On Monday, June 20, 2022, the North American Division Ministerial Association held a luncheon, specially designed to encourage and celebrate women clergy and seminarians at the 2022 CALLED Pastors’ Family Convention.
“We created this event to build connections among women clergy. We all need mentors and support in our calling,” said Pastor Heather Crews, associate ministerial director for the NAD, and chair of the NAD Women Clergy Advisory.
“Women understand women in ministry. Men don’t necessarily have to struggle with some of the things we struggle with, said Pastor Guadaloupe Montour, a member of the NAD Women Clergy Advisory team. “We are not sidelined. We are not tokens. We are here, and we want to make space in an event where the language and seminars are sometimes not directed towards women.”
One hundred fifty members of the clergy, all of them female, gathered at the Hilton Lexington Downtown for the event. After prayer, Crews encouraged the attendees to enjoy their elegantly-plated meals as she introduced the members of the NAD Women Clergy Advisory. Guests also received contact information for the advisory members. “Our purpose is to mentor and support women clergy,” Crews said.
“We have a lot of representation … and this is a great support,” said Melinda Mauia, one of the only two women in the North American Division who are the sole pastors of Samoan churches. “I’m just blessed to be here,” Mauia said.
Crews introduced Ivan L. Williams Sr, director of the NAD Ministerial Association, and the lone male speaker at the event. Williams shared his commitment to female ministers, stating that his office had previously set a goal to double the number of women pastors in the division. “We have not reached that goal, but we’re getting close,” Williams said, sharing that the number of pastors who are women has increased from 101 up to nearly 200.
Williams also took a moment to highlight several women in the room who had become ministerial directors and associates in their conferences and unions, adding: “These pastors are now becoming pastors of pastors.”
“Can I say this to you all? You need to ask no one for permission to answer God’s call. No one,” Williams said.
For university chaplain Keeley Phillips, it was helpful to see the similarities between her experiences and those of other pastors. “You start to hear people’s stories a little bit — where they’re going and where they’ve been,” said Phillips.
Azure Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church Pastor Tara VinCross, an NAD Women Clergy Advisory member, stepped up to the mic to encourage all women pastors to take photos of themselves baptizing, dedicating babies, or performing other traditional ministry duties, and share them using the hashtag #whatapastorlookslike.
“You are the face that shows what ministry looks like,” VinCross said. She added that these photos could make other women think: “God might be calling me to this.”
The pastors received T-shirts that read “I am called,” and those who were married also received shirts for their spouses with the words “strong men marry pastors.” Crews encouraged the pastors to believe deeply in their calling, even when others did not recognize it. “Wear this shirt with the pride God has placed in you,” she said. “It is His pride. You are called.”