Seminary was NEVER about preaching or pastoring for me. I had no clue what it was about, but I KNEW it wasn’t about … those two.
I had tons of reasons. Many were valid, some not so much. One that I didn’t realize was lurking in my past was blown away at a Remind and Renew clergy gathering at Phillips Theological Seminary in the spring of 2016.
I not only heard Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins for the first time, but I also SAW her. See, I had never seen a woman preach, let alone lead a denomination. I had heard women seminary professors preach in chapel, but it still seemed like they were “speaking” or “teaching.” There was something about that moment with Sharon that pricked my safety bubble – and all of a sudden, I had to face my divine calling head on.
I had already preached a couple of times, but that was ok. It wasn’t my job, I reasoned. I had preached a million times in youth settings, but that wasn’t really preaching – that was teaching, or so I justified. When I heard Sharon, I was serving my first church as an associate-stepping-in-as-interim for 6 weeks and preached then. Not permanent. After all, I barely had a semester’s worth of classes under my belt. So I couldn’t possibly really be preaching *or* pastoring – for real.
Sharon standing in the pulpit at First Christian Church Tulsa, preaching hope and courage for the hard journey of dismantling racism in the church, awakened something in me that day. I saw myself represented, striking a discordant note against my entire life of only seeing men in leadership – I saw a gifted woman leading her people and wondered if I was called to do the same.
Thank you, Sharon, for being who you are – for it showed me a sliver of who I am supposed to be.
Image courtesy of Washington National Cathedral