Two long years of tea

I heard a beautiful story from a Churches of Christ minister recently... whom I shall call “Priscilla” for the sake of anonymity... about a retired gentleman whom I shall call “Jack”.

Priscilla was on the ministry team of a church that had a policy that sermon notes should be copied and distributed to the congregation.

One day after she had preached, Jack (a newcomer at the church) bowled up to her and announced “I don’t believe in women ministers”. “Oh, that’s interesting” she replied. “And I don’t agree with this!” He then thrust at her the day’s sermon notes with furious circles all over the sermon.

“Would you like to discuss this further?” she enquired. He agreed that he would, so she dutifully went to his house the next day and had a long conversation about exegesis, theology, etc. etc. They parted on very cordial terms.

The next time Priscilla preached, the man bowled up to her and proclaimed: “I don’t believe in women ministers. And I don’t agree with this!” He once more thrust the day’s sermon notes with all of his contentious circles. “Would you like to discuss this further?” she enquired. So she dutifully visited the next day, and had another long theological conversation. They parted once more very warmly.

This ritual continued for two years. Then one day Jack walked up to her at the end of the sermon and said: “Priscilla, you know I don’t believe in women ministers”.

“I know that Jack”

But if I ever did... you would be the one to make me change my mind”.

Tears came to her eyes. (She reported it was one of the most moving moments of her life.)

Some time later, Jack passed on to be with his Lord, and his widow asked Priscilla to conduct Jack’s funeral.

“Oh I just couldn’t. Jack would turn in his grave... he doesn’t believe in women ministers”.

“Oh Priscilla... he just loved you.” She replied.

Sometimes the discussion about women in ministry remains at the level of theology. This dialogue is important of course. But in the end, the “argument” for women in ministry is won by competence and kindness. All of the research on this topic suggests that theological objections rapidly dissolve when a congregation experiences the ministry of a woman of appropriate giftedness, competence, and character. Objections to women’s ministry often occur at the level of the gut, rather than at the level of the head. It never really occurred to me that church ministry was a possibility for myself when I was younger, for it was right outside my experience and my imagination.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this topic.


Amanda Morrice said…
Hi Janet,

I would love to see more women in ministry! Without going into specifics, I can't see any reason why not. For one thing, our recent experience shows us that women can make excellent ministers. (Although, I have seen expamples of women who are not so good as ministers too.)

It has to be about calling, not gender, IMO.

As for my own future career? Who knows? I would like to think that the doors are not closed due to my gender.
Janet Woodlock said…
Calling (and character) are the key issues for anyone in relation to vocational ministry IMO. Ministry can bring many joys, but it can be incredibly tough, and rates of minister burnout are astronomical compared with most other professions.

I pray doors may open for you vocationally in whatever sphere God calls... described rather beautifully by the phrase:

"Where your deep joy meets the world's deep need".

That statement has a lot of profound wisdom about personal vocation.
Matt Stone said…
That's a great story!
Janet Woodlock said…
It IS a great story... and has (I think) broader implications... for there's something disarming about grace toward those who disagree with us.... whatever the issue!

One of your strong points I think Matt!

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