazing thing was, I was brought into the very heart of what happened at the church. The staff mentored me, but also treated me as a peer, as someone who had valuable things to offer. Soon I began to feel less like staff at a church and more like a shepherd.

Long before I could see these things in my self, the pastors at Redeemer saw them, and kept drawing them out of me. Little by little, I became a pastor, and my world made sense. I didn’t even see it coming, and some days I still doubt greatly that I could be afforded the luxury of that calling.

I had devoted myself to ministry outside of the church because ministry and leadership outside of the church was the only option I had ever been given. Growing up I had never seen a woman pray in church, preach, usher, or lead worship by herself. Yet here I was, shepherding little people, and their parents, and using all of my gifts. My doubts of myself have been met with love. It is the community at Redeemer, and my dear friends and fellow pastors that have connected the dots of my passions and gifts and affirmed my calling, my calling to be a pastor. Without this community, it is something I never would have gone looking for, and yet here I am filled with deep love and joy for the people of God, seeking to serve.

December 24, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 8.54.17 AMThis is a sort of first person witness statement to God’s hand at work in ways we couldn’t imagine.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that Jesus loved me. The language of my home, parents, grandparents, and the church I belong to (The Church of the Nazarene) celebrated women as leaders – and ordained leaders. The local congregation my Canadian-prairie family belonged to had been planted by two women. My parents (my dad, a New Testament scholar; my mum a leader and specialist in autism and special needs education) both celebrate loving God, excellence in education, have a hospitable home where responsibilities are shared, and their strong and committed engagement to the church was and is joyful. I had a great home life.

I was also shaped by other forces – normal teen-stuff, insecurities, and culture-bending-truth –by the time I was a late teen I had bracketed women – myself included – into narrow niche roles. So – although I began to experience ‘nudges’ by God towards ministry of a particular type – pastoral, leadership, prophetic-witness and such from very early on, I resisted with all my might. I wanted to be married, to have children, to be normal. I wanted to be an historian/vet/doctor/nurse…

But – there was a conspiracy by God. Because I was an immigrant into the UK my options narrowed until I had one short-term option left: a certificate in theology. I started on a cold, wet, dark January day, and felt like all the lights went on. I loved the study, learning about God; thinking, wrestling, being challenged. I felt at home studying Scripture and loved trying to think about talking about God in practice… living out good news.

So – ah ha! I’ll MARRY someone going into ministry (I thought) – but, over the year I found myself more and more prompted – directed – called. Until, that is, one huge (in my memory) night when I prayed, wrestled, cried and said a final/beginning yes of all of the yes’s of the rest of my life. Then and there life changed – I started telling people and the responses were interesting. ‘Oh no’ said one person, ‘Oh Deirdre, do you know what you’re doing?’ said another, ‘are you ready for opposition?’ I was asked. One said that our relationship was over; he couldn’t consider going out with/marrying someone in ministry. Amongst my peers there was a lot of ‘yes’, and the 1990s equivalent of ‘you go, girl’ – and some of the people in my circle of friends immediately began to support, care, pray, endorse, encourage and commit to walking with me on the journey.

I was naïve but called. I went through various interviews and worked to find godly replies to questions I was asked. ‘Could you be a nurse or teacher instead?’ a well-intentioned leader asked. ‘Can’t you just teach Sunday school?’, ‘no woman should preach’, others said. Some of my colleagues in the classroom argued (strongly) on all kinds of bases that I was out-of-step/sinning/disobedient/mis-hearing – but others were formidable advocates – and I am thankful for them to this day.

I continued to sense God’s yes – and whatever gifts I had I felt God could use. Others affirmed me in leadership and in their willingness to disciple me. I felt and feel incredibly drawn towards the urban and issues of justice and love/d engaging in urban environments.

I continued my studies, continued to receive support – and then I began to pastor – and God’s ‘yes’ seemed present. I felt whole. One of the most significant days of my life was being ordained in front of my church family and wider family – and hearing the church’s Yes as well. I pastored – youth, adults, anyone and studied more, combined study and pastoring, nearly burned out, learned hard lessons about God’s call and God’s-love-for-the-world, about God’s working in, through, and beyond his servants. I learned (a bit) to allow other people to fight for me – and honestly felt/feel very affirmed as a leader – and a person. I eventually married a man who loves me in my whole-being – and supports and advocates for me – and other women.

About three years ago I was asked to be the Principal of Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, UK. I agreed – and discovered God’s call had taken a different shape and form than I could have imagined. I felt that God’s direction pointed me here. I feel blessed by the team I work with – we wrestle, think, challenge each other – and thoroughly enjoy developing and innovating in the ways we try to prepare men and women to serve God’s mission wherever that takes them.

In this role, though, I re-discovered things I’d genuinely forgotten! Because I’d been part of the same local congregation since 2000 and then pastoral team leader and genuinely accepted as such – I’d TRULY forgotten there are people who believe women should not lead, or speak about God in the public sphere. I’d not thought much about my gender – I’d just been trying to be obedient to urban ministry and its needs. So, to come into a place of church-wide leadership and encounter ways women are discussed and silenced has been the biggest shock to my system! I knew I needed to learn new skills and new modes of leading but I hadn’t been prepared for the first time I sat around the table with a group of peers and was ignored – utterly – by them. So – I’m re-learning things that I’d forgotten. Trying to be polite but firm. Trying to demonstrate grace and listening. Trying to voice and empower others. Trying to listen to God’s voice first and foremost – and ask what fear is at work in trying to silence those God might be calling.

I’ve questioned my (their) understanding of the pneuma – and the church’s understanding of what God can and can’t do, but essentially I’ve discovered over and again that God is faithful, does call me, and that God is profoundly good news – for all the world. God’s refrain via the angel – ‘do not be afraid’ – seems a good one for nothing was/is easy, but God-with-ness transforms the journey through challenges to the other side of saying ‘yes’: where it is good to serve in whatever way God leads and then wait with baited breath for what God will do with you

December 23, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 6.29.50 PMWhen I tweeted for good news stories about women in ministry, Jane Halton, up in Vancouver, wrote in to tell the story of her church … and, prompted just a little from a few questions I asked, this is her post about women in ministry in the Christian Reformed Church and specifically in her own congregation.

——

When I first read Scot’s tweet, I immediately thought of all the good news for women within my own congregation and how we stand out within in the not-so-good-news for women within our denomination.

The following is a summary (with some commentary) of the Women in Ecclesiastical Office description on the CRCNA website.

The CRC began to talk (at synod) about policies that disallowed women in any ordained position in 1970. Over twenty-five years and ten committees later, the first three women were approved as candidates for Ministry of the Word at synod in 1996.  To this day, synod still allows for classes (geographically grouped churches) that don’t believe in the ordination of women to continue this practice.

Women couldn’t be delegates at Synod until 2007 but as recently mentioned inThe Banner, “Eight years after synod declared that women can be delegated to synod, that representation is less than 7 percent. None of this year’s female delegates are pastors, and none of them were appointed to be chairs or reporters of advisory committees.”

In 2014, out of the 1940 ordained persons in the CRC, less than 5% (88) are women and 8% (16) of the 187 delegates at Synod were women. (Quoted from an email from theYearbook office at the CRCNA).

What is really discouraging to me is that there is currently no official movement toward fixing these dismal numbers. Because the CRC holds both positions (to ordain and not to ordain women) as ‘Biblical’ there is resistance to further support women’s ordination (or even offer any support to specifically women) because it may be seen as taking ‘sides’ rather than equipping women to do the job they were ordained to do.

Despite the limited support for women within the denomination, my church, First Christian Reformed Church Vancouver has been promoting ‘good news’ for women in ministry for decades.

In my attempt to learn more about the history of women in my own congregation I spoke with long time church member and current elder, Elsy TerMaat. Here is a bit about what I learned from her wonderful story.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 4.17.52 PMIn 1969 Bastiaan (Bas) Nederlof (Elsy’s father), a strong supporter of women in office, became the pastor at First. Pastor Nederlof even spoke up about his support of women in office at synod, where he was a delegate over ten times.

Around 1984, when female deacons were first permitted in the CRC, Elsy (Pastor Nederlof’s daughter) was approached by council to stand for a position. She didn’t feel her gifts were that of a deacon but more of an elder, so she declined (more than one request!).

In 1999, a few years after women were permitted as elders, Elsy was asked to stand as an elder, but lost the vote (to a man). Later that year, when one of the elders moved away, Elsy was ordained as the first female elder at First and was installed by her own father, Bas.

Elsy attended synod as a delegate for the first time in 2010 and spoke against a motion that would allow churches who didn’t support women in office but who were in a classis that did support women to in office to be able to move to a different classis that held a similar belief. This motion was denied.

At First CRC Vancouver, soon after the first female elder, came the first female preacher.  Willemina Zwart, a Regent College seminary student, was the first woman to preach at First. One of the male congregants (who was vocal when he disagreed with something) was heard saying “Oh, that is what the church has been fighting about for all these years!” (inferring it was no big deal).

When I asked Willemina about this experience she replied, “I didn’t know that I was the first woman to preach at First CRC Vancouver.  That’s hilarious…in that I didn’t know until just now!  My experience at First is a major part of my call story…I think enough to say that if it hadn’t have been for my experience and key people there, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to follow God’s call into ordained ministry within the CRC.”   We are good news for women! (We’ve had at least three other female interns since Willemina go on the become the first female pastor of their congregation)

All of the pastors after Pastor Nederlof also supported women in office and in 2007, including Pastor Henry Numan. Pastor Numan was instrumental in Julia Vanderveen’s call to ministry and in 2007 Julia and Trevor Vanderveen were installed as the first co-pastoring couple at First (and, thus Julia became the first female pastor).

Currently, Julia and Trevor share a 1.25 pastoral position. Julia works part-time and spends much of her remaining hours caring for three boys under seven.

Her role as pastor includes leading parts of the worship services such as communion, baptisms, and preaching. She also teaches some adult Sunday school, does pastoral care visits and many other random things pastors find themselves doing.

My favourite thing to experience is when Julia at the helm is a sermon because that is how I experience it: I am being taken on a trip into scripture and I want to hold on, listen and learn. Her sermons are passionate, poignant and her enthusiasm for worship is contagious. She cares deeply about the scriptures and the spiritual life of her congregation. She uses her strong voice and her emotions without apology. She was also the first woman to preach at five other CRC churches.

In 2013, First CRC hit another milestone in support of women, without any celebration or dissent, Caroline Short was elected the first female chair of council. At first I wasn’t sure if the quiet way she was ordained to this position was actually ‘good news.’ Should we celebrate or be grateful that it was so normal?

Her ordination was preceded the year before by four women being appointed as elders. And then during the next installation Caroline became the chair.  As I sat in the pews, pleased as punch, it occurred to me that she must be the first female head of council.  Perhaps no one said anything because our church is so accustomed to having women elders and Julia as one of our pastors. But it still felt like it needed to be noted. I brought it up during ‘coffee time’ after church and some people said it had occurred to them that she was the first woman, but most just said, “Oh yeah, I bet that is right,” and offered no sense of victory.  I still feel a bit torn between “Wow, we have achieved normalcy,” and “No wait, we still need to celebrate!”

My hope and prayer is that the support women have received and the “normalcy” we have experienced in Vancouver will become a common place as more women are called, equipped and supported in their God given gifts with in the CRC.

 

December 23, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.16.34 PMI never intended to be a pastor.  If you’d told me in high school or in college that this is where I’d end up, I’d probably have laughed in your face.  No, for me, my journey to the pastorate was more circuitous and unintentional.  Ever since I was little, my intention was to be famous. (Insert a wry smile here.)  For most of my growing up, “famous” meant being a “famous” concert pianist.  I was classically trained and excelled in music; in fact when I went to college, I was accepted into the music conservatory of a well-known Christian liberal arts school.  But once I got there, I realized that at that point I didn’t like music for music’s sake, but rather because I was good at it — it was an idol.  And I also realized that my mind needed more than the “just music” of the conservatory.  So I switched into the English literature program, where I thrived.  And that’s when I discovered theology.

When I took my first class in theology, I discovered that I had a natural penchant for it, and my professor encouraged me to consider theology as a career path.  So a new idol developed:  I was going to become a famous woman evangelical theologian and save the world with my daring mind and academic prowess. (Yes, that was meant to be humorous.)

With that goal in mind, and with the encouragement of my professors, I went to seminary.  Except, at that time, I felt “seminary” and “pastors” in general were in a lower category than what I was seeking; so I would always tell people I was in “grad school” to make it clear that I was an academic who wanted my theology to be rooted in the church, not a pastor-in-training.  Though I began in an M.A. program, I soon switched to an MDiv program, not because I’d sensed a call to pastoral ministry, but because I loved languages and wanted to study Greek and Hebrew!

At the seminary I attended, MDiv students were required to take several different personal assessments as part of their training, including a version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which assigns 4 letters to describe how an individual functions in the world.  When I took the MBTI and discovered that I am an “F” (feeler) and not a “T” (thinker), I was absolutely devastated!  I retook the test over and over, trying not to see if (without outright lying) I could come up with a different result — but to no avail.  Not only that, but the descriptor for my four letter type was “The Counselor.”  To me, counselors were on a lower level even than pastors!  They were touchy-feely, the antithesis of how I saw myself: as a mind.  The rest of my time in seminary was fundamentally a time of God showing me who He had actually made me to be — an “F”, if you will — and helping me come to accept that person, apart from what I idolized.

Around the same time of my dramatic MBTI assessment, I was sitting in class one day, when out of the blue I distinctly heard the words, “You’re going to be a pastor.”  I practically fell out of my chair.  “You’re going to be a pastor”???  This was never an idea that had crossed my mind, never something I had wanted, and I wasn’t even sure if I thought girls could be pastors anyway!  So my response was, “God, if that’s you, you’re going to have to make me want it.”

And he did.  It took a situation that turned me inside out and upside down with pain to do it.  That situation caused me to feel so much pain that I ran to the very people I had despised:  counselors.  God used my experience in counseling to change my life.  In the crucible of pain I came face to face with my people-pleasing tendencies and the chronic depression that had bound me for years.  I felt like C.S. Lewis’ character Eustace when Aslan is ripping off the dragon skin from his body.  And I also discovered that I was pretty good at walking alongside other people who were in pain, that something in me came alive when listening and praying and giving counsel to others.

Throughout all of this, I was serving in a church community, as a music leader.  Jay Greener, Redeemer’s senior pastor who is now both my colleague and my friend, along with his wife Susan, saw me.  They saw potential in me that I didn’t see and worked to encourage me and draw me out.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of their leadership and of my church itself in raising me up as a pastor and a minister, and I am more grateful than I can ever, ever express.

My final semester in seminary, I was in the deepest depression of my life.  I had finally accepted my “F”-ness and switched my MDiv focus from academic research to pastoral care, albeit with a deep sense of failure (I continue to fight idolatry of the academic), and I knew deep in my soul that I was called to Redeemer — but I couldn’t live, much less pay school loans, on the weekly stipend I was receiving as a music leader.

But God worked a miracle.  Through the advocacy of Jay and others at Redeemer, the church created a FULL-TIME position for me.  In a small church.  For an evangelical woman right out of seminary.  At MY church, the congregation I loved, in which I had “grown up” in so many ways.  My very own personal miracle — thanks be to God!

I recently marked my five year anniversary of full-time pastoring at Redeemer.  In so many ways, this is not a life I chose — but it is so much better than what I would have chosen apart from following God.  This is not a life of fame, but rather of thousands of moments so holy and precious and hidden and profound and — dare I say — sacramental, that I cannot imagine a better way of living.  God called me to be a pastor… and then made me into one.  And I am grateful.

December 23, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.32.33 AMCurrently I work in a different kind of ministry that what you would find in the local church. I am actually working for a non-profit children’s home affiliated with Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home.

I serve as a case manager (over the boys, and a couple of girls) at the Arkansas Baptist Home for Children. Here I take care of the needs of 23 children on my caseload who have been misplaced due to many issues.

My role is to minister to children and their families in crisis. It may be talking to a Momma who has lost her child to state services and has not been shown the grace of the Lord through her county worker. It could mean sitting for hours in a doctor’s office with a child who will test positive for the flu.

It also gives me great joy that I get the art work sometimes that the child does in school because I am the closest thing to a stable parent the child has ever known.

My job is not in the church, but I do get to minister. I got to sit down this summer and lead three boys to Christ and then watch as thirteen got baptized in our local church at one time. God is good! James wrote that taking care of the children and the orphans is true religion. I’m so glad I get to model it daily for the ministry and lives I serve throughout the state of Arkansas. 

I am thankful to be part of a ministry where I can get my hands dirty and see the glory of the Lord displayed in the lives of the children and families we impact daily. I’m studying through New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for my Masters of Arts in Christian Education with an emphasis on Social Work. My calling is to make a difference in orphan care ministry in the world. I’m Southern Baptist and love the fact that the denomination is seeing more women stepping up in ministry related roles. I hope to influence the next generation and be a mentor for women looking to pursue ministry full-time.




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