I have been blessed throughout my life and ministry to be surrounded by Christian women who have been my source of strength and support. Some of these women have been in my life since my childhood and others have come into my life during the different seasons of my life and ministry. No matter when I’ve met these women, they each have played a special role in my life.
My mother, April Smith, is the first woman of faith that has played a very instrumental role in my life and ministry. When I first acknowledged my call to ministry at the tender age of 13, my mother was the first one to validate my call. I can remember her words so clearly, “I always knew that God had a special anointing on your life. There was just something different about you since you were a young girl.” My mother’s words gave me the hope and confidence I needed to begin my journey towards answering God’s call. Her ongoing support of my call inspired my decision to prepare for ministry by majoring in Religious Studies and Sociology in college.
I was blessed to have a mother that prayed with me and for me until she died in 1995. I was also blessed that my mother lived long enough to attend my Ordination services and to celebrate my first appointment. My mother was and continues to be with me (in Spirit) every step of my journey.
I was blessed to meet another woman of faith, the Reverend Dr. Barbara Isaacs, who was serving as the campus minister at the time I entered college in 1986. I knew I had decisions to make as I sought to answer my call to ministry and by God’s grace, Reverend Isaacs took me under her wing and began to mentor me. She took time to learn my faith story and about my call to ministry, even sharing her own story of faith and call with me.
As a result of Rev. Isaacs’s mentoring, I was given opportunities to participate in several International Mission trips she led. I traveled to Nicaragua, El Salvador and Africa. She assisted me in getting a Summer Mission Internship with the General Board of Global Ministries. Rev. Isaacs provided me leadership opportunities that opened the door for me to serve on the planning team for the college’s first Civil Rights Conference and to serve on the interviewing team for the hiring of the college’s first Multi-Cultural Affairs Director. She has been a rock in my life. She was very instrumental in helping me to develop my leadership and oratory skills, as well as further clarifying my calling into the Ordained Ministry. Rev. Isaacs was also helpful, as were my parents, with my decision to attend Seminary in preparation for a life in ministry.
I had a great Seminary experience! In the same year I graduated Seminary (1993), I married my college sweetheart and was appointed to a church where I served as an Associate Pastor. While I was both ready and excited to serve, I had a lot to learn. I can name several women, both lay and clergy, who supported me. They prayed for me and offered words of wisdom and encouragement. They all wanted me to be effective in my ministry and happy in my marriage. I knew that if there was anything I needed I had these women of faith to call upon. It truly does takes a village…!
In July of 1996, I was appointed to my second parish where I served as a solo pastor at the age of 27 years old. I had just buried both my mother and my father who died eight months apart from each other. This was a very difficult season in my life. While this was an exciting time in my life and ministry, I was grieving the loss of my parents and had inherited the responsibility of administering my parent’s estate and caring for my younger brothers and sisters. By the grace of God, I met a great woman of faith by the name of Florence Mitchell. Florence was a long-time, older member of my new church. Florence attended worship regularly and the Bible Study I led. Florence would come to the office to visit with me, to share her story of faith and took an interest in learning my story. Florence demonstrated that she had a profound respect for my ministry and was intrigued by my story of faith and courage.
Florence and I developed a special bond. She covenanted to pray for me and to be a confidant for me as deemed appropriate. Upon being reappointed to a different church in 2001, Florence offered to keep her covenant. Since meeting Florence in 1996, I have given birth to two daughters, completed a Doctorate of Ministry degree, served in three different appointments in different contexts, given leadership to two General Church Agencies, become an endorsed candidate for the Episcopacy and more. Through it all, Florence has been a source of strength and support. Florence is now 79 years old and has moved to Atlanta. She continues to pray for me. She prays for my marriage and family. She prays for my ministry. She affirms my leadership. She reminds me to keep balance and to take care of myself. She calls me and visits with me. Florence is an embodiment of God’s love and provision.
What a journey! I praise God for the great women of faith who have been instrumental in helping to shape and form me into the woman of God I am today. There are others who are not named here but are named in my heart. During every season of my life and ministry, God continues to surround me with a community of love and support. To God be the glory!
Rev. Dr. Tracy Smith Malone is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. She has pastored several churches during her 23yrs years in ordained ministry She is currently the District Superintendent of the Chicago Southern District and Dean of the Cabinet in the Northern Illinois Conference. She is a delegate to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences and an Endorsed Candidate for the Episcopacy.