A few weeks ago I attended my first writing conference. Signing up was a spur of the moment decision. I almost didn’t go. But I went.
The very first person I introduced myself to asked what I did. “I’m a pastor,” I replied. She laughed and said, “I think I’m the only person here who isn’t a pastor!” I looked around the room. 95% women, at least. I was utterly confused by her statement.
From that moment on, most of the women I met introduced themselves as pastors. Preachers. Priests. Professors at seminaries. Almost every woman I met had a life entrenched in the ministry. Pastors were referred to as ‘she’. It felt shocking. For the first time, I spent three glorious days talking about ministry. Read that – we talked about ministry. We did not talk about women in ministry. Or whether we are supposed to do this with our lives. Or who told us we can or can’t.
We talked about preaching. We talked about writing. We pulled out scraps of paper to jot down book recommendations. We looked each other up on Facebook. We talked about theology. Creation. Atonement. The Eucharist. We talked about art and relationships and politics. We talked about singleness and marriage and dating.
We talked about sermon illustrations and parishioners who inspire us. We talked about authors we love and why we love them. We talked about books that have changed our lives. We talked in quiet tones and admitted to each other what we have burning in our souls.
We didn’t talk about ourselves as female ministers. We talked about ourselves as ministers. We didn’t talk about Bible verses telling us we have permission to do ministry. We just talked about ministry. There was no talk about injustices toward women in the church. Because we were all there, doing what we love. We were all there, together.
I am so tired of talking about women in ministry. I didn’t realize I was tired of it. I didn’t realize I was tired of it until I spent three days with other ministers not talking about women in ministry. I want to talk about the books I love, the news stories coming out, the sermon I preached last week. I want to talk about writing and art and relationships. I am so tired of talking about who can preach and what does femininity look like and I am so tired of kindly asking people to stop treating young women like singleness is a disease. I am so tired of biting my lips when people refer to pastor’s spouses as wives exclusively. I am so tired of masculine pronouns and being referred to as “brother” at a minister’s conference. I am so weary of these things. I just want to do what I’m called to do. I don’t want to notice this stuff all the time.
I didn’t realize I was tired of talking about these things until these things were normalized. I didn’t realize what I was missing until I was surrounded with people like me who didn’t treat me as special or unusual for being there.
Someday I hope this will happen for the women in the generation behind me. I hope they can grow up in Pentecostal organizations that don’t blink an eye at them, that they are valued for their ideas and callings and gifts rather than for being an anomaly. I hope being a woman in ministry stops being special or notable and that we can be called ministers rather than female ministers. I crave this for myself but I crave it more for the girls who will grow up next.