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The Parsonage: A Singular Question

A woman pondering a thoughtThis week, the CBE Scroll features a series called “The Parsonage,” written by CBE Intern Krista Wilson, who is currently a student at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. In it, she writes about her experiences living with a group of women who have felt God’s call to minister in the church. Enjoy!

Moving into the Parsonage for me was sheer luck—the kind of “luck” as in God orchestrated all of the details while I was busy studying for finals. Little did I know that, behind my back, my friend (slumped over a desk) was serving as my stand-in voice. My future, shaped by this singular question:

“Does she support your call to ministry?”

“YES! OF COURSE!” would be my emphatic response. Maybe I would have gone as far as to stand on table and declare my answer by shouting it across the dining center.

However, I was not actually present for the conversation and I am too shy to actually consider those kinds of brash actions. Nor is the answer as obvious as I like to imagine.

To understand the importance of this question, the context in which it was asked becomes crucial.

My friend was in the process of applying for seminary. Initially, her plan was to get a degree that would help her successfully pursue missions. This took a sudden turn when a professor suggested she look into a scholarship for seminary students seeking pastoral positions in the U.S. Half her heart already in Africa, the decision to seriously consider this route felt like abandoning her desires. Yet the more time she spent in prayer, the clearer the answer became: apply for the scholarship.

The evidence that she belonged in a leadership position has always been strong—her character reflecting powerful speaking skills and discipleship, combined with a deep love of serving God. Applying for a Maters of Divinity seemed natural, if not easy.

The process embodied the opposite.

While some women are blessed with support, my friend experienced direct opposition. What made the decision so difficult was that this disapproval was levied by her family. Growing up in a complementarian church, leaving behind preconceptions of gender roles was a challenging process for my friend. For most of her life, she believed that women could not serve as leaders. Until she reached college, no one told her otherwise. Discovering her independence at school, she met God in new ways, who in turn revealed new facets of her character.

Late nights and tears were frequent during the application period. The reaction of her parents was nothing short of devastating. Suddenly the weight of the decision to attend seminary—what I saw simply as the exercising of her gifts—became distorted into “disobedience.” Shame was heaped onto her, as though her passion to follow the Lord was nothing more than falsified fragments of truth.

Shortly after her acceptance, my friend found herself sitting across from a personal mentor who co-pastors a church. Two spots in this woman’s house were opening up, and she saw the support that my friend needed. After being invited to join the community at the Parsonage, my friend responded that she could only move in if there was a spot for me as well.

“Does she support your call to ministry?”

The answer to this question cannot ever be assumed. Familiar with opposition, my friend understood the necessity of finding a supportive community. What a miracle this came in the form of the Parsonage. And I am grateful to have partnered with her through this journey. But I know the support will need to continually strengthen. Even now, there is constant hardship because of the vocation she has chosen. As a friend, roommate, and sister in Christ, I only hope to graciously offer my time.

Though I can only give these small sacrifices, I am incredibly honored to think of my friend sitting across the table from her mentor, saying without hesitation, “She was there every step of the way.”

Interested in hearing more about women in ministry? Check out the blog of Stephanie Williams, a pastor at Mill City Church in Minneapolis, MN; CBE endorser; and “Parsonage” roommate of Krista: http://www.pastorsteph.com/.

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