What a Lady Preacher Looks Like



I was in the car on my way home from a women’s conference, when I locked my eyes on the road so I wouldn’t have to look my passenger in the face.

“So, I think I want to do that. I think I am called to do that. Like … I think I would be really good at standing up on a stage and preaching like that. I just … I just really want to.”

The year 2013 was my year of Unashamed. After choosing it as my theme, I spent the rest of the year doing things I had always wanted to do, saying things I had always been thinking but was too ashamed of. I got my nose pierced. I started calling myself a writer. I submitted to SheLoves Magazine, and I went to a woman’s conference and saw Jen Hatmaker preach for two days.

I had never seen a woman preach like me before, or rather like I was sure I would. Jen had big earrings and bright lipstick. She talked with her hands and she spoke with her whole heart. She got choked up, she cried sometimes, she laughed at her own hilarious stories just because she was delighted in the remembering. It was pretty much the way my students had been describing me for the last eight years. And there she was, right in front of me.

This too, was what a preacher looked like. I could be what a preacher looks like.

On the way home from the second day, with my babies asleep in the back of the minivan, and my hands gripped on the wheel, I finally told someone I wanted to do that too. For the first time in my life, I believed that maybe I could be a preacher too. If preachers looked like Jen, then maybe they could look like me.

I finished my first week of seminary yesterday. I was afraid I would show up and be surrounded by 22-year-old white men, barely out of college and barely old enough to shave. Instead I came into a place with all kinds of people. Moms like me, black women and men, a German exchange student, people who are differently abled, people who are being called out of retirement and back into the classroom.

There are, as it turns out, many people a preacher can look like.

We’ve had chapel every day of orientation, and every day there has been a different kind of person behind the pulpit. An Episcopal woman speaking quietly about her candles, a Methodist father speaking of his kids, a single Baptist black woman preaching in five-inch heels. It is clear to me this was not an accident; the school wants us to remember that we belong there. There have been all kinds of people doing all kinds of things, and I am grateful.

It is easy to say “All are welcome” and “All kinds of people can be called.” It is much harder to prove that with your actions. It is easy to say “Girls can do anything,” but actually seeing women do everything opens the eyes of the girls watching. I wanted to believe I could be a preacher, but for me seeing was believing. I don’t think I’m the only one.

I was raised in a church that would have accepted my call. My parents are really proud of my desire to become a pastor. Still, until I saw a person I identified with doing the thing I wanted to do, I didn’t know I was allowed to want it. This is why representation is so important.

Sometimes it takes seeing something to even be able to imagine it.