During Women's History Month, I have invited several women who have been formative in my life to share about their journey and callings. As you learn about these women, I hope you are inspired and challenged.
We have a treat, Ann is a friend who I can count on for incredibly thoughtful, Scripture-based and sometimes sassy (the best kind!) conversation. She is almost always up for adventures and always adds encouragement into conversation.
She shares her reflections to 5 questions here:
1. Would you share a bit about who you are; where you live, how you spend your days, your work, volunteering, your family makeup, your race, cultural background, faith context, pets, etc? (whatever you feel comfortable sharing)
I love being an aunt and a sister. I spent most of my career as a teacher, campus minister and manager. I am currently a spiritual director and find that to be one of the most fulfilling activities I have ever done. I like thinking about the intersection between theology, brain science, trauma and emotional healing. I delight in reading and discussing the Bible. I love most things Michigan, historic novels and coffee.
2. Who is one or several women in your life who inspired you, and how did they influence you?
When I was a college student I connected with a campus minister who wasn't afraid to challenge my thinking about a variety of things. She helped me develop my spiritual life. She was a leader, teacher, speaker and deep thinker. She went to seminary. She cared a lot about the world, especially Japan. Her strong leadership and intelligence gave me a great example for my own growth. Brenda Salter McNeil taught me and still teaches me a lot about serving students of color and racial reconciliation. Ruth Haley Barton continues to teach me about spiritual rhythms and loving God with my heart, soul and mind.
3. Would you share about a time when your way/path was blocked or hampered because of your gender, and how you navigated this?
In the church world, especially 30-40 years ago, women in leadership outside of women's or children's ministry were rare. I'm not sure my way was blocked because I was employed by an organization that did allow women to lead men, but I don't think I got the invitations or responses inside or outside of my organization that a lot of men in my position received. I navigated this mainly by doing what I felt I was called to do with as much graciousness as I could muster. As people saw my passion and gifts, I was respected and then asked to do more things.
When I did public speaking, I felt a lot of pressure to perform well, because so few women spoke in Christian circles to men. I think I grew some inner strength to do my best and not care what other people were thinking. Often I was one of a couple of women on a team with 8 or 10 men. Women's ways of communicating or making decisions often weren't valued. Sometimes I wasn't even aware of this. Talking regularly with other women in leadership in my organization helped me understand the dynamics at meetings and to begin to ask for my chance to talk in a meeting or mention whatever else I might be needing. So much of the "blocking" a few decades ago was indirect like a lack of encouragement to apply for more powerful positions, to go to seminary, to be mentored or to take on more responsibility. Part of the problem was few role models for women in key leadership positions. That is changing!
4. Was there an implicit or explicit message about being a woman that significantly formed you that you would like to share?
As mentioned above a lot was implicit. It was assumed women would only work for our organization for a short time, get married, and thus wouldn't be interested in advancing in the organization and taking on more responsibility. It was assumed that women would have trouble making decisions or wouldn't have the ability to handle the stress of more responsibility. One older woman did tell me that and that kept me out of management for awhile.
5. Is there a business, project, book, passion, non-profit or the like that you would like to highlight and share with others? *Please feel free to highlight your own!!
a) Rediscovering Scripture's Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts by Lucy Peppiatt,
b) Together in Ministry, Women and Men in Flourishing Partnerships by Rob Dixon Foreword by Ruth Haley Barton
c) Discovering Biblical Equality: Biblical, Theological, Cultural, and Practical Perspectives THIRD EDITION EDITED BY RONALD W. PIERCE AND CYNTHIA LONG WESTFALL Associate Editor Christa L. McKirland
d) Organization: Christians for Biblical Equality https://www.cbeinternational.org/