Have you ever started a new job and were both excited and apprehensive? That’s how I felt when I started my new job as pastor of Hopewell Church. You see, I grew up in Piney Woods and I knew how things worked. But it’s always been my dream to return home. So when presented with the opportunity I let my excitement outweigh anything else. I invite you to come with me and share the thrill I felt as a senior pastor. The following excerpt is from the book Woman In The Pulpit.
Grace Alexander placed her foot on the brake pedal, slowing the car so she could enjoy the colors of fall. Gold. Scarlet. Burnt Orange. Forest Green. Cocoa Bean. Bright Yellow. Burgundy. A kaleidoscope of vivid colors covered the trees. Every warm hue on the color spectrum was represented. Joy washed over her as the brilliant rays of the sun bathed each leaf and enriched its gloss. Trees lined the winding road majestically, each more breathtaking than the other. Every now and then a breeze rustled the trees and leaves of all colors floated to the ground. This was the part of the drive home that she loved best. When she reached this stretch of road she was almost there.
This time she was coming home to stay.
The silver Toyota Camry had served her well. A high school graduation present from her parents, it had gotten her through college and through three years of studying for her doctoral degree. She planned to keep it in good running condition for another few years.
The back seat was piled with boxes of books and other personal items. The front seat held her Bose music system and her collection of jazz CD’s. When life seemed to overwhelm her, jazz soothed her soul.
When money had been tight she had taken occasional singing gigs in the jazz clubs of Boston. Singing was second nature to her. She grew up singing at every event and every program in town and around the state. Everybody told her she would be a star someday.
But to Grace singing was personal. She did not have a desire to share her talent with the world. She only did it out of necessity. Thankfully those days were behind her. She was coming home to pursue her real dream. A dream she had held since high school.
It all seemed so easy. Too easy perhaps. First college. Next graduate school. Then dream fulfilled. No struggle involved.
She wasn’t complaining. Grace knew she was fortunate to get this job. She had been lucky all her life. Things just seemed to fall into place for her.
She hoped things would fall into place in her new job just as easily. What she was doing did not fit into men’s expectations for women. They were used to seeing a church being led by a man. Would they think she was the wrong vessel to lead them?
Grace shook her head to clear all the cobwebs away. Since when had she been concerned about what other people thought of her? She knew her calling. And she was going to carry it out.
She also knew everything was not going to go smoothly. She was prepared for opposition. She would not be well received in every situation. She knew that. But she hoped everyone would be civil and that they could all respect each other while going about their work.
Men would not be her only problem. There were women who felt the same way. They wanted, rather they needed, to be led by men. As much as they wanted equality on their jobs and in every other aspect of their lives, on Sunday mornings they wanted to see a man in the pulpit.
Grace brought her attention back to her beautiful surroundings. She drank in the lively, vibrant colors of the trees. Nothing was going to mar this sight for her. And negative thoughts would not dampen her enthusiasm for her new job.
She was going home.
Grace put a CD in her car’s music system and sang along with the jazz classic.
“What A Difference A Day Makes.
Twenty-Four Little Hours…
Brings The Sun And Flowers
When it Use To Be Rain.”
She passed a sign:
Welcome To Piney Woods, Tennessee
Grace put her foot to the pedal and accelerated.
Grace’s well-manicured hands, adorned with ripe peach fingernail polish, rested easily on the steering wheel. She parked her car in front of Hopewell Church, a large imposing stone structure. The sign on the lawn announced for all to see:
REV. DR. GRACE ALEXANDER
She took a moment to savor the feelings rushing through her body. One of the mainline high profile churches had called her to be their pastor. What great luck! A lot of movers and shakers of Piney Woods worshipped at Hopewell. She would be watched by everyone to see how she managed the church. She would have a highly visible platform on which to implement her programs. She had many new ideas she wanted to try out at Hopewell. If they worked she would write books and give seminars so she could help other ministers. In her wildest dreams she never imagined a plum assignment such as this.
She had thought it would take many years of working on the ministerial staffs of other churches before she assumed her first pastorate. She had been offered three such positions on the staffs of prominent churches on the East Coast. When her mother had told her that Hopewell’s pulpit was vacant, she could not resist the impulse to apply.
Rev. Odell Robinson, the former pastor of Hopewell, had been named senior pastor of a mega-church in Memphis. His preaching was legendary. He had made much of his three years in Piney Woods. Hopewell had been his base of operation as he developed a national following. His gift of preaching had taken him all across the country. Grace had even gone to support him when he came to Boston.
When Hopewell’s pulpit committee had called her for an interview, Grace had dropped everything to fly home. The interview had gone well. She knew everyone on the committee personally. Community leaders. Former teachers. Family doctor. They were used to new ideas and new programs. They wanted someone who would continue where Rev. Robinson had left off. Someone who would keep Hopewell on the national stage. They felt Grace was the person to do so.
When the call came announcing their selection, Grace was ecstatic. She had no reason to mull over any other offers. She knew what she wanted. She was going home.
Now she was here. She felt like pinching herself to make sure this was real.
Her first pastorate. Wonderful! Marvelous! Words could not describe her innermost feelings.
She was glad to be home.
For more information on the book Woman In The Pulpit and the story of my first year as pastor of Hopewell Church visit: Woman In The Pulpit