Pastor's Pastor: Impacted by her story

Pastor's Pastor: Impacted by her story

James Cress reflects on the women who have impacted his ministry.

James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Most history is written from the male perspective. Perhaps that is why we often validate their contributions more than we do the women in our midst. Recognizing that about two thirds of our world membership is female compared with the paucity of their representation in elected positions or even governing committees, I am reflecting on some of those women who have impacted my ministry. I hope you will be encouraged to recall and affirm those whose "herstory" have blessed your life. Recount their faithfulness, tell their stories, honor their ministry.

Mary Cress, my Mother's love for her Lord, her family, and her church demonstrated a practical, common sense approach to team ministry and general fun in the parsonage. Ann Wyatt defies all mother-in-law jokes and gave me the great gift of a talent ed, thinking partner in marriage and ministry. Sharon's skills in ministry, management, mission, and merriment affirm that two are better than one. Life must be fun; Sharon is!

Johnnie Kelly and Virginia Cherry nurtured me during my Mom's serious illness, and Mae Poole and Etta Wright (her daughter, Julia Norcott, serves as Ministry's managing editor) grandparented we three PKs. Margaret Fuller, secretary to GC presidents, nurtured my newly-baptized Mom. And speaking of presidential secretaries, Annette Stephens was encouraging me long before we came to Washington.

Maxine Leonhardt, best friend and surrogate Mom who, except for being female, would have been union treasurer. Many of us know Maxine held such responsibility without the title. Mary Anderson, Clara Camp, Phyllis Carmen, Jane King, Loa Cayle Larson, Joyce Lemon, Pat Penno, Naomi Sigler and Kathy Turner, and Caring saints, creative leaders, plus some of the best cooks in Georgia. Rosetta Baldwin, heroic example of Christlike service. South Atlantic Conference has named a school in her honor; heaven will probably rename New Jerusalem's Main Street for her. Evelyn M. M. Lindberg gave me the opportunity to prove my determination to write. True friend and example to hundreds of Southern College students. After three years of Greek, Leona Running convinced me also to study Hebrew. Her vision for seminary students far exceeds my capabilities. Sisters-in-law Pamela Keele Cress, Lynn Bandell Cress, and Eulita Wyatt Heisey each demonstrate in their own professions that pastor's spouses are not stamped from the same cookie-cutter. And Deanna Wyatt consistently demonstrates love, tolerance, and unique creativity. Nieces Ana Cress and Meredith Cress are a delight, maybe too much like Uncle Jim, and typically ready for any adventure.

Corea Cemer believed anyone could serve Jesus and by her example and partnership, she instilled in Sharon and me our love for evangelism. Vinna Mansell inspired confidence and provided an example when we were rough from the patch interns. Bernice Carubba, along with her conference president spouse, knew how to inspire young families to team ministry. Marjorie Hanhardt, secretary to three or four presidents, showed grace and skill as the one who really ran Florida Conference, and her stepdaughter, Annabelle Owens, always gives far more than she receives. Minon Hamm taught spirituality integrated in the workplace and she models what she believes. Patty Mitchell, PK, friend, pastor's spouse for more than 40 years, and a genuine Christian individual. Merlo Bock affirmed individuality and behind-the-scene nurture as well as gracious hospitality and friendship. Sarojini Chedalawada proved that a life of faithful, consistent service will always impact others for eternity. Kit Watts, champion of women in ministry. Pastor, editor, creative genius, friend, and fellow dog lover. Marie Spongier, Ellen Bresee, Jeanne Zachary, and Margarida Sarli, each affirmed powerful ministry by pastoral spouses. Marge Cray leads by example even as she faithfully followed her spouse's numerous ventures. Hazel Cordon raised caring for pastors and their families to an art form and her story literally inspires. Penny Shell, director of La Sierra University's Women's Resource Center models caring ministry and successful advocacy for women pastors. Phyllis Ware, Secretary-Treasurer of Central States, served an extended term as interim conference president.

Gloria Massenburg, my faithful and outstanding administrative secretary, encourages my ministry every day. Judy Thomas, business leader and philanthropist with a vision for creative ventures and cross-denominational support for ministers worldwide, Jaci Cress, our niece who will graduate, marry, and enter Adventist ministry this year.

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James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

January 2005

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