So many do not remember their names, except the ones who were first: the first woman in a pulpit, the first ordained, the first consecrated bishop. But there are others I remember who never made the history books. Those pioneering women who pastored and preached and provided leadership before there many women, in times past, when the push back was terrible and the call was strong, the prospects of living fully into their call bleak.
Yet the persisted, seeking out their pulpits, while the men were appointed, these women found their own places of service. When a man was found to serve, they had to seek again their own places to preach, to pastor, to pray. Their names: Nina Anderson, Marian Holbert, Portteus Latimer, Lois Lenz, Janet Sevier, Marjorie Swingle. These women are a few I remember. There are countless others who led the way, who persevered against the odds to serve and lay the ground work for all of us who followed.
My path as a pastor has been made so much easier because of the witness and the strength and the determination of those who went before me. While my ministry has not always been easy, it is those amazing, beautiful, strong women who went before me that paved a path for living out my call. Those women stood up preached, prayed, proclaimed and pastored in spite of the name calling and the flat out determination that they not succeed.
Every excuse was used to stop these women from following the call of God in their lives. You are too young, you are too old. You are too tall, you are too short. You are single and will steal our husbands, or you are married how will you take care of your husband? You are too ugly, too beautiful, you voice is too high or too low or too soft.
They preached even when they were told to be silent. They prayed even when their right to do so was questioned. They presided at the table and baptized and stood at gravesides to comfort the heartbroken in the face of unbelievable opposition.
On this International Women’s Day, I want to say thank you to Portteus, Marian, Janet, Marjorie, Nina and Lois in particular and to all those other women who pioneered in ministry. Thank you for your witness, for your strength, for your sense of humor and for your determination. Your memory is a blessing to me, and to those who do not know your name. You are blessing to a new generation of women who have a much easier path and I am deeply grateful to be part of your legacy of faith and ministry.
For me, I am once again reminded to live out my call to proclaim the love and grace of God for all people. While sometimes my pathway in ministry was difficult, it was certainly made easier by these amazing women. May my ministry make the way broader and more inclusive for the next generation. May it be so….may it be so.