In the middle of a not-so-quiet street in Northeast Minneapolis resides a single-family house affectionately named, “The Parsonage.” The white picket fence lining the front, reminiscent of friendly suburban neighbors, it the only separation between the house on the left (previously the home of over a dozen marijuana-packed refrigerators) and the house on the right (previously the home of a stereo-blasting funk-band). Walking down the street on any given day you can hear the shouts of arguing couples, the frequent shrills of sirens, and the occasional gunshots.
I live in this single-family house in Northeast Minneapolis with five other unrelated women. This is odd to the outside world— that a group of women would willingly choose to live on such an uncertain street and label themselves with something that comes across so stodgy. Though, listing off our vocations might help to clarify: one pastor, three Masters of Divinity students (aka “pastors-in-training”), one worship leader, and me, the writer.
Don’t feel bad if you were caught off guard by the name “parsonage”; everyone is, even those most adherent to their egalitarian views. Six unmarried women and a dog living in an estrogen-filled environment do not lend themselves obviously to this title. How could they? Female pastors feel so few and far between that any word indicative of church leadership—pastor, parson, priest—rarely (if ever) conjures the image of a woman.
Somehow, six such female leaders gravitated towards one another and decided to take on the task of community living. And I’ve managed to squeeze my way into a house packed with empowered women. Some days I feel like I’m riding on their coat tails. With a semester left of undergrad I am often sidelined by classes and homework, while these women go about daily routines that include shepherding individuals and leading entire church congregations.
Watching these women work through their spiritual gifts is beautiful. From the perspective of an observer, these leadership positions appear normal, a natural part of who they are. However, I know each of my roommates possesses a past (and present) familiarity with obstacles.
I had a conversation with my roommate/landlord/pastor (phew, that’s a list of titles), about her experiences as a woman pastor. Primarily, I wanted to know about the adversity, but what compelled me to listen was her humility on the subject.
“I’ve had people come up to me after church and tell me that they were no longer going to attend, because there is a woman pastor.”
My mouth gaped at the comment. I never attended a church with a woman pastor before this last year and for most of my life was raised in oblivion to the complementarian/egalitarian debate. Though my upbringing did not instill any negative stigmas in regards to female leaders, I simply never engaged the topic because male pastors always fit the norm.
“Sometimes people just stop attending. I find out later through another person that it is because I’m a pastor there.”
At this point I likely mouthed the word, “wow.” I felt horrified and discriminated against because of my gender, though I was merely listening rather than experiencing.
“What did you do?” came my angsty response.
“Remain respectful. I don’t expect everyone to conform to what I believe. I just expect people to stick to a consistent interpretation of the Bible, rather than take a few passages out of their context to uphold one side of a debate.”
These examples of humility from such strong women have challenged the ways in which I carry on in my daily life. Conversations about gender issues and theology are relatively common place and I find myself being stretched as I listen to how my roommates respond to the repercussions of their faithful obedience to this vocation. Though I have never felt the same call to preaching, I hope to emulate their boldness and humility as I fulfill God’s design, unrestricted by the singular fact that I was created “female.”