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My dad was a Methodist pastor.
As a result, my childhood was characterized by long car rides in which I was a passenger navigating the unique landscape of each church to which we were assigned.
One of my most worthwhile car rides was at the age of 15 when my dad served as senior pastor in Morgan City, Louisiana. His custom was to get up early every morning, then disappear to church.
One morning, my mom asked me if I could go and get him.
The church was walking distance from our home, so meeting her request was no problem.
I walked over and entered the church. The lights were out, so dark, so quiet.
Of course, I was accustomed to church, but not like this.
As I walked into the sanctuary, I found my father in something of a private moment.
He was on his knees before the altar, fingers woven together and head bowed in prayer.
I quietly stared at the back of his head for a little while, letting him do his thing.
When he was done, I delivered the message from my mom. I watched him go back to the parsonage, but I stayed.
Once Dad was gone, I took his place at the altar.
It seemed to be that what my dad had been up to have been of value.
I mean, he was obviously a man of God, but seeing him do his thing in private rather than in public struck a chord with me.
I picked up a little of what he’d put down.
I knelt before the altar and laced my own hands together. That is when I asked God, “What in the world was I called to do in life?
Anybody who is familiar with God knows full well that when God gives answers, they don’t always show up in the most direct manner, but this time, the answer was definite.
God had called me to preach.
Yet, when I left the church that day, I remained every bit the blank slate I’d been upon walking in.
The notion of ministry was certainly nowhere near my conscious mind.
Unknowingly, my dad had participated in the formation of my attitude toward preaching and ministry.
Here and there, though he didn’t necessarily underline and italicize the point, he made mention of the fact that the world of preaching, pastoring, or any type of ministry leadership was a tough one for women.
Specifically, as women of color, who face consistent discrimination.
We get passed over for jobs despite ample qualifications and fall prey to inappropriate men while having our authority, both professional and spiritual, undermined.
Given this, I made the choice to default on my call and my gifts out of a clear declaration of fear.
It’s funny, in a very odd way, to think back on this moment from the perspective of adulthood and reflect on my doubts and insecurities as a woman of color in ministry.
Having acquired eighteen years in ministry, here is something wonderful I’ve learned to be true: When you’re on the right path in life, God will introduce you to people who will be equipped to offer you just the help you need.
When we embrace and radiate our own authentic truth, others will be drawn, almost as if by a magnetic pull.
As such, I am forever indebted to the powerful community that surrounded me and nurtured me as I grew as a pastor and a leader.
It is almost as if this community served as a garden in which I became a seed to be nurtured.
Consequently, I embarked on a journey that facilitated a space in which I was able to co-create new forms of meaning while seeing some of my greatest challenges as some of my greatest opportunities for growth.
It is the essential nature of this type of community that calls me to be a leader for the Virtual Colloquy for Women of Color at Columbia Theological Seminary.
Having this community is essential to the development and well-being of women of color in ministry as we offer the opportunity to be challenged and to take risks while gaining insight from our personal experiences.
It is the opportunity to bless our humanness and honor our failings while being provided the support, care and companionship so needed in the world of ministry.
Essentially, it is the opportunity to be wrapped in divine partnership as we embark as passengers on a journey of transformation, learning, and imagination.
I invite you to join us on this incredible VIRTUAL journey! I promise you that the ride will be worthwhile!
Dr. McDonald serves as an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Research. With over 18 years of ministry experience as an educator and pastor. She is currently the pastor of St. Luke A.M.E Church/Cartersville.
Dr. McDonald seeks to educate churches and communities on the importance of implementing informal learning systems as a way of facilitating leadership and learning among Black youth and young adults. These systems are also imperative to their faith development, especially in light of adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s), trauma, and transition.
Her research and work in the community has involved working with the National Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives as well as the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Region IV in the area of Women’s Health focusing on trauma, faith development and health. In this way, she has provided churches and communities with the resources they need to move from trauma informed care to healing centered engagement. As a Christian education professor and Leadership Education Consultant, she lead the team that redesigned the AME church Sunday school curriculum and has served as a consultant in theological education arenas to develop leadership, curriculum and mentoring resources to future clergy and lay leaders within the Black church.