THE MONTH OF MARCH ROLLS IN A MULTITUDE of celebrations including Ash Wednesday, Pi Day, National Proposal Day, Endometriosis Awareness Month, and International Women's Day. The month is fraught with the confusion and sometimes delight of Daylight Savings Time & followed by the transitions of winter to spring. It is a good time to celebrate growth, advancement and transformation.
At Palmer Theological Seminary we love celebrating all of God's people in our community, including our faculty and staff, alumni, and current students. For women's history month we were honored to celebrate two women continuing to make strides as women in ministry.
Sarah Hostetter is a 2018 Master of Divinity graduate who currently serves as the President of a non-profit called God’s Precious Children supporting children’s education in Liberia, West Africa.
Chilean student Nicolle Carillo Carillo currently studies in Palmer's Master of Theological Studies in Latino/a Ministries, is a mother and collaborates with the Baptist Theological Institute of the National Convention of Chile in the administration, and in a ministerial program for women that provides relevant theological and social knowledge for women that contributes to the development of their ministries.
"It’s sometimes hard to be in ministry as a woman when you serve in a church that has a narthex full of previous pastor’s pictures that are all men," shared Sarah. Sarah had a hard time even as a child to be taken seriously when she spoke. When faced with the difficulty of finding her voice, Sarah found that her high pitched tone, though suggested for cartoon voice overs, fell perfectly in with the youth in ministry. "God has called me to show the youth of my church that although they will face barriers, our purpose in life no matter what gender, race, socio-economic status, tone of voice, or age is to bring the loving Gospel into all of the corners of the world. If God put the message in us, then we are not intended to keep quiet."
Sharing their perspectives as women in ministry and theology, Sarah and Nicolle answered a few questions.
How would you describe being a woman in theology and/or ministry?
Nicolle: Being a woman in theology is to be a minority who fights for vindication and visibility of (all) women. It is to be a promoter of the enrichment of theology from a feminine perspective, where hermeneutics allows us to discover the role of women in the biblical text, in history and in our time. It is to be critical of the speeches and practices that, based on the Bible, denigrate us or close spaces to us. It is being a collaborator in the creation of various ecclesial and social spaces for dialogue and sisterhood where everyone has a place.
Sarah: I am incredibly grateful to the fierce, stubborn, and faithful women who paved the way for me to do what I love most in the world, and that is walking with people through moments of joy and moments of deep sorrow and helping them identify where God is in it all. It is a privilege that people allow me to enter into their space. I also delight in the opportunity to join the beautiful saints before me to pave the way for other girls and women who feel called by God for ordained ministry, or any other leadership role in the church, especially my daughter Sunday Grace.
Sarah's Key Ministry Moment
Sarah: The key ministry moment for me wasn’t in a beautifully profound prayer, or a youth professing their faith and wanting a real authentic relationship with Christ. Those were of course incredibly moving and made my heart sing, but the key moments in ministry for me were when the youth loved each other fiercely. During one high school retreat, the youth were antsy at the end of the night to finish our program so they could pile 20 people in the hot tub on the roof of our rental. During our programming one boy broke down sharing about his grief of the sudden passing of a close relative. Immediately, the entire group began affirming him in his grief, many extending a caring hand or hug and others shared beautiful words of encouragement.. I was amazed when I looked at the clock and 3 hours had passed.
This key ministry moment was rarely initiated by me or others in leadership, these moments were initiated by them. These young people were living ambassadors of Christ’s love to one another. It gives me joy to know that although not all of them are called to be pastors, they are the young people who will be leading our governments, our hospital rooms, our corporate world, and hopefully will lead with this foundation of love.
What Progress Have You Seen Women Make in Ministerial Roles?
Nicolle: "From my point of view, women have opened spaces for their biopsychosocial-spiritual development. But, progress depends on constant resistance. In the ministerial area, they are still mostly those who occupy “domestic” roles within the churches. And, despite the fact that there are places where they can develop pastoral and leadership roles, their roles are still subject to expectations of masculinized profiles for the function. Women continue to develop in all areas, even in those in which they are historically excluded or made invisible. For this reason, it is necessary to continue raising awareness about their theological and social place so that their development within communities of faith and in society in general is complete.
Why Do You Believe It's Important to Celebrate National Women's History Month?
Sarah: I believe it is important for us to celebrate the progress that humanizing women has done for our society as a whole and the church. Not only humanizing but recognizing their gifts are vital in changing this world into being a more loving, generous, and restorative place. For this to happen, their heroic stories need to be shared
Nicolle: I think it is an important initiative because it allows us to make women visible. We can vindicate them, recognize their contributions, show solidarity with their struggles, dignify them and collaborate, both men and women, in the creation of a fairer society.
These answers are not enough to truly share the story of these two powerful women in ministry, but I hope that the impact of their voices rings out even via the written word. Women in ministry have come a very long way over time and this current leg of the race is still striding on in its beautifully graceful, yet fierce way.
We celebrate every woman making strides in ministry at Palmer. Happy Women's History Month!