If I am honest, I have to admit that I am afraid. I graduate from seminary in a month. I will walk across a stage (platform, I should say – graduation is in a church sanctuary), read a litany, and be blessed by my “soul mother” (as Terry Rosell would say—from alma mater) as one who is “biblically knowledgeable, theologically articulate, spiritually healthy, humanly sensitive and professionally competent” (from Central’s mission statement).
I am afraid that even with a degree from a wonderful seminary I will find that churches do not want me. I am afraid that my resume will not even be looked at. I am afraid that the churches I actually get to interview with will return and say “I’m sorry, but the congregation just isn’t ready for a woman yet.”
Not ready for me yet.
I don’t feel like someone a congregation needs to “get ready” for. I feel like a woman who has received the training and who has served in enough intern and interim roles to develop into a good minister. I just need the chance to serve and grow.
But I am afraid that I will join the ranks of the countless gifted women who have been forced to find an alternate means of fulfilling their call. Ministries that are not “less than,” but are “other than” the perfect fit.
I have watched friends jump denominations, and I, too, have wondered if I need to make a switch. I interned last summer in the United Church of Christ and will intern this summer with a Mennonite congregation. I have dear friends in Disciples of Christ congregations. But I long to remain Baptist.
I want the denomination who raised me, who trained me, who loved me to make room for me to serve. I want to help pave the way for future generations of Baptist women, the way other brave women stood to pave the way for me. I don’t want the next generation to come to the end of seminary in tears because there seems to be no place for them. I’m just not sure I know how to pave the way.
Already I am looking at back-up plans. While my resume is in the hands of church search committees, it is also going into the hands of non-profit organizations. And I have considered the possibility of returning to journalism.
When I was asked during my first create class what made my heart sing, I had no idea the answer might turn out to be something I wouldn’t be able to do. My heart is in the church. I pray that I will get to hear it sing.
Read more from Jennifer Harris Dault at her blog.