26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.
In our Methodist tradition, we are blessed by the examples of many strong female leaders.
Take for example Susanna Wesley, best known as the mother of John and Charles. She is sometimes called the “Mother of Methodism,” as she took primary responsibility not only for her children’s classical education, but also their spiritual upbringing. She famously took to preaching during an extended period of her husband’s absence from the church he served, hosting a crowd of 200 or more at the rectory. Samuel’s associate pastor, feeling pressured because Sunday worship was far less well-attended, wrote to his boss asking him to put an end to his wife’s gatherings. In response, Susanna wrote to Samuel insisting that she would not stop unless he expressly commanded it. But no such letter ever came. Samuel must have known better.
In America, Barbara Heck is often given credit for being the spark behind Methodism’s spread. Living in 18th century New York City as an immigrant from Ireland, she became frustrated with the lack of religious zeal among her kin. After she walked into a room to find a card game in progress, she scooped up the deck and tossed the cards in the fire. Then she went and found Philip Embury, who had been a Methodist local preacher back home, and insisted that he preach to them. She told him that if he refused they were all doomed, and then God would demand an accounting from him. She must have been persuasive, as this episode is known as the origin story of John Street Church, the first Methodist congregation in the United States.
I have been blessed over and over by the advice, guidance, wisdom and care of strong female pastors and spiritual leaders in my life. They have taught me in Sunday School, inspired, challenged and led me in my seminary studies, overseen my work as supervisors and superintendents, and shepherded me as counselors and pastors on my spiritual journey.
When Jesus places his call on a life, the concern he has is whether that individual will respond in faith – not their gender or identity. God can and will use each and every one of us to fulfill the purposes of the kin-dom. We are all one in Christ Jesus.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Today, take a moment to give thanks for women who have shaped your spiritual journey. Perhaps today is the day to reach out and say thanks for what they’ve done for you.
Prayer: We give thanks for the strong presence of faithful women pastors, teachers, and leaders in our lives. Help us to encourage young female leaders that they might help us reach a new generation of believers, just as Susanna Wesley and Barbara Heck did in their time. Amen.