Past Women in Ministry Profiles
Meet Frances Taylor Gench
By Jessica Denson
To say that faith runs in the Rev. Frances Taylor Gench’s family is a massive understatement. She’s a fifth-generation Presbyterian minister and has been married for more than 31 years to the Rev. Roger J. Gench, senior pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. Her “experience of Christian grace” began before she could even consciously form thoughts about her infant baptism. Continue Reading
Meet The Elder Joyce Rarumangkay
By Jessica Denson
Elder Joyce Rarumangkay moved to Washington, D.C. from Indonesia in 1989 for her job, bringing her husband, Henry, and 4-year-old daughter, Patricia, with her. She had grown up in the Indonesian Protestant Church, but when looking for a faith home, she and her husband felt drawn to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) because of its similarity with their church at home, especially its stance on gender. Continue Reading
Meet The Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner
By Jessica Denson
"I'm an interesting visual for folks who are not used to seeing women in the pulpit. My very presence and higher voice can challenge assumptions about who should have leadership and a voice in the church."
The Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner is pastor and the head of staff at Black Mountain Presbyterian Church in North Carolina. The church sits in the mountains just 20 miles from Asheville and right outside the gates of the Montreat Conference Center.
Shannon describes her leadership role at the church as a “generalist” and, among many other duties, she preaches and leads weekly worship, resources several committees, supervises staff, does pastoral care and visitation, sits on the Union Presbyterian Seminary Board of Trustees, and is co-chair of the NEXT Church Strategy team, a movement within the domination that wants to inspire imagination and encourage healthy congregational leadership. Continue reading
Meet Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri
Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri doesn’t have the title of missionary or pastor, but her service to the church goes beyond the traditional Presbyterian roles.
“Sometimes we confuse evangelism, believing it only comes in one or two forms,” she says. “But in reality, it is in everything
we do. You don’t have to get into a plane or drive faraway to witness. You do it where you are.”
Vilmarie calls herself a “cradle Presbyterian.” She grew up in
the church in Puerto Rico and always felt called to share
her faith with others. But she says it took a little time for her to
realize she could witness in ways she never expected.
“For many years I didn’t think I was doing anything extraordinary. Missionaries go everywhere and seem to do amazing things,” she said. “For some time, I wondered if being a high school teacher would further the cause, if I was doing enough.” Continue reading.
Judy Wellington on Native American Ministries
By Jessica Denson
For Native American Presbyterians, one of the biggest challenges is the absence or lack of spiritual leaders to guide their congregations.
“There are very few teaching elders,” said Pastor Judith Wellington, who serves at La Mesa Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, N.M. “We are now looking at how to provide the leadership development that is needed for where we find ourselves because even though some young Natives have graduated from seminary, they are unable to find jobs because of the economic realities on reservations.” Continue reading.
Vera Swann (center in green) with her family and church members
By Jessica Reid
In India in 1952, it wasn't easy to be a Christian. But for missionary Vera Swann, who spent 12 years there, it was a time and a place that led to a deepening of her own Presbyterian faith.
"When you see certain people accepting Christ despite a terrible cost, you grow. Many of those who became Christians did so knowing their families would denounce them. I can't imagine that pain."
Vera Swann is the matriarch of a family of Presbyterian women and men who believe in the inherent value of education, faithfulness to God, and service to others. The family has five PhDs among them, and Vera earned a master's degree in social services at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., one of the racial ethnic universities related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Continue reading.
Christ's Love in Art
By Jessica Reid
"I hope to capture the beauty of God in each person and share the richness and diversity of all people."
Betty Meadows is an artist. She's also the General Presbyter of the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery. She has filled the role for more than 15 years. Before coming to Kentucky, Betty served as associate executive for evangelism in Greater Atlanta for seven years and as a pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Iowa Park, TX, for six years.
Linda Morgan Clement
An unexpected path to ministry: God's call to college chaplaincy
By Toni Montgomery
As the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Linda Morgan Clement, chaplain and director of Interfaith Campus Ministries for the College of Wooster (Oh.), knew she definitely did not want to go into ministry as a career. Adopted from China as a baby, Linda has lived in the United States since she was 18 months old, and for most of her childhood, her father served as a parish minister.
"I guess I would honestly say [that] in both a positive and a negative way probably the greatest influence on me was my father," she says. "I have incredible respect for his ministry, but it was clear to me [ministry] would not be a good setting for me."
Mindy Douglas Adams
When God Surprises and Delights and the Spirit Leads
By Angela Williams Reese
As a New Church Development pastor, Rev. Mindy Douglas Adams knows the vulnerability felt in risk but also the life-giving possibility of renewal. "All throughout Scripture God is doing new things, you either join God or fight God." she says. Yet, what God placed in her at an early age- the desire to be with people- was the passion used to bring newness and surprises in her future ministry career.
A second-generation Presbyterian pastor, after her mother, Douglas Adams was set toward a career in science until surprisingly her life changed in a weekend. One summer before her senior year at Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, God called and she never looked back. Her decision didn't surprise many people around her, not even her fellow scientists. She received another "affirmation and confirmation" as she prepared a speech- turned sermon. God was speaking, "not audibly but there was an internal voice… it was very clear," she says.
Third career charm:A California congregation and its third-career pastor find new life in a fresh approach
By Toni Montgomer
The Rev. Sarah Reyes finds herself - like so many other women in the Presbyterian Church - leading a small congregation, but her unique path may ideally suit her to the challenges the job presents.
Ministry is actually her third career. Reyes spent 21 years working in the California state legislature, and after that she spent eight years at a Stockton, CA, high school working as a project coordinator for a Drug Free School program started by the state.
An advocate for the marginalized
By Emily Enders Odom
Associate, Mission Communications
General Assembly Mission Council
Raised Presbyterian in a small church in rural Kansas that did not have enough critical mass for a youth program, Cindy Eschliman felt left out.
"Because I got the message that it was not important enough to have a youth group for one kid," Eschliman says, "my parents were open to my trying the other youth programs in our community."