Inspiring Change is the 2014 theme for International Women’s Day, and “it encourages advocacy for women's advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women's equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.” http://www.internationalwomensday.com
As I reflect on some of the many strong women in my life, I will follow sister in ministry and musings, Sarah Taylor Peck’s lead by considering the women in ministry who helped shape me to this high and hard calling.
I was blessed to be born into a congregation with a history of women leaders and ministers. Ruth Shively became the first female Elder at Central Christian Church in Lexington, KY, and I cannot remember a time when women were not present at the Table.
Rev. Carol Rawls was an Associate Minister. I learned so much from her, as she invited my grandmother, father, and me (a teenager at the time) into her home to help her craft and hone her sermons. She was unafraid of constructive criticism and she sought to be a better preacher. I already knew she was an excellent pastor, as she presided over my Granddad’s hospital bed when we said goodbye too soon. For that, she will always have a special place in my heart. And now, I serve the church where she did her seminary training. The people I now call my own were integral in ordaining her. And for that I am grateful.
Rev. Linda Jones was a student minister at Central when I was growing up. She has since become the Associate Regional Minister for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky. But more than that, she ordained me into ministry. It was Linda’s face I saw when I left the sanctuary at First Christian Church in Frankfort for the last time. And she installed me to my current call. She’s got my back, and I’ve got hers. We can do that because we are both strong (and very tall) women.
Rev. Janet Ehrmantraut is another former Regional Minister who pastored Central and preached a prophetic Word. She walked with our family as we celebrated by Grandmother’s life, lost to Alzheimer’s Disease. I watched and prayed as Jan faced cancer with grace and honesty. She laid hands on me at my ordination, and she continues to inspire as a wife, mom, grandma, and newly adopted mother to a young woman trying to find her way in the world.
I had these awesome female role models, but before seminary was even a word with which I was familiar, I attended a small church in Los Angeles a few times. The pastor wore red nail polish, and I thought that was so cool. Seeing someone stand in the pulpit, who got manis and pedis, just like me, is a vision that has stayed with me. Now there are whole groups of clergy women who match their nails to the liturgical calendar. Me included.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include my sister, Rev. Carol Devine, in this reflection. As my older sister by ten and a half years, I had always admired her and wanted to do everything just like her – Transy, vegetarianism, Peace Corps, and much more. Now, as I got older, our lives were so different, but we grew closer. It must be a God-thing that we received our calls to ministry within the same year, and I attended my first seminary class sitting next to my big sis. I presided over the Table at her ordination, and she preached mine. She is an excellent preacher, teacher, and pastor and person.
There are too many awesome, awe-inspiring, prophetic, powerful, pastoral, caring, courageous, compassionate women ministers in my life to name them all. I hope they will know that they are in my prayers and in my heart, and I give thanks for their witness, friendship, mentorship, encouragement, and so much more.
Being a woman in ministry is not always an easy vocation to pursue, but I have been, and continue to be, shaped by some of the best. These are the women who challenge the status quo and inspire positive change in the world. Thanks be to God.
Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.