From the Kitchen to the Pulpit: Investing in Hispanic Clergy Women
During Launch 1.0, Pastor Liliana Padilla did something quite unexpected. She stood in the very back of the church where participants were gathered and donned a cardboard box that looked like a stove from one side. As she walked to the front of the church, it seemed as if she was standing behind a stove and she conveyed to the room that Hispanic women feel tied to traditional expectations of femininity – cooking, rearing children, cleaning. No matter how they feel God is calling them to ministry, the expectation that they will serve their families in the home can prevail over God’s call.
When she came to the front, she turned around and shared her belief that these Hispanic women can become the pastors God commands them to be, if only they have specialized support throughout the ordination process. As she said these words, her stove became a pulpit. It was a magnificent moment. Cheers erupted in the sanctuary.
Liliana’s pitch won the day at Launch 1.0 and earned her idea a small grant.
The Courageous Leadership Imperative’s Launch 1.0 was a cooperative event with the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ) Foundations and Bishops that occurred in St. Louis last fall. Liliana wanted to attend as soon as she saw the invitation to apply. Since it was designed to create a network for dynamic leaders, it felt like the perfect opportunity for her to brainstorm with creative, clergy colleagues. She had no idea that her pitch would resonate so well with everyone in the room.
“I just spoke from my personal experience. Hispanic women often do not feel like they can be pastors. Sometimes this is a result of their Catholic backgrounds, where they learn that only men can be priests. Sometimes this is a result of male pastors encouraging them to stay at home,” Liliana shared.
“Whatever the reason, I don’t see enough Hispanic women stepping up to their pastoral call and I know if we provided greater support and a defined structure for Hispanic women as they navigate the ordination process, that could change.”
Liliana knew she was called early on in life. She attended seminary in Monterrey, Mexico and was ordained. When she came to the U.S., she had to go through the course of the study program to meet United Methodist requirements and she realized that it was not strong enough programmatically to develop a pastor in the same way seminary developed her. She felt sure that other Hispanic women would need additional support, especially if they were not strong English speakers or did not have the financial ability to attend a seminary fulltime.
So what did she propose to Launch 1.0 participants that brought applause and cheers?
- Developing a defined structure to help Hispanic women navigate the path to becoming an ordained elder or local licensed pastor, including a safe space for them to express their concerns and needs.
- Expanding opportunities for Hispanic women to become theological and ecclesiastical leaders to ensure they have a solid foundation.
- Providing professional development for Hispanic women so they can create and implement a vision, achieve goals, and empower volunteers.
- Giving space to Hispanic women for networking purposes, so they can build strong relationships of support and mentorship.
Following Launch 1.0, Liliana set out to make her ideas turn into a reality. By partnering with two other clergywomen participants, the Rio Texas Conference Assistant to the Bishop, Laura Merrill, and Northern Hills Associate Pastor, Lupina Villalpando Stewart, she is already making headway. They have sent letters and invitations to Hispanic women in their conference, inviting them to participate in a retreat where they will identify needs and concerns.
Liliana sees this as the first step in a process she has wanted to initiate since she came to the U.S. and realized the challenges Hispanic women face when they are called to ministry. For the Hispanic women God is leading to ministry, it is a breakthrough moment, ignited by the cheers of fellow clergy who want to see them succeed.