Welcome to a new feature—the Ordiversary Party! I’m not sure when we started using the word “ordiversary” but it feels like a quintessential RevGals word to me. For more than a decade, we have been celebrating women in ministry of all kinds, offering resources and support and building community. What better way than to celebrate our ordination anniversaries!
So we’ll be celebrating ordiversaries each month, with a profile of a RevGal who was ordained that month, and then a chance for others ordained the same month to chime in, and for the rest of us to cheer and celebrate with you!
This month is extra special, too, because our very first Ordiversary Party is being kicked off by none other than the founder of RevGalBlogPals, the Reverend Sally-Lodge Teel! I asked her to share about her journey into ministry, her memories of her ordination, and what she has had to learn repeatedly throughout forty years of ministry!
I was ordained on June 25, 1978, in Oxford, Mississippi USA. My journey to ordination began my senior year of college when I realized I had a call to ministry, particularly to preaching. I rode a bus from South Carolina to Richmond, Virginia to see Union Seminary. I saw my very first clergywoman! Before this, I knew women in ministry existed, I’d just never see one. I told my parents about my call which they insisted I meant being a Christian educator, a DCE (Director of Christian Education). I applied to Union and studied there until I transferred to Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
When I was ready to be ordained, I began interviewing with churches. It was obvious to me that the churches were trying to be polite by spending an hour with me but had no intention of having a woman preacher. “We aren’t ready for a lady minister”, was the repeated comment. I kept interviewing and received a call to the church in Oxford.
During the St. Andrew presbytery examination, the moderator told the assembled commissioners, “If you don’t feel it’s right to ordain women, that’s fine.” I thought my head would explode, but fortified with enough Pepto-Bismol to keep me from hurling, I answered all the questions including tracing Paul’s missionary journeys and what I would do if people drank alcohol around me. Presbytery voted me in by the skin of my teeth. I am the first clergywoman ordained by the PCUS, (now PCUSA) in Mississippi.
I don’t remember much about my ordination day almost 40 years ago. My parents drove down from North Carolina. Mama made a red stole for me, by hand. On the collar is a folded lace-edged white handkerchief. Men’s liturgical stoles had this feature to catch hair oil. I treasure the stole even if I’ve never used hair oil. But that’s the way it was then. Isolated; couldn’t catalogue order anything but men’s vestments; few images of clergywomen. For years, I was the only woman minister ever seen by people. Thank you, God, those days are over!
Looking back, I’m filled with gratitude for my call to ministry. I’ve done some things well and other skills I’ve been slow to learn. Keeping my mouth shut when silence and a good stare would have saved me misery might be my worst unlearned lesson. I regret, too, not being more assertive in my earlier years but, according to my colleagues, I made up for this pretty well.
People ask me, “what is the best thing about being a clergywoman?” Being a woman is all I know. For me, the acute joy of being able to work with people, inside and outside of the church, is overwhelming. Clergy are invited to be in the best and worst situations with people so I’ve rejoiced with the happy and wept with the suffering. This is an honor I cherish.
I asked Sally-Lodge what advice she would give to those being ordained into their first calls this month:
You gals being ordained this month, here is my advice: learn from everyone—the great and the terrible; be yourself, be gentle with yourself, pray more than you think necessary, don’t write your sermons on Saturday night, be kind to old lady preachers, read fiction and the news, make friends with people who make you laugh, feel all your feelings and love Jesus.
I’m sitting at the desk in my study where RGBP began. I’m so very proud of all of you and what you are for this hurting world. You are my ministry family.
Thank you Sally-Lodge! You are a gift, to us and to the church, and I am so grateful for all you have done in so many ways. Happy Ordiversary, and thanks for kicking off the June party, and all the parties to come!
How about the rest of you June-ordained peeps? What do you remember about your ordination day? And what advice would you give to those being ordained this month?
Let’s celebrate together—Happy June Ordiversaries!!
The Rev. Teri Peterson is a Church of Scotland minister in the west of Scotland. She’s been there just a few months, after over a decade in ministry in the PCUSA, having been ordained when RGBP was a new thing. She’s glad to know Sally-Lodge and other RevGals and BlogPals who have made this ministry life not just surviveable (though that too!), but a joy. And, being a 7 on the Enneagram, she’s super excited about monthly Ordiversary Parties! Teri blogs occasionally at Clever Title Here, and is the co-author of Who’s Got Time: Spirituality for a Busy Generation.
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