Women pastors earn respect in area pulpits

Monday, August 4, 2003

A lot has changed in a generation

For women ministers in Buena Vista County, they don't feel as if their gender has been a hindrance in their profession. If anything, it provides another understanding of the word of God, they feel.

However, often it's their age that determines whether or not they've experienced any gender discrimination - or if it's even something they think about.

Pastor Beverlee Bell at the United Methodist Church in Storm Lake (above) says she's old enough to know it exists.

"The younger women are surprised when it hits them," she said. "They haven't dealt with it when growing up."

Pastor Emily Allen at First United Church in Sioux Rapids and Rembrandt United Methodist Church would agree.

"Being a woman has never been an issue for me as far as being a pastor," Allen said. "Personally, I think that's because of the way I was raised by my parents. I was taught it didn't matter what you wanted to do based on who you are. Also, 90 percent of the time I've had a female pastor."

Pastor Connie Spitzack at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Storm Lake feels older women who proceeded the current generation of ministers helped.

"I've had the benefit of women paving the way," Spitzack said. "People are more used to it - it has less of a shock value since they've had exposure to women in the ministry before me."

For both Allen and Spitzack, the clergy was their first choice for a career.

"It was really a calling," said Allen, who has been a pastor for five years - the past two in BV County. "I was in college for teaching and education but I knew that wasn't what I was suppose to be doing."

She talked with her pastor and did a lot of praying. "I figured out this is where I was suppose to be," Allen said.

"God can use anybody and a woman who feels she's called to be used in a certain area by God, whether it be in church or an extension of the church, can participate," she said. "Ministry can happen anywhere."

Spitzack has been a pastor for 11 years. "I thought the most faithful thing I could do is serve God," she said.

She did get her master's in social work while she was getting her master's in divinity, just in case.

"I think God knew the best way to work with me," she said.

Before making the decision to enter seminary in 1984, Bell had run her own abstract and title company.

Bell grew up in a call system, where individual churches seek out their own pastors. In the 1960s, Bell was not encouraged to enter the ministry, and was not led to think a church would hire a woman minister.

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