Many good ideas were shared at the recent Conference of Presidents. One of my favorites came from Marilyn Dyer, the president of Upstate New York Women of the ELCA.
Another president said she has trouble getting clergywomen to attend WELCA events. After a few moments reflection, Marilyn responded, “Instead of inviting the pastor to preach, why don’t you invite the pastor to share a project or hobby she’s passionate about?” For example, Marilyn mentioned a pastor in her synod who is deeply committed to an education program in Tanzania. It’s not part of her pastoral work, but it is her passion and she would love to teach a workshop about it.
“That’s a good idea,” the first president said. I agree. I love this idea.
Like all women in our organization, pastors have diverse passions and gifts. When our first instinct is to ask a pastor to preach at a convention or teach a monthly Bible study, aren’t we treating her as a pastor, first, and a woman, second? As Marilyn noted, we’re essentially inviting her to come to our event and work, and we may be ignoring her other gifts and interests.
Women of the ELCA is a community of women that commit to “affirm our gifts, support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.” Recognizing women as pastors is one way we support women who have pastoral gifts and callings. Yet, most women are not called to be clergy, and all clergy have gifts and callings beyond their job.
I’ve heard that ministry can be isolating for a clergywoman who wants community where she can be appreciated for all her gifts and callings, without needing to perform as a pastor. What if Women of the ELCA were just such a community? How is Women of the ELCA already such a community where you are?
Emma Crossen is director for stewardship and development.