I preached my first sermon yesterday. I’m sure it must be a significant milestone in the life of any minister, but for me it was a profound experience because this sermon was the last outworking of a long-held inner theology.
I am now in my ninth year of vocational ministry at my third PC(USA) church. That means a lot of things but one thing it means for sure is that I haven’t missed much church lately. I’ve been in a corporate worship service of one shape or another nearly every Sunday for the last decade. Including myself yesterday, though, I am now only the second female voice I have ever heard preach from a pulpit.
[I’m not looking to make an argument for a particular position of women in ministry. I assume your understanding of gender roles within the church is probably pretty set. If it’s not, find a few voices more eloquent than mine to introduce you to the conversation – the search won’t be difficult.]
Over the years I’ve come to believe that my voice and voices like mine – female voices, I mean – are invited and necessary in the leadership of the church. It was a lightly held belief while I was in college that has become more and more sure within me despite (or perhaps because of) the schools I’ve attended and the places I’ve worked since those early days.
Yesterday was the last frontier to tackle as I worked this out this long held inner theology. I’ve sat in Session meetings and I’ve given my opinion on significant church-wide decisions. I’ve led staffs and I’ve led Sunday Schools and I’ve led trips. For years now I’ve been involved in the leadership of the church, but never have I stood in a pulpit.
My mind knows I am not the second woman in the history of the world to stand in a pulpit and preach, but the truth remains that I am only the second woman in the short history of my own life to have held the position. My heart beat a little faster as I first lived out what I believe. It was a weighty thing to finally commit the action of my body to an idea my heart has long affirmed.
It was, I would imagine, much like when I ask my youth group to serve in unsavory places, to do the hard work of loving an unlovely neighbor. It is one thing to agree that Christ calls us to love the friendless girl at school but quite another to commit your body to the seat beside hers at the lunch table.
I am proud of the words I spoke yesterday. Proud because I know they came from solid study, much prayer and a heart earnest to speak words of grace and truth. More than that, though, proud because it was a final, outward, embodied affirmation of my long inner theology.