When Zina Jacque went to tell her pastor she had sensed God’s call to ministry, “He looked at me square in the face and said, ‘The God that I taught you did not call you into ministry.’ And if he slipped in those doors right now, he would tell me, which he has told me every time he’s seen me since then — that I’m an embarrassment.”
But she was called to serve by God, not by her longtime pastor, she told the 40th anniversary gathering of Baptist Women in Ministry, meeting at Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 4.
While her own pastor would not affirm her, others did, she said. Among those were J. Alfred Smith and E.V. Hill, two legends among Black Baptist pastors.
In a fiery sermon that brought the crowd to their feet, she quoted her “signature Scripture” — John 15:16, which says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”
The call of Jesus is not to be an apple, she said, holding up two varieties for display. “He says, ‘You are going to bear the fruit.’ He’s telling them they’re going to be apple trees or fruit trees.”
Jacque, who serves as assistant to the pastor for small groups at the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., previously served 15 years as pastor of Community Church of Barrington, Ill.
She turned her sermon into a lesson on how to grow apples — from gathering seeds to wrapping them in clusters in wet paper towels and putting them in a cold, dark place before planting them in the ground. She taught about how seeds are different and produce different tastes and how apple tree root stocks have to be grafted into each other in order to pollinate.
Then she addressed the biblical text from Esther about Queen Vashti, who refused the king’s request and thus set up a series of events that made Esther become queen. Esther, she said, was grafted into her position.
Esther uses her cunning, her beauty, her wisdom, her allies, her strength and even her fear, Jacque said. “Beloved, everything God has given you … there is nothing wasted in the divine economy of God. What is it that you’ve not been willing to use for God? Because you see, Esther used it all. She even used the ones who were going to come against her. … She looked at her enemies as opportunities and because we serve a living God, nothing can stop us.”
Baptist Women in Ministry is a group of women who have been willing to give their all to God, even when others said they couldn’t, the preacher declared. And in doing so, they have created a diversity like that of an apple orchard that requires different varieties planted near each other to produce delicious fruit.
The foremothers of BWIM wrapped their seeds carefully, cultivated them and planted them even when they didn’t know if fruit would bloom, she said.
Today, that variety includes an orchard of women who are Black and brown, queer and transgender and different in other ways, Jacque explained, highlighting the power of diversity to produce good fruit.
“It’s not easy,” she declared. “It’s not easy to cultivate different plants in the same ground because you have to pay attention to who needs water. You have to pay attention to who needs to be facing the sun. It’s not easy because they might bloom at different times, and you’ve got to watch that bloom so they can pollinate one another. It’s much easier to plant a single variety and treat it all the same, but you’ll not get a single delicious apple.”
The lesson, she said, is this: “We can decide to do it the easy way or we can decide to do the diversity of who we are.”
She quoted the Apostle Paul to urge, “Do not grow weary in well-doing for in due season you’ll reap.”