Thank You Paul Rooker
Forty-two years ago this month, I was ordained in the United Church of Christ. As much as we like to tell amusing tales about this period of time in the history of women in the United States, these were very painful and confusing times for those of us who were “firsts” in our professional callings.
Please recall that women of my generation were raised:
- To wear white gloves.
- Never to beat a man at sports
- Never to express an opinion.
- To be subordinate.
- To find our worth in our attractiveness to men.
- To attend college for the purpose of finding a husband.
- Not to worry our “pretty little heads” about such matters as theology or politics.
- To act within the prescribed dictates of etiquette and “ladylike behavior.”
The vocations open to women were nursing, teaching, secretarial; all honorable callings, but narrow in scope, and always trumped by the role of wife and mother. Some women thrived in this world, but others yearned for a different experience, because they had a different calling.
Fast forward to the 1960's when our country was struggling with human rights, and the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Movement were becoming headlines in the National News. Enter a young woman from Iowa who dropped out of college to join VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), and her whole world view was changed. She felt called to follow the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, and to enter the ministry. That young woman is now a much older woman who serves as your Assisting Pastor for Senior Ministries.
In the 60's, women were not present in the ministry in the middle west or the western states, and you could almost hear strains of “How Do We Solve a Problem Like Maria?” when I entered seminary, and the astonishment continued through much of my career...amusing to many, but often painful to me as I was just trying to be faithful to my call.
Fast forward over 40 years, and you find me applying to Pinnacle Presbyterian Church. As I met for the first time with the selection committee, I was acutely aware that I did not meet any preconception they might have for the position, for ministry, for Pinnacle Presbyterian Church. After all, I was not even Presbyterian, had spent most of my ministry working with the poor and the disenfranchised, and I lean more toward art than Ivy League.
Enter on the selection committee one Paul Rooker...a retired military man face to face with a Flower Child. God always has a sense of humor, and God's humor was quite evident during this meeting. Something very spiritual and very special took place when Paul and I met, because he not only accepted me, but reached out in love and encouragement, and has never wavered in his support of my ministry. The first people I look for when I am in the pulpit are Linda and Paul Rooker, because I know if they are there, it will be ok. Paul showed me the ropes from everything to where we have our meetings to who could be of help in each situation. His instruction was always with a loving heart and helpful vision. Upon reflection, our connection is not at all odd, because we have both been driven all our lives by an abiding, deep and committed faith in a God who is full of delightful surprises. I hold out hope that this same God will continue to form surprising and serendipitous alliances among the faithful. Paul's presence has made all the difference for me, and with a grateful heart, I say, “Thank you Paul Rooker.”