“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh…
your daughters shall prophesy” – Joel 2:28
Stuffed Animal Church
“Time for church!”
This was not my parents calling me to the car on a Sunday morning. This was my five-year-old voice calling out to my collection of stuffed animals.
I lined them up in pew-like rows in the living room. I moved the small coffee table to the front of my church, doubling as a pulpit and communion table. I prepared for our church by cutting up small pieces of bread and pouring grape juice into the largest cup I could find, the body and blood of Christ for my stuffed animal congregation.
I knew at a young age that God was somehow present in this meal, even when officiated by a five-year-old. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the beginning of my call to be an ordained minister.
Fast-forward fifteen years and it’s my first week at a conservative Christian college. While playing the freshmen orientation games on the front lawn, a guy came up to me and asked, “What are you majoring in?”
I replied without hesitation “Ministry and Bible!”
His reply was catalytic in my feminist journey. He said to me, “Oh, so you want to be a minister’s wife?”
As if I needed a partner to validate my own call. I replied to him, “Whether I get married or not, I would like to be a minister myself.”
He didn’t know what to do with that answer. I quickly realized that my confidence in my call was not going to be quickly affirmed by this community, if at all.
I began searching for leaders who were strong women I could look up to. I read books about ministry from female authors. My prayers were filled with questions and I called out to God for some hopeful assurance that I was on the right track. Could I really trust the inward call I felt as a five-year-old preaching to my stuffed animals?
One professor would ignorantly make comments about women not having to pay attention in class because he was “talking to the men who would be ordained.” Sexism became a consistent presence. Sexism appeared to be inspired, inerrant, and authoritative and had become the hermeneutic through which my professors and classmates read the Bible.
Good thing God never gives up on those whom God calls. Good thing I am a tenacious, outspoken woman. Good thing I discovered feminism.
Feminism saved my faith, reminding me that God was on the move and the call I felt as a five-year-old was growing stronger and stronger.
Seminary: Embracing Feminism
I entered seminary, ready for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to launch me on a journey of transformation. I knew She had been on the move in my life since I was little and She would not leave me hanging at the beginning of four rigorous years of theological & spiritual transformation.
I discovered powerful theological voices that were influenced and formed by feminism: Serene Jones, Leanne VanDyk, Elizabeth Johnson, Delores Williams, Amy Plantinga Pauw, Ada María Isasi-Díaz, and many others. I saw myself reflected in these women who were not silent, did not shrink, and proclaimed God’s word.
Where earlier feminism had saved my faith, now it was cultivating it in a whole new way as I set out to become a Minister of Word and Sacrament.
West End Collegiate Church
Being a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus and being a feminist work hand in hand. I look at my congregation each week and I come to the pulpit as a woman who stands up confidently with authority, knowing the church’s elders and deacons have laid their hands to ordain me. I come to serve, I come as a leader, I come to care for the people of God, and I come as a woman. This last part is not optional; it is essential.
Jesus is in the salvation business. Jesus is about liberating us from systems of slavery and death. God has used feminism in my life and it has been part of my liberation and salvation.
My hands and my voice will continue to preach so that all people, especially those who identify as women, may know this freedom.
My work has only begun. And I know I do not work alone. I join the company of saints, feminists, as we work forge the way forward.
The Reverend Jes Kast-Keat is the Associate Minister at West End Collegiate Church in New York City. She writes for The Twelve a collaborative blog that looks at life through a theologically Reformed lens. She also serves as the president of the Room for All board which works for full inclusion of LGBTQ communities in the Reformed Church in America. Along with ministry you can find Jes dancing, hitting up wine and cheese bars with her spouse, and discovering hidden gems in NYC with her friends.