For all of my life, I have been Baptist. And yet, there is a certain look on someone’s face when I introduce myself as a Baptist minister. For those unfamiliar with this tradition and for those who were raised in this tradition and left, the word “Baptist” is often associated with unpleasant and unflattering descriptions.
The sad irony is that there are over 40 million self-proclaimed Baptists in the world that uniquely populate the hundreds of thousands of Baptist expressions. Associating one Baptist for another kind of Baptist is like assuming because we all live in SEC country that we are all Georgia Bulldogs fans…who wants to be associated with them!?
We are Cooperative Baptists, which bears great significance from other forms of Baptists. For one, CBF was formed during a time when the local autonomy of the church was being threatened by blanket and strong-armed creedal statements. CBF’s founding leaders and churches wanted to empower local congregations to live out God’s calling with conviction, contextualization, and authority.
One of the dividing points among Baptist churches at the time of CBF’s founding was the exclusive language used by the Convention against women in ministry. There were enough churches and clergy that stood up to say that we affirm an individual’s call to serve God and God’s church, no matter their gender.
As a congregation that affirms people’s calling into the ministry through all leadership forms within the church, ordination, and empowering of staff, we celebrate Martha Sterns Marshall month.
Martha Stearns Marshall served as a Baptist pastor during the eighteen-century. Along with her husband, David, Martha served the Mohawk Indians. At the start of the French and Indian War, the Marshalls left New England. Settling in Virginia, the couple were influenced by the Philadelphia Baptist Association. During this period the couple was baptized into Regular Baptist tradition.
Eventually the Marshalls settled in Sandy Creek, North Carolina. Here they founded the first Baptist church in the state, along with Martha’s brother, Shubal Stearns.
The couple founded many more churches in North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia.
Since 2007, Baptist Women in Ministry has invited Baptist churches to participate in Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching by having a woman preach during the month of February. This annual event has been a deeply significant source of joy and discovery for many women and churches.
This is an opportunity for us to publicly voice our support of women in ministry, to be counted with other Baptist churches in celebrating the calling and gifts of women, and to remind your congregation that God does indeed call women to the work of the kingdom.
Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching provides us all with a chance to celebrate God’s good work in our midst.
On Sunday, February 10, UBC will celebrate Martha Sterns Marshall month. Our guest preacher for the morning will be CBF’s Director of Church Engagement, Reverend Ruth Perkins Lee.
Along with overseeing the church engagement department, Ruth leads the General Assembly Steering Committee and produces the Worship and Fellowship at Work sessions. Ruth also serves as a staff liaison to the Ministries Council and the Nominating Committee.
Ruth will also be featured during the spiritual formation hour, 9:00-10:00 am, in the Fellowship Hall for a lecture. We hope your Sunday School class will join the conversation.