Dear Church: Intimate Letters from Women in Ministry
Dorothy D. France (ed.), Chalice Press
This is quite a good little volume; it consists of 35 letters written by women ministers from the American denomination Disciples of Christ.
Although the letters are divided into different forms of ministry — local pastors, associates, regional staff, general staff, academic staff, publishers, mothers/daughters, some not applicable to the Uniting Church in Australian model — the content of the letters outweigh the differences.
I particularly liked the section which featured mothers and daughters.
At first, I was a little concerned that the letters would just be glowing reports about how wonderful ministry is but the letters also address disappointments within the church, particularly those that relate to gender issues, with certain churches still unwilling to call women ministers.
Several relate to health issues and the marvellous support they received from church families.
I found that I couldn’t digest this in large chunks; instead, I read a letter each night. This enabled me to appreciate the merit of each letter and to see each letter as a reflection on what it means to be called to ordained ministry.
For many of the ministers, their call came early, while they were at church camp, with on-going mentoring. These experiences made me wonder about our Australian church culture; we don’t tend to foster summer camps (with the exception of NCYC).
There are pearls of sound advice: “Do not limit your vision to what you can imagine”; “remember that one of the distinguishing marks of a prophet is a resistance to God’s call. Yet, God will be faithful to you in this journey”; “I do not see the way in front of me, but I trust in the One who does”; “God loves a cheerful giver. I believe that as you give your life to Christ that applies as well.”
This would be a useful book for those (particularly female) entering a period of discernment and for others reflecting/praying about their own sense of call.
The Rev. Barbara Allen