Call, struggle, courage, resistance, and persistence are words that define the career journey of female clergy. “Leading while a female can be life-giving and sometimes it can be difficult,” describes Rev. Jen Tyler, who serves Wahpeton United Methodist Church. That is why Tyler and three of her colleagues got involved in a publication from Abington Press, We pray with her: Encouragement for all women who lead, that will be released on September 4, 2018.
The Dakotas Conference clergywomen have joined with nearly 70 United Methodist clergywomen (elders and deacons) to write the devotional book, We Pray with Her: Encouragement for All Women Who Lead. This devotional is a collection of 100 entries that explore themes such as call, vocation, persistence, resistance, and struggle.
Pastor Jen Tyler, is an editor. Clergywomen serving in the Dakotas Conference, Rev. Sara McManus, who serves West Fargo Flame of Faith UMC, and Rev. Sara Nelson, serving Watertown First UMC are contributing authors. Rev. Jen Anderson, a member of the Dakotas Conference serving Grace UMC in the Minnesota Conference, is also a contributing author.
Each clergywoman who contributed to the book was under the age of forty. They serve all over the United States, from upstate New York to the West Coast to Atlanta to rural North Dakota. They also serve in a variety of ministerial roles in the local church, chaplaincy, academia, and more. Each brought a unique view and passion to the project.
The book was written virtually through spreadsheets and conference calls. All the organizing happened online through Facebook chat and google docs. Last winter, the editorial team came together in Washington D.C. for the first time face-to-face. It was an effort by women to support other women.
“Leading while a female is truly a unique experience, and many of us have wished for a resource like this in the past,” said Tyler. “Now, we finally have it! A devotional for women in leadership, by women in (church) leadership. It has taken a lot of hard work and collaborative effort to put this together, but what results is a book full of words that will make you laugh and cry, and ensure women everywhere know they are not alone. I could not be more proud that we are able to give that gift to the world.”
The devotion series originated when lifelong United Methodist Hillary Clinton was nominated for president in 2016. Clinton was the first female major party presidential nominee in the history of the United States, and for women around the world that was one of the biggest cracks heard in the glass ceiling. Young clergywomen came together to offer a series of devotions for Clinton while she was on the campaign trail.
When the project in its original form came to an end, those clergywomen realized it was time to re-envision this project and intentionally seek a way to support all of the women leading in our world today — at home, in business, in the church, and in communities. Whether breaking glass ceilings or just starting up the ladder, We Pray with Her reminds women that they are not alone and there are others who are praying with and for them.
Though the origin of this project could be deemed partisan, for the clergywomen, who contributed to the devotion series it went far beyond politics. Leading while a female can be incredibly life-giving and spiritually fulfilling, yet lonely and difficult. Those who contributed to the book hope this solidarity and encouragement by women in all types of leadership roles will offer a unique kind of support to women leaders in a variety of contexts.
“This project kind of fell into my lap. I am so grateful for the opportunity. I think of the clergywomen that came before me like Grace Huck and all of the struggles and challenges they faced. If I can make a difference for women who lead in the future like those that went before me, then it is all worth it,” Jen Tyler says.
Tyler has distributed a few copies of the book to members of her congregation and some personal contacts. “The reaction has been positive,” she said. “One person told me that it was a powerful and inviting introduction that brought them to tears.”
All royalties from the book will support scholarships for young women who are certified candidates enrolled in a master of divinity program at one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries. Additional donations to this scholarship fund are being accepted online at the website of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church, who is administering the scholarship on behalf of the project. To donate to this scholarship fund, click here.