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The Parsonage: An Introduction

View of the side of a churchThis 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!

In the middle of a not-so-quiet street in Northeast Minneapolis resides a single-family house affectionately named, “The Parsonage.” The white picket fence lining the front, reminiscent of friendly suburban neighbors, it the only separation between the house on the left (previously the home of over a dozen marijuana-packed refrigerators) and the house on the right (previously the home of a stereo-blasting funk-band). Walking down the street on any given day you can hear the shouts of arguing couples, the frequent shrills of sirens, and the occasional gunshots.

I live in this single-family house in Northeast Minneapolis with five other unrelated women. This is odd to the outside world— that a group of women would willingly choose to live on such an uncertain street and label themselves with something that comes across so stodgy. Though, listing off our vocations might help to clarify: one pastor, three Masters of Divinity students (aka “pastors-in-training”), one worship leader, and me, the writer.

Don’t feel bad if you were caught off guard by the name “parsonage”; everyone is, even those most adherent to their egalitarian views. Six unmarried women and a dog living in an estrogen-filled environment do not lend themselves obviously to this title. How could they? Female pastors feel so few and far between that any word indicative of church leadership—pastor, parson, priest—rarely (if ever) conjures the image of a woman.

Somehow, six such female leaders gravitated towards one another and decided to take on the task of community living. And I’ve managed to squeeze my way into a house packed with empowered women. Some days I feel like I’m riding on their coat tails. With a semester left of undergrad I am often sidelined by classes and homework, while these women go about daily routines that include shepherding individuals and leading entire church congregations.

Watching these women work through their spiritual gifts is beautiful. From the perspective of an observer, these leadership positions appear normal, a natural part of who they are. However, I know each of my roommates possesses a past (and present) familiarity with obstacles.

I had a conversation with my roommate/landlord/pastor (phew, that’s a list of titles), about her experiences as a woman pastor. Primarily, I wanted to know about the adversity, but what compelled me to listen was her humility on the subject.

“I’ve had people come up to me after church and tell me that they were no longer going to attend, because there is a woman pastor.”

My mouth gaped at the comment. I never attended a church with a woman pastor before this last year and for most of my life was raised in oblivion to the complementarian/egalitarian debate. Though my upbringing did not instill any negative stigmas in regards to female leaders, I simply never engaged the topic because male pastors always fit the norm.

“Sometimes people just stop attending. I find out later through another person that it is because I’m a pastor there.”

At this point I likely mouthed the word, “wow.” I felt horrified and discriminated against because of my gender, though I was merely listening rather than experiencing.

“What did you do?” came my angsty response.

“Remain respectful. I don’t expect everyone to conform to what I believe. I just expect people to stick to a consistent interpretation of the Bible, rather than take a few passages out of their context to uphold one side of a debate.”

These examples of humility from such strong women have challenged the ways in which I carry on in my daily life. Conversations about gender issues and theology are relatively common place and I find myself being stretched as I listen to how my roommates respond to the repercussions of their faithful obedience to this vocation. Though I have never felt the same call to preaching, I hope to emulate their boldness and humility as I fulfill God’s design, unrestricted by the singular fact that I was created “female.”

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5 Comments

  1. Comment #99662 posted March 18, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Thank you Krista for your honesty. It is shocking to think that in today’s age someone would refuse to go to a church that has a lady pastor, but yet as I interact with many church folk I know they would think the same thing. As someone who did not grow up in the church and then married a pastor, I am sometimes shocked at the narrow mindedness of some Christians. We have women CEO’s, doctors, astronauts, and scientists. Yet we can’t have one in the pulpit.
    Fortunately I attend a church that fully supports women pastors and have been encouraged by church leadership to get my credentials several times.
    I want to applaud you too, just because you don’t get up in front of a church or room full of people and talk, does not mean you do not preach. You preach with your words. Keep up the good work!

  2. Comment #99666 posted March 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

  3. Comment #99667 posted March 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I share the senior leadership of a network of churches, with my husband. I have received a great deal of support and a fair degree of disapproval. I mentor leaders and am on several boards. My own organisation sometimes feels like a bubble, especially when you leave the bubble and interact with others. It’s astonishing sometimes to hear/experience the bias of those who only have their prejudices to draw from in terms of opinion.

  4. Don Johnson
    Comment #99710 posted March 19, 2013 at 7:27 am

    For what it is worth, what SHOULD happen when someone has a concern like this is to meet with the leader/leaders and discuss it. This is because one might have a flawed understanding about what Scripture teaches or at least not realize that it can be understood in different ways.

  5. Liz Trevor
    Comment #99739 posted March 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Yes, rather sad when people leave the church and give you little or no opportunity to respond, especially when it comes to you second hand. I am in agreement with Don that people with these concerns should meet with the leaders and discuss it. This rarely happens however. Churched people do not always see that leaving is a disruption to the community life of the church that they attend and that there should be some accountability for one’s actions so that if they must leave they leave in peace and with the blessing of the church leadership. So often in church life we are dealing with disenchanted people who have come from another congregation. Eventually their previous grievances emerge in the current church and they solve their issues by silently leaving. This leaves the Pastor and leaders in an unpleasant place.

    In our own fellowship we tried to keep people as open and up front with one another and the leadership as possible. When people were making noises about leaving we tried to encourage an exit interview so that leaders could walk through the issues that were behind the reasons for the individual, or family leaving. In that way we could inform the whole congregation and wish the exiting people well in their new surroundings and newly adopted church family. I also liked to talk with previous Pastors when folks came to us from another church so that I had more of an understanding as to why it was that these people were now meeting with us. Even so, some people refused to be that up front even though Scripture encourages humility, transparency and the esteeming of others.

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