The year was 1978, and all three of my children were in school for the whole day for the first time. So when I saw a blurb for a conference co-sponsored by Fuller Seminary in our hometown—a conference on women in ministry—I decided I wanted to go.
The whole topic was new to me. Growing up, I had never seen a woman pastor, never heard a woman preach. I’d heard women speak—Henrietta Mears, Corrie Ten Boom—but preach? Nope.
To tell you the truth, it had never entered my consciousness as an adolescent or young adult that women might be both capable of and gifted by God to lead in worship. But now, in my early thirties, I began to sense that the Spirit was doing something new and quite wonderful in the church. And I wanted to know more about it, to hear the scriptural warrant for it, and to witness for myself female human persons expounding on the word of God. Attending that conference was a glorious experience, eye-opening and heart-pounding.
We had been members of Pasadena Covenant Church for three years by then and had begun to hear about the ordination of women within the Covenant. During the years following that watershed conference, our associate pastor would occasionally drop by my home for a front-porch visit. Invariably, he would ask me, “Say, Diana, have you ever thought about going down the hill to Fuller Seminary? I think you might really enjoy it.”
I was actively leading a couples’ Bible study and a women’s semi-monthly gathering, singing in the choir, and helping to plan worship services, all of which I loved and was affirmed in doing. But going to seminary? Nah. I was nearing forty by this time—way too old for school, right?
For some reason, God doesn’t seem to view the aging process the same way we do. And in the waning months of 1988, I filled out the application and, with three friends to encourage me, walked into the Admissions Office. At the tender age of forty-four, I began my seminary life.
For some reason, God doesn’t seem to view the aging process the same way we do.
Oh, how I loved it! All of it—the reading, the paper writing, and the job I got about one year in. After successfully surviving preaching class, I was invited into the advanced preaching seminar from which the teaching assistants for the large lecture class were selected. One year later I was lead TA, a post I held for the next six years. I entered Fuller with a definite call from God to seminary; I left Fuller with a definite call from God to ministry.
In the last few weeks of 1996, my husband and I moved 120 miles north and began a decade of commuting for him and thirty hours per week of parish work for me, as associate pastor for adult ministries and worship at Montecito Covenant Church in Santa Barbara, California. In June of the following year, I was ordained at the Annual Meeting in Anaheim.
I was fifty-two years old. My work life in Montecito was amazing—difficult, wonderful, challenging, rewarding, complicated, and very, very good. I continued in that position for fourteen years, retiring at the end of 2010 and beginning this last life chapter as a spiritual director and writer.
I never dreamed that my life would unfold the way it has. Never. I am deeply grateful for the help and encouragement I have received all along the way, from all levels of leadership in this denomination.
The forward journey, of course, continues. There will always be work to do if we are to fully live in obedience to God’s call to both women and men in the leadership of the church. The Spirit still moves in our midst, with grace and firmness, calling and gifting all kinds of surprising people into leadership and ministry. How I pray we will listen and move with the flow, opening our hearts to the wonderful surprises of God. cc