Called To Serve: Women In The Southern Baptist Convention -- By: Velma McGee Ferrell

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 02:1 (Fall 1984)
Article: Called To Serve: Women In The Southern Baptist Convention
Author: Velma McGee Ferrell

Called To Serve:
Women In The Southern Baptist Convention

Velma McGee Ferrell

Baptist Campus Minister,
Duke University

At age 63 Marie Bean is living out God’s call to pastoral ministry, which she first heard as a young woman of 18 in Mississippi. She had searched before—as a high school graduate, a college graduate, a young wife whose husband was in the navy, a minister’s wife, a recent widow in a Clinical Pastoral Care Education program. Her pastors and teachers suggested religious education or foreign missions, neither of which she knew was right; and then the}, and she assumed she had found her place when she married a minister. “I thought I could live out nay call through my husband,” she said recently. She is finally at peace with that call, employed as College Minister at Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, N.C., and now in her third year there. I sense her peace and fulfillment and recognize her gifts of ministry as she moves among us.

Her story, when I first heard it, so moved me that I asked her to retell it, with tape recorder running, as I planned toward this article. Why did I want to use her story, as I wondered how to begin? I heard her agonize over the memory of those years when she received from her teachers and mentors no affirmation for her gifts of ministry. She had wondered what was wrong with her, and she did not understand the reason for her confusion. There were no female models in the pulpit. She adds today, “I know that my experience is not unique—that is why I am willing to tell you.”

As I listened the second time, Marie described how, 15 months after her husband died, she again became clearly aware that she was to prepare herself for pastoral ministry. God had not given up. Cod called again, and Marie answered.

She sold her suburban house, although it would have been paid for in a few years and had a 5% mortgage. She had a good job at the Children’s Home, and she had three children, two of whom were in college and one still at home. She moved to Wake Forest, N.C., where she entered Southeastern Seminary, finally free to prepare herself vocationally for pastoral ministry. Her certainty of God’s call gave her courage to turn her back on the certainties of her life and prepare herself to be a minister, even though she was 57 years old and a woman. She had confidence in that call and in her own abilities. Somehow, in spite of the lack of encouragement to be fully who God had created her to be, she had learned that she had gifts of ministry and she had courage to develop them. Her own words speak clearly, “The whole impulse of my life has been ministry, and how to arrive at that.” She recalls one encounter during her seminary days. A visitor on campus asked her what sh...

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