When I was a child, I wanted to be just like my dad. He was a preacher, and I loved watching him preach. Hearing his voice fill the sanctuary, hearing the people cry “Amen!” as the Spirit moved. Something about it all thrilled me. I couldn’t name this desire, I just knew that I wanted to be up there. When I grew up, I fulfilled my dream. I served as a preacher. Well, sort of.
While I lived in England, I became a Local Preacher. The Methodists run this program, which trains lay people to preach and conduct a service. Since English Methodism has few ordained ministers, Local Preachers form the backbone of most districts. Therefore, I gained a great deal of preaching experience. When I came back to America, I gave it up. I regret that very much.
I regret even more, however, that I can’t tell my dad I grew up to be just like him. You see, he doesn’t think I should follow in his footsteps. Why? Because I’m not a boy. And girls don’t preach. I knew this growing up, but not because my father ever told me. He didn’t have to. I saw it everywhere around me. I grew up in a small Texas town, where men ran the businesses and their wives stayed home. All the ministers were men, while women taught the children and cooked for the potlucks. The message couldn’t have been clearer if they had painted it on the town’s water tower: men have authority, women follow and do the unsung work.
Please do not misunderstand me. I had a normal, loving childhood. My parents are two of the godliest people I know, and I love them deeply. They never pushed us into traditional gender roles. When my sister developed into a math prodigy, they never told her, “Girls don’t do math. Focus on learning to do housework.” They didn’t encourage us to go to college—they expected it. My parents have always supported our dreams and goals. Except for preaching. Except for that.
When I got to college, I joined a ministry group run by the Assemblies of God. They had women preachers. My mind could not reconcile what I saw with what I believed. So I rationalized it. It was ok because the guys in our group were still under their parent’s authority. After all, didn’t they live at home? After college, I tried to become a minister with this group, but they turned me down. I continued trying to answer my call without really answering it. Next up came missionary work. That wasn’t really preaching. After all—and I cringe to admit this now—the natives didn’t have the blessings of American civilization. Doesn’t that make them like children? And isn’t it ok for women to teach children? Patriarchy doesn’t just affect how you view women.
So I wasted several years of my life trying, and failing, to become a missionary . Eventually, I met my English husband and moved to Britain. There I saw an entirely new world. One where a woman had once headed the country. One where people didn’t think about equality for women because, why should they? Why would you question what seemed so obvious and natural? Most of all, I saw women in the pulpit and nobody made any big deal over it. When I shared my calling with my husband, he didn’t hesitate. Become a Local Preacher like me, he said. You’ll have good company, because most LP’s are women! After interviewing with our pastor, he recommended me to our district’s association of LP’s. One of the happiest nights of my life came when my husband returned from the meeting where they had voted to accept me. I can still see the joy on his face and feel the hug he gave me.
To make a long story short, a few years later we felt the Lord saying He wanted us to return to the States. We settled in the suburb of Dallas where my parents live. Unfortunately, most of the churches in this area are Baptist. We tried the Methodist church, but my husband said he “just didn’t feel the Spirit moving,” so we ended up not attending there. I wasn’t entirely unhappy, since we also found out that Local Preachers here don’t have much to do since there are plenty of ministers. We have ended up in a Baptist church. Mercifully, it’s not very big on gender roles, so we’re fairly comfortable. Still, though, there are days when I wish I could speak. I wish I could tell my church that I’m tired of women on this side, men on that side, as if we were all playing dodgeball at recess. I wish I could tell my mother that I don’t believe in headship/submission like she does. You don’t have to “just live with it” because that’s the decision your husband made, even though it affects you, too. Most of all, I wish I could tell my dad that I want to be just like him.