Female leaders share vocational insights

Photo courtesy of Truett Women in Ministry

By Rewon Shimray | Staff Writer

Four women serving in both formal and informal positions of ministry shared stories, advice and encouragement at the “Women of Valor” panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Paul & Katy Piper Great Hall.

A family physician, a vice provost and anthropologist and church leaders were all “very intentionally” chosen to be on the panel, according to event moderator, Dr. Gaynor Yancey — who serves as the faculty regent for the Board of Regents, as well as a professor, master teacher and director of the center for church and community impact in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

Truett Women in Ministry selected panel speakers who would represent the diverse positions of women pursuing their calling from God, Yancey said.

Beth Kilpatrick, who has done teaching, pastoring and inner city missions, said her parents would have preferred her to have a career what was “more Christmas card material” with a definitive label. Kilpatrick said her job title was never as significant as the opportunity to care for others.

Vice provost and anthropologist Dr. Lori Baker said she struggled with the unconventionality of her career as well. She never imagined using anthropology to identify deceased immigrants who attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It makes you a more thoughtful person to know that God has a plan for you, and you have to be diligent in figuring out what that is,” Baker said. “I was always willing to go into those uncomfortable situations, because I know they’ll be growing opportunities.”

Family physician and director of medical humanities Lauren Barron said that although it may sound “a bit reptilian and cold-blooded,” her calling to be a doctor always came before her desire for a family.

“My dream was my vocation,” Barron said. “My husband and kids came along for the ride.”

Pamela Rivera, an elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, said she had to make a choice when her then-husband was “very angry and rebellious” over her calling to ministry.

“It caused an end to my marriage, but it was a beginning to my life,” Rivera said.

Kilpatrick said she stayed in leadership positions, even when she was challenged, in order to continue to exemplify a woman authority figure for younger girls.

Raising more woman leaders requires making people “feel at home like they’re sitting on a couch with their feet up on a coffee table,” Kilpatrick said. Through this level of intimacy, women are able to deeply know each other and identify specific strengths for encouragement.

Kilpatrick said often the biggest challenge women have in leadership is often conflicts with other women. She said whenever women put aside their jealousy and competitiveness, they are able to recognize each other’s skills.

Women supporting women, according to Rivera, is key to increasing gender equality in the workplace.

Truett Women in Ministry president Brianna Childs said the name of the event “Women of Valor” was meant to disassociate women’s value from the typical Proverbs 31 checklist of characteristics.

“Women glorify God through the outpouring of who they already are,” Childs said.