By Christine Harris (newly appointed deacon at Second Baptist)
Last fall I was notified I had been nominated to serve as a deacon at Second Baptist Church. As I told our pastor, I was stunned and terrified. But I agreed to consider the idea and pray for discernment.
A few weeks later, I said ‘yes’. This is why.
I am a woman in my 70s, steeped from infancy in a traditional conservative Southern Baptist family, with preachers parading through our lineage for a century. Then at the age of 18, I married one with a background very similar to mine, which left little frame of reference for women serving as deacons. And from that point on I lived out my life trying to serve God within the parameters of my upbringing and my husband’s ministry. But always with me was a nagging little voice inside saying “Something isn’t right here. There’s so much more.” about many things, including roles women were permitted to fill in the church. I always shushed that voice, because I didn’t see any path to pursuing the questions it raised while maintaining the life and role I had chosen.
Ten years ago, that life and role changed abruptly and traumatically with the death of my husband in an auto accident. One of the most difficult losses from which to recover after that event was the complete loss of my own identity as I had understood it. But as I did recover, slowly I began to learn to be whole as one person instead of half of a partnership. With that came a new freedom to question the formerly unquestionable, and to search for that “so much more” I sensed was out there. This led me straight to Second Baptist Church where I could keep walking that path of freedom, loved and valued for who I am, encouraged to find and fill my own unique places of service.
Being invited to serve as a deacon, I realized I needed clear understanding of my own feelings about the role in order to make the right decision. I researched church history of the diaconate, read and reread everything the Scripture has to say about it, read and listened to trusted spiritual teachers about women in church leadership positions, and I prayed for discernment.
But when it came down to it, I realized I couldn’t make the decision from information and knowledge alone. It had to be made from my heart. The ultimate reason I said ‘yes’ lies in a simple statement Dr. Preston made when another candidate and I met with him about our nominations. After outlining what the role means to him and to the church, and what might be expected of us, he ended by saying “We want you to serve as you.” That’s really all I needed to know. I said ‘yes’ because in being invited to serve as myself, the false voices of the past that said there were limits to how the Creator could or would use female creations were finally silenced, and I am free.