A Seat at the Table

Statue of St. Vincent DePaul outside DePaul Center in the Loop

Friday, January 4, 2019

This past Thursday, I joined Reuben at the Chicago Central District Church of the Nazarene’s monthly pastors’ meeting, called POPS (Pastors on Purpose).

They have a morning devotion, a guest speaker, and then break-out sessions. This month, Pastor Herb Ireland spoke about “Flourishing and Finishing Well as a Nazarene Pastor,” based on his research for how pastor can take better care of themselves in holistic ways. Then we broke up into small group cohorts around tables, with several groups of men and one group of women.

In case you were wondering, I joined the women’s cohort. And in and after this small group time, I found my self reflecting on a couple of things.

First, I appreciate that the Church of the Nazarene has affirmed women in ministry, specifically women in pastoral roles, since its inception. It was an honor to be able to sit with these women who have persevered in their callings and to be able to share this time of fellowship with them. While I don’t find myself with a call to pastoral ministry, it was nonetheless affirming that women like myself can have a seat at a table like the one we shared.

My church background, however, is not Nazarene, nor has it been one that would see women at the pulpit or in pastoral leadership. This was even the stance I accepted as the right view on women in ministry up until I came to Olivet. And yet I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve in such capacities through Olivet that been formative of my absolute affirmation of women in answering the Holy Spirit’s call to ministry.

Because I have spent so much time with churches in which women wouldn’t be allowed to serve in the roles that those women at that pastors’ table have, I felt an even deeper level of admiration for them and the opportunity to share their company.

As much as my education in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry would give testimony to the value of women in ministry, there is always a more tangible value to seeing that actualized.

Second, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done for the purposeful pursuit of women in pastoral roles, even within traditions that already affirms women in these positions. Although it was wonderful to sit at a table with these women, and I am so grateful for their steadfastness in the ministry, the number of men in the room was at least twice the amount of women in the room. I can hardly believe that the only reason there were disproportionately more men in the room is because there have been more qualified men in the world.

Third, the care and support of women in ministry needs to be a priority of the Church. As I mentioned, the focus of the meeting was on holistic care for ministers. From my time with these women, I was also reminded how we often forget that as much as our pastors pour out, they need to be poured back into—to have the time for self-care, to be able to rest, and all that any of us needs in caring for ourselves.

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Elise Fetzer

Elise is a senior Intercultural Studies major at Olivet Nazarene University from Oak Lawn, IL. She is serving with LoopNaz as part of her cross-cultural field studies coursework.