I am a woman in ministry. That should not be such an earth-shattering statement. For most of my life, it wasn’t. See, I grew up always knowing that women could be pastors. From as far back as I can remember, there had always been a women clergyperson in my life or leading my church. It wasn’t until I was in college when I encountered for the first time the sentiment that, “women can’t be pastors…” and it wasn’t until seminary that I realized just how unusual it was among my classmates that I had always had a woman pastor. For me, that was just normal life.
As I was cataloging the women who have made an impact on me, my faith journey, and my journey towards ordination, I was struck by how many women were included...And I was also surprised at how many whose names I had forgotten. It was kind of like the “unnamed women” throughout scripture… These were women who showed me what it meant to be in ministry, but for the life of me, I can’t remember their names and part of me wonders if I ever knew them in the first place.
I am grateful for the women whose names I can remember and those that I still communicate with regularly. I probably still need to send out a few thank you notes or messages to some to thank them for just how much they impacted me and my life… And as grateful as I am to them (which I seriously am), I can’t get my mind off the unnamed women. So, this is a post in thanks for all of those whose names have been forgotten or have never even been known.
I’ve often been frustrated by the times that a woman appears in scripture and is not given a name. Maybe it’s my own need at times to feel recognition...I think for most people at some point in our lives, we want to be recognized for something, whether it’s something that we’ve done or are doing or just being recognized for existing! I’ll admit that some days I need it more than others and there are times when I’m surprised at what I need recognition for (and often times when I really think about it, it’s almost always something else and not the need that I get recognized for throwing my aluminum cans in the recycling bin rather than the garbage…). Especially when I read some of the things that these women in scripture have done, I want to just scream, “WHY DON’T YOU KNOW THEIR NAMES!?!?” I get it...it’s a different time….different place...different culture… But that still doesn’t stop me from wanting recognition for them.
So, when I started to think about these unnamed women in my own life, I started to feel a little bit frustrated with myself… Why can’t I remember the name of the first woman I heard preach? (Granted, I was basically in kindergarten...but still!)... Why can’t I remember the name of the woman who led a small group when I was in high school? Why didn’t I ask the name of the first woman who I saw wearing a clergy collar? Why don’t I remember the name of the woman who let a college student teach Sunday school whenever I was able to drop in?
I don’t know why I can’t remember their names...And I don’t know why I never thought to ask them their names...But I know that they impacted my life more than I might even know. As much as some days I just need recognition, I hope that someday I might be someone else’s unnamed woman: That something I said or did helped to affirm them in some way, shape, or form. To all of the unnamed women, thank you. You have been recognized.
Rev. Melissa Meyers serves as the lead pastor of Faith United Methodist Church in Genoa, IL. She earned her Associates in Arts Degree from Rock Valley Community College, BA in Religious Studies & Communication from the University of Dubuque (Dubuque, IA) and Masters of Divinity from United Theological Seminary (Dayton, OH). Melissa is passionate about ministry in the 21st century, connecting generations together, and pop culture. It is her not-so-secret desire to have her own reality show someday. You can find her blogging at pastormelissa.blogspot.com or on twitter @pastormelissa.