Natasha Jamison Gadson: How I embraced my authority as an African-American woman in ministry

www.faithandleadership.com | 6/12/2018 | Staff
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I love serving at a historic church with a storied past. I thought about this on Resurrection Sunday morning, when I stood alongside my clergy colleagues and looked around.

The mass choir, all dressed in white, sang, “He decided to die just to save me.” Choir members filled the length of our ornate altar draped in white fabric, while the ministers lined the pulpit behind them, also in white robes.

Churches - Movies - Moment - Shouts - Praise

It reminded me of how African-American churches are often depicted in movies. The moment may have looked completely scripted, yet I know that the joyful shouts of praise and exuberant worship were unquestionably authentic.

I love the fact that my church’s narratives include a rich legacy of both lay and clergy who have served through the years. Typical of many midsize churches, ours is a family church. Most of the members are related, by blood or by marriage, to others in the congregation. Many were born into this worshipping community.

Generations - Family - Members - Children - Legacy

They can point to generations of family members who faithfully served before them and have raised their children to continue that legacy -- something I’m proud to be a part of.

Yet serving a historic church also comes with its challenges, particularly for a woman in ministry.

Video - United - Methodist - Pastor - Stephanie

I know I’m not alone in this -- a video produced by United Methodist pastor Stephanie Arnold (link is external) documents what many ordained women experience.

But my intersectional experience as both African-American and woman includes an additional layer of frustration, because of our cultural norms.

African-Americans - Value - Age - Wisdom - Experience

African-Americans are known to place high value on age and the wisdom of experience, and in the black church, we hold our clergy in high esteem. But that esteem sometimes doesn’t extend to me, because I don’t fit the expectation of what an African-American pastor looks like.

Although our staff has consistently been gender balanced, I’ve...
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