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On Being a Female Pastor
Many women decide to become a
pastor as a second career. Previously, they were teachers, nurses, historians
or computer technicians. Joëlle Leduc, a young female pastor affiliated with
United Church, was a bike mechanic. Leduc defines a pastor as someone who cares
for a congregation and accompanies them on their spiritual journey.
“Being a female pastor varies from one denomination to another,” says Leduc. “United Church has ordained women since 1936 and is a very progressive church.” On Leduc`s ministry team, there are 5 women and 1 man. When she graduated, there were 3 women and 2 men in her cohort.
“Spirituality is not easily defined; there are many ways to live it out. It’s an awareness of God’s presence. Many people define themselves as spiritual, but not religious,” explain Leduc. “Religion is what helps me make sense of my spirituality. Religion derived from the Latin word religare, meaning to re-read and make connections. Each Sunday, a pastor re-reads sacred stories and connects them to people's relationship to God.”
Leduc doesn’t know how a male clergy’s experience would differ from a woman’s but knows being a female clergy is certainly a conversation starter. People are surprised because their mental image of clergy is male, especially in Quebec where the majority are Roman Catholic. Women cannot be priests in the Catholic Church.
“Spirituality has always existed and will always exist. God was there before the church, God is there now, and God will be there long after the Church,” says Leduc. “No one knows how people will live out their faith in 50 years; it won’t look like 50 years ago or today.” Leduc accompanies people and provides tools to interpret scripture and rituals to make sense of life's transitions. Weddings, baptisms and funerals reflect who people are and how society has evolved. Religion helps people make sense of their lives and their relationship to God.
Even with many churches disappearing, Leduc maintains church is not limited to a building or congregation. She recalls strolling around Verdun with her minister 10 years ago. People stopped him to say hi because he baptized a family member, presided at a funeral, etc. He said, "If we would count how many lives this congregation has touched instead of just those sitting in pews, we would be a congregation of hundreds of people."
Leduc went into ministry because she felt called by God. “Once you say yes to God, you don't go back. Being a pastor is challenging and rewarding,” she says. God gives her strength and courage to tackle new challenges. “Attracting people to church is not the main role of a pastor, but to serve those there and move towards those who are not. Sunday morning is not all there is to church,” explains Leduc. “We charge our batteries on Sunday morning. People come to pray, thank God, ask God for help, to hear stories and to see each other. Others attend church to confirm their sense of faith. It’s not a pastor who attracts people to church, but a congregation. A pastor helps community by caring for them in difficult and joyous times.”
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