This week we continue celebrating Women's History Month by sharing more journeys of clergywomen serving West Ohio.
Praying boldly with expectation
The Rev. SueLee Jin loves ministry because she loves to see change. She said, “We can’t have change without prayer.”
Prayer and evangelism are the core of Jin’s identity as a woman and a leader.
As a member of a local Korean United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Jin was active in lay ministry. She was the president of the United Methodist Women’s unit and participated in ministry to the homeless at the former Washington Park downtown. When she heard God calling her to pastoral ministry, she was unsure of that call. Her life was full; she had a wonderful family, a great prayer life and time to serve and volunteer. “There was no need to interrupt my ordinary lifestyle,” Jin said.
At age 40, Jin was not quick to return to the classroom setting. Her age and her lack of fluency in English concerned her. Nevertheless, Jin overcame her challenges and earned both a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary. Now an ordained deacon, Jin serves as campus pastor for Anderson Hills United Methodist Church, Salem Campus, in Cincinnati.
Jin recalled an occasion when a member told her, “I’ve never heard a Korean woman preacher before” and made some sarcastic comments. Jin kindly dismissed what was said. Nearby, a white male pastor overheard the conversation, came to her defense and apologized for the comments. When these situations happen, Jin goes to God in prayer.
“I ask the Lord to change me if I need to be changed or to help me to improve,” she said. Despite the potential for these situations to arise, Jin has discovered that caring for people has moved them to grow together spiritually and relationally as they learn from each other.
For Jin, preaching can be a humbling experience. While giving a sermon, some listen more intently because of her accent. In doing so, the message breaks through the language barrier and impacts listeners’ lives.
At Salem, Jin was moved to pray for the people of the community. A prayer team was created and dispersed to the neighborhood. To date, the team has prayed over 3,000 residences. The goal is to have 5,000 homes covered in prayer.
As she continues what she calls her "unending study” to speak fluent English, Jin continues to serve with “boldness and confidence from the Holy Spirit and the love of God in Christ,” she said. “We can endure all obstacles and challenges, if we know and believe that we are beloved.”
Gen-Xer being a bold voice in ministry
Understanding the possibility of being a first woman leader in some places, the Rev. Angie Sherer was ready for the challenge. She said, “I’m a Gen-Xer, so I naturally question authority.”
Sherer said, “I did not grow up in the faith, but came to know Jesus from the saints of the Marion Epworth congregation.” Sherer, the lead pastor of Monfort Heights United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, fell in love with Jesus at a communion service during Lent when she was a teenager. She vowed to serve God in that moment. Later, her “Pentecost” experience at a Haitian Refugee worship service gave her the language and courage to embrace her call.
While in college, Sherer began her discernment about pastoral ministry. Concerned about what that meant for her future, she was her greatest obstacle. She questioned, “Why on earth would God chose me?” In seminary, that question changed to a confirmation: “God DID choose me!”
Being a bold voice in ministry, Sherer loves seeing God’s movement beyond what we can imagine. She said, “The pandemic is a season that has looked fallow. Yet God has been doing some amazing work underneath.”
Accepting the confirmation that God chose her, the Gen-Xer has gotten comfortable with using her voice. Once, Sherer revisited unanswered questions asked by women in the past. She persisted because she wanted resolve, even when she was told to keep quiet. Sherer said, “My voice may not be the most polished, but it’s mine. I try so hard to listen well to God and when the Spirit says to speak, I do.”
A military wife and mom, Sherer has been on the receiving end of uncomfortable comments her male colleagues don’t experience. Once a member told her of a “pool” happening on whether she would return pregnant from a trip with her husband. In another situation, a face to face conversation with a SPRC member revealed she was not wanted as a pastor because she was a woman. But since she was young, she “would do.”
Like some other clergywomen, Sherer has also been called “sweetie” and described as “too emotional.”
The many biased comments did not keep Sherer from using the voice God gave her. Her voice challenges many to ask the hard questions to reveal if we are living as the church God has called us to be. Her voice also encourages other clergywomen. She said, “Be you. God made you for such a time as this. Trust in God- people mess things up all the time, but God will use it all for good. Trust that.”
Written by Amy Graham, Communications Specialist