I’m in Starbucks sipping a cinnamon-flavored soy latte, now squeezing back tears of joy after a phone call from my daughter.
“Hey, I’m done with my first round of questions,” she said.
How did it go?
“Really well. Molly Marshall was in there and she gave me a hug.”
Did she say anything?
“Yeah, she said she knew me through you and others and had heard a lot about me. I really like her.”
What questions did they ask you?
“I don’t know. I’ll call you in a little bit. I’ve got to go to the next round.”
My youngest daughter was somewhere inside Central Baptist Theological Seminary (CBTS) interviewing for a student position in the new CREATE program. CBTS, my seminary alma mater, is across the street from this Starbucks. I can see the campus and the promise of new life and worship as the steel frame of the Baugh-Marshall Chapel takes shape.
I know the possibilities of my daughter’s future, and today I celebrate the “pioneer trail” I and so many others have blazed, stumbled on, been broken on, rejoiced on and grown on. The trail ride has been made smoother for our daughters called to ministry.
I recognized my call on Sunday, July 12, 1998, after Joseph Martin filled our sanctuary with God’s music. I moved forward as if in a trance saying, “Yes, I get what God is asking me to do, and whatever it means I’m willing to do it.” I had one clause: “Please don’t make me leave my family.”
I was 38 years old, with a husband who supported and believed in me, and three children. What really seemed crazy was the way I was quickly immersed in my vocational call. That fall, I was asked to serve in my home church where we had been members since 1987, and the next spring I found myself entering the doors of Central Baptist Theological Seminary.
Unfortunately – or maybe it was a blessing – when I said yes to God’s calling, I was clueless to any of the obstacles for women serving in ministry. My childhood church encouraged and trained me to be a Christian leader. I received an award and scholarship for the Christian leadership the church saw in me. I was allowed the opportunity to serve in worship in every way.
As an adult serving the church I was blessed, supported and encouraged. I was ordained as a deacon and served in practically every role a church has to offer lay ministers. I loved the church to the point that the secretary in the school where I worked said, “You really need to work in the church.”
But the second I answered God’s call, I quickly discovered a different reality.
Although my gifts and passions were clearly identified as those of a pastor, I was encouraged to pursue something else. I was told I must be an “alien from another planet” when I challenged why I couldn’t baptize the three youth who had asked. This was followed with, “If you can’t take no for an answer, you need to get out of ministry now.”
The final remark, which at the time I did not understand, was, “You have to remember you are a pioneer in ministry.” It felt insulting and devastating, but today I understand its truth.
Over the past 12 years I have had the wonderful opportunity to walk and serve in ministry with several strong, creative, passionate women and men who are also on the pioneer trail. As the years have gone by, I have watched how the path has fewer rocks, fewer ruts and smoother rides. I can now find great joy in the early years of tears and trials and what often felt like traveling unpaved roads.
Today I can sit across the street from my alma mater with great pride and joy knowing that I did not take no for an answer, that wisdom and faith guided me, that the road ahead of me still needs some clearing. But I’m confident that young women like my daughter have a bright and hopeful future.
Am I a pioneer? Yes.
Am I an alien from another planet? Some days, for sure.
Am I a confident, wise and faithful woman called to blaze the trail? Most definitely.
It is through the faithful work of women who have gone before me, through men who have saddled up and traveled the pioneer trail beside me, through a church that has been brave enough to hop on the wagon seat alongside me, that I sit here today, sipping my latte and celebrating God’s call to pioneer.
Kathy Pickett is pastor of congregational life for Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo.