Women in Ministry: Phoebe After All

Rev. Christine A. Smith is a gifted writer, pastor, and encourager; in addition to her work as a pastor, she has been supporting fellow women in ministry through her blog, Shepastor. Today she shares her call story. 

I feel a strong connection to God’s word spoken to Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." Jer 1:5 (NASB). Before marriage, my mother almost became a nun. Upon leaving the convent, she prayed that the Lord would call one of her children. I believe that I am that child. My mom fondly recalls that during her pregnancy with me, she had a dream that her fraternal grandmother told her that she would have a girl and that the girl should be named, “Phoebe.” Although my mom forgot about the dream and instead named me, “Christine,” the dream had profound implications.

According to Romans 16:1, Phoebe was a servant/leader in the church. It is my belief that the dream foreshadowed God’s calling upon my life. My parents instilled in each of their children the importance of living lives pleasing to Almighty God, a good education and becoming responsible, respectful, honest, people. My parents’ teaching helped me to develop a strong Christian faith that is an integral part of my vision for life and ministry.

Although I was raised Catholic, through a series of events, I ended up attending church with a Baptist friend. At the age of fifteen I joined church and was baptized. By the age of sixteen, I was working with the Christian Education department, helping to design and display bulletin boards; write and direct Easter and Christmas programs, singing in the choir and working as an assistant teacher.

At the age of sixteen, God spoke to my heart and called me to preach. Praise God when I went to my pastor, he did not discourage me because I am a woman. I was initially uncomfortable with the idea, but my pastor assured me that he would pray with and for me and that the Lord would lead me in the way that I should go. About a year later, I preached my initial sermon and was licensed in my home church.

After college, I entered seminary and earned the Master of Divinity degree. Two aspects of my seminary training helped shape my ministry, (1) My work as a research assistant in the Bible Department and (2) My work as an intern in the Black Women in Church and Society Internship Program. In the BWCS program, I worked with homeless women, helping them to get food and shelter. I also worked as a student counselor in an “At Risk” youth program in Atlanta, GA.

As I grew in the ministry, I realized that God was calling me to become a pastor. It was not my first choice or desire, if I am honest. The “call,” however, is not something one chooses – it chooses you! Like Jacob wrestled with the angel, I wrestled with God about the ministry. Truth be told, I simply wanted to go to school, get a decent job, get married, have children and live happily ever after. God had another plan. While I did go to school, get a “decent” job, get married and have children, God also called me to serve as a pastor, leader, author and blogger! Like a beautiful gift carefully packaged, God “packages us” and allows life to slowly unwrap the layers until the gifts inside emerge. My dream was exchanged for God’s. In God’s dream, I have discovered the true desires of my heart. I am Phoebe after all!

About This Week's Contributor
A native of Akron, Ohio, the Reverend Christine A. Smith accepted Jesus Christ as her personal savior at the age of fifteen. She answered a call to the Gospel Ministry and was licensed to preach in the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Akron, Ohio at age seventeen. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education Degree, specializing in Learning Disabilities and Developmental Handicaps (1987) from the University of Akron. She holds a Masters of Divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center, Morehouse School of Religion in Atlanta, Georgia, specializing in Systematic Theology and Women’s Studies (1990). In 1993 Rev. Smith joined the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio under the pastorate of the Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., and was ordained to the Gospel Ministry in 1995. She served Olivet as Minister of Christian Education for three years. Rev. Smith was featured in the African American Pulpit as one of the “Twenty to Watch” (Winter 2001-2002 issue, Judson Press).

In January 2006, Rev. Smith became the pastor of the Covenant Baptist Church, Wickliffe, Ohio. She holds the distinction of becoming the first female Pastor of Covenant, the first African-American Pastor of Covenant and the second female Baptist pastor in the Greater Cleveland Area (of a mainline denomination - American Baptist). She currently serves as President of the Board of Trustees of the Cleveland Baptist Association as well as “Executive Leader” of the Association, while it is without an Executive Minister. In 2009, Rev. Smith wrote and successfully secured a grant from the National Minister’s Council (ABC/USA) to begin, “Women Together in Ministry of Greater Cleveland.” WTIM is a network designed to connect, encourage and support women in ministry. She also produces a weekly blog, “Shepastor,” (http://shepastor.blogspot.com) a site dedicated to providing encouragement, guidance, words of wisdom and instruction to female clergy. In 2012, the Cleveland Plain Dealer featured an article written by Rev. Smith entitled, “Being persistent in pursuit of social justice,” in the March 3, 2012 Messages of Faith column.

In February, 2013, Rev. Smith’s first book: Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors (Judson Press) was released. Rev. Smith is the proud wife of Aristide Smith, Jr., and blessed mother of three wonderful children: two sons - Aristide III and Caleb and a daughter, Aris Christine. Truly, God has been good to the Reverend Christine A. Smith. For His loving kindness and tender mercies, she simply says, “To God be the glory for the things He has done!”

About the Women in Ministry Series 
The Women in Ministry Series is a collection of guest posts that aims to provide an alternative to the women in ministry debates by telling the stories of women in ministry and encourage women to explore their God-given callings.

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