It. Was. Fantastic.
A half-day symposium for/about women in ministry. Ten of us been-there-doing-that types were invited to share our stories (good, bad or ugly) and overabundance of wisdom with students, both female and male. Each of us had 10-12 minutes, and I'll be honest with you, I practiced, I recorded myself repeatedly, I poured more work into this than I have poured into a public speaking project in a long time. And I still went overtime. But most of the others did too, so ... well, there it is. It's a rare occasion when we WIMs are offered a platform like that, and none of us wanted to forget anything.
I'm going to skip over the parts where I muse about the atmosphere of the college, which has changed significantly since I was there. I'm not going to mention the odd feeling of looking up at the residence window from which I watched the world go by in my first year.
Here's what I'm still thinking about, two days later.
Two or three times during the event, guys put up their hands and asked - "How can we support women in ministry when we get out there?" Of course my personal answer was along these lines. I have a few different speeches (rants) that I can roll out on demand, and that's one of them. Later, the Academic Dean made a point of mentioning the steady stream of male students that had already come to her with positive feedback about the event.
One woman told me on the side about the guy who is intentionally giving her space to learn and lead, because he had his eyes opened a few years ago about the things that women in ministry face, and he doesn't want to be "one of those guys". Another woman mused about the dour, Scottish-accented guy who pushed her years ago to get ordained when she thought it didn't matter. I, of course, was beyond delighted to give full acknowledgement to this guy, who has championed women in ministry for decades, and is one of my personal heroes. And then I thought about this guy, who gave me MY first job. I vaguely knew at the time that was a big deal, but almost 20 years later - I'm profoundly grateful that he acted as if it was normal for a female to be a pastor.
I thought about friends - one super-powerful business guy who gives me high-speed, pull-no-punches advice when I ask him. Another guy who now manages a staff "bigger than the town he grew up in" who helps me process ideas and policies with a lot of no-nonsense-common-sense. And others.
Of course, there's my own Dad - who told me I could do anything I set my mind to. Crazy. I believed him. Ridiculous. And Spike. He still thinks I'm "freakin' amazing," more than 20 years later. Poor deluded soul.
There is often talk about women-mentoring-women, but truthfully, I would be interested to find out how many other WIMs out there survived because of - rather than in spite of - one or more men.
And so, hats off to the other women who presented at this event. You were great.
But to the guys - those from decades past - and those who haven't yet graduated - to the guys who intentionally make room for women to lead in the church - you get an eternal standing ovation from me.
Let's hear it for the boys!