Skylight Paths, 2015
Paperback, 240 pages
Reviewed by Rebecca Dix
Rarely have I encountered as bittersweet a goodbye as when I turned to the final page in the collection of short narrative reflections of There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, edited by the Reverend Martha Spong. As a young woman hovering in the liminality between graduation and ordination, it was as though I had persons present with me in this wild and strange call that is ministry. With each word, I felt more embraced by an amazing community of women as they shared their responses to God’s call. Eventually, I grew to understand them as colleagues.
The women who contributed these stories come from various denominations, ages, geographical locations, and ministries. The book divides their stories into six different sections: God’s Calling and Our Identity; Sharing the Sacraments; Ministry and Death; What We Learned Through Experience; Being Pastor/Partner/Parent/Person; and Moving in the World Beyond Our Churches. The sections gather the stories into cohesive units while the completeness of each individual story affords the reader freedom to skip around at her leisure. Each story offers snippets of experiences that speak into the spectrum of life and ministry and the messy yet beautiful shades between, including vocation, identity, comradery, loss, and continued learning what it means to be faithful.
Reverend Deb Vaughn, an ordained American Baptist pastor and frequent contributing author to Christian Feminism Today, offered up one such story. She shares her experience as a chaplain facing the inexplicable, incomprehensible reality of violence and evil in the world. A young man who had just finished tenth grade had been shot. The pain and anger churning inside the grieving mother was palpable to Reverend Vaughn, along with her own awareness of the racial gap between them. Yet, she stayed the course to wait and be present with his mother, sitting with her in the unwelcome brokenness and disruption that the world had delivered, as they leaned together on God’s grace.
These stories offer hope and healing. These stories look me straight in the eye and offer me a firm handshake of a friend. These stories beckon me to be still and listen deeply, letting the aching parts of me soak in the sincerity. With these stories, I laughed and cried. The honesty and integrity with which these craftswomen wove their brief narratives is a refreshing and much needed encouraging reminder to fellow clergywomen to “Go and be who God called you to be, and have no fear (p. 2).”
The stories of women who occupy the pulpit are important stories to be shared and heard today because women’s stories are a part of the church’s story. They are part of all of our stories and There’s a Woman in the Pulpit provides an excellent addition to the already great cloud of witness that is the story of God at work in and through us. Mary E. Hunt, PhD, co-editor of New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views, has called the book “Touching, insightful, funny, [and] marvelous.” I absolutely agree, and then some.
© 2015 by Rebecca Dix and Christian Feminism Today