By Mary Alice Birdwhistell
I attended my first Baptist Women in Ministry gathering in 2011 in Tampa, Fla. I was a student at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, and although I had felt for quite some time that God could be calling me to pastoral ministry, I still couldn’t muster up enough courage to say it out loud.
But on that day in 2011, I found myself in a sanctuary full of women who were beautifully living out God’s calling on their lives, and through them, God breathed new life into me.
Over the next few years, BWIM helped me to finally voice God’s calling on my own life. I found a mentor and spent a semester learning alongside Julie Pennington-Russell that “THIS is what a preacher looks like.” And after some time, I thought, if all of these women who have gone before me have had the courage to live out this calling, then by God’s grace, maybe I can, too.
On June 17, I found myself at another BWIM gathering in another sanctuary in Dallas, Texas, this time surrounded by an even larger group of women living out God’s calling on their lives. This time, these women (and men) were no longer strangers. Many of them were friends, mentors, mentees and partners in ministry.
I watched as a friend served communion to her two daughters and I thanked God for the way in which these girls have grown up with such a beautiful example of ministry through their mother. I listened as my mentor preached an incredible sermon on what it means to live lives of abundant generosity. I watched as male friends and pastors stood beside us and committed to advocate as partners with us. I connected with new seminary students and ministers whose nervous but excited smiles reminded me of myself just a few years ago. I worshipped alongside women and men with an overwhelming gratitude for a space that celebrated the many ways our good God is working through the lives of women in ministry all around the world.
And once again, God breathed new life into me, and into all of us.
God breathed new life into those of us who desperately needed to encounter God in this space, and through these people.
God breathed new life into those of us who needed to see, first-hand, what women in ministry can really look like.
God breathed new life into those of us who needed the courage to voice our callings out loud – alongside people who understand all too well what a feat that can be.
God breathed new life into those of us who needed the challenging reminder that there is still more advocacy and work to be done.
God breathed new life into those of us who needed the reminder that hope and possibility for women in ministry are both here and just on the horizon.
For the many ways that the Baptist Women in Ministry gathering breathes new life into our Fellowship, I say, “Thanks be to God!”
To keep up with news, photos and videos from the 2015 CBF General Assembly in Dallas, Texas, and for information on watching the online livestream of the evening June 17-19 worship and commissioning services of Assembly, please visit www.cbf.net/Dallas2015.
Mary Alice Birdwhistell serves as the Associate Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, and is a member of the CBF Fellows program.