Oh yeah, I’m a woman pastor

When you are in a community of faith in which you are supported and affirmed as woman pastor, it is easy to forget that the concept of a woman as the pastor of a church is foreign and unusual to many people. My church, Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship, ordained me on December 7 in a service that I will treasure for the rest of my life as a minister.

Interestingly, in the wake of this incredible affirmation of my call, as a we celebrated our Advent missions emphasis at a local transitional housing for adults with special needs, there was a moment in which I was reminded that being ordained as a baptist woman and being able to preach every week is unusual. As we were gathering to share a meal with the residents we adopted for the Christmas season, the director of the facility welcomed us and then explained that the pastor would say a blessing before our meal. The residents were looking around the room at each of the men who were there, but none of them began to pray.

As the director observed, she explained that I was the pastor and would be saying the blessing. Time stood still for just a couple of seconds as all the eyes of the residents turned to the opposite side of the room. “You?” Their eyes asked. “Me.” I responded silently with a slight nod of my head and I began to pray.

I sat beside one of the residents who is deaf and we shared a meal together. He tapped me on the shoulder and began to write with the pen and paper that was beside his plate.

Are you the pastor?

He asked.

Yes! Have you ever met a woman pastor?

Instead of writing his response, he looked at me and shook his head from side to side. Not knowing how the rest of the conversation was going to unfold, I simply smiled. He picked up the pen again.

I’m Christian.

I realized in that moment that he was not concerned about my gender, my age, or my name. He wanted to share his life with someone. He wanted to talk to someone who would offer the spiritual guidance that he needed. He wanted to connect with someone and with the divine.

In the midst of being ordained, I have been called pastor and reverend more often than I have been called Merianna or a woman. I am slowly realizing that it is those titles and what those titles that are cries of help and cries to be comforted and heard that are more important than my identity as a woman.

I am a pastor who happens to be a woman.


Merianna Neely

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About the Author
Merianna Neely Harrelson is a third year divinity school student at Gardner-Webb University. She is serving as the Interim Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship in Lexington, SC. She works as Editor-in-Chief of Harrelson Press in Columbia, SC.

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  • MM237

    Another of those who needs to go and re-read what was set down in scripture about pastors and that men are the ones meant to lead.

  • LetsGoBravesfan

    MM237, I respect your right to adhere to your own theological convictions, even if I think they are very, very wrong. Thats what it means to be a Baptist. What bothers me is the arrogance displayed by your comment. I’m sure the author (along with most people who support women’s ordination) are aware of the scripture you are referring to. We just don’t share the same interpretation that you do. Next time instead of dismissing someone as ignorant you can ask why she doesn’t feel those passages prohibit her ministry and maybe learn something about Christians who are a little different from you.

  • carolyn

    Men are only allowed to speak, and the scripture goes on to say that women will be saved through childbirth. Guess you believe that too.

  • Ginklestinker

    A generous dose of acrophobia might do you some good !