That Time I Was the Only Woman in the Worship Service

That time was yesterday. I was invited to the PCA Potomac Presbytery to speak to about 70 men on the topic of equipping women in the church. This is an opportunity that I was pleased to accept. It’s one that I have written a lot about.  But I was also a bit nervous.
The Presbytery opened with worship at 10:00. I was to speak at 11:15, after the worship service, and then was invited to stay for lunch. They would be conducting all their business matters after lunch.
So I walked into a sanctuary full of men at McLean Presbyterian Church right before the service started. I saw some familiar faces, including my old pastor and some elders from the PCA church that my family belonged to for 11 years in WV; the pastor of our local PCA church in Frederick, MD; Paul Wolfe, whom we’ve interviewed on MoS; the pastor who invited me; and Dr. David Silvernail, who had me speak on preaching to women to his class at RTS DC a year ago. The pastor leading the worship welcomed all the men, and the one Mrs., inviting us to worship. As the music began, I became even more aware of my lone feminine voice. The men sang with vigor. It was quite beautiful to hear. Communion was served after the sermon. Not only was I the only woman in this service, but I believe I was the only layperson as well. I couldn’t help but consider how this interesting circumstance of me being there to worship with them served as a visual illustration setting up the topic of my talk---I represented the women in all their churches. They were very good to me.
But I was still a bit nervous. I had to say some hard things. I was going to ask difficult questions that required them to do some self-examination. I was there to plea on behalf of the women and to hopefully offer help in the areas I was critiquing. I didn’t want to come off sounding like a burned woman with an agenda, but as a sister in Christ who is on their side as a necessary ally. And I had 45 minutes to do it. I went over, of course.
There were a few minutes left for Q&A, and I didn’t know what to expect. Would anyone care? Would they be defensive? Did I connect? The hands flew up and many good questions were asked with great concern on this matter. A pastor from DC raised his hand to thank me for my work and for having the courage to get up there and say what I did. He lamented that he has never, in his years of seminary or pastoral training in the PCA, been trained on this topic of ministering to and with women in the church. He also invited a couple of women from his church to attend. It was good to see them come in right as I got started. Much of what I talked about came from the sections where I directly address church officers in No Little Women
We didn’t have enough time to get to all the questions, so I continued to talk one on one afterward over lunch. It was such an encouragement to me to see these pastors and elders so engaged in this important matter. I was blessed both by their kindness to me and their humility to learn from a laywoman. I learned a lot from our exchanges as well. My conversations with these men also confirmed what I knew---this message has to get out to more church officers.
Carl & Todd only suffered minor injuries after listening to me the 1st time.One reason I was a bit nervous was due to a reaction from a few PCA pastors on a Reformed Pubcast Facebook thread. I am one of the speakers at the Harvey Cedars Faithful Shepherd Pastor's Retreat, where I will be talking on this same topic. A pastor saw the advertisement for this retreat and posted it in the Facebook group saying how troubling it was that a woman would be speaking to pastors. Most commenters came to my defense, while this pastor and another accused me of being ungodly and immodest. I discovered this as one of the commenters tagged me, pointing out that I was not acting as a church officer myself in such a setting. I believe these men represent a minority in the church. But they are church officers and it was disturbing to be treated in such a way publicly on social media. More troubling was their views on listening to women. As you can see, Carl and Todd only suffered minor injuries the first time they listened to me.
So yesterday’s talk was my first opportunity to address church officers on equipping women in their churches as necessary allies. These men modeled good shepherding. They were hospitable, clearly defined the liturgy of the beginning and end of the worship service, transitioned well into the next part of the meeting with a woman speaker, humbly engaged in the topic and noted it’s significance, and personalized it to their local church situations by asking good questions. No one was condescending or dismissive. No one was defensive. One pastor cleared my plate for me. They bought a bunch of my books to dig deeper into the topic and bring it to their churches. I drove home encouraged for the church. I hope to have more opportunities like this one.

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