FaithHamil R. HarrisReligion

Churches Increasingly Turning to Women for the Word

Even as a growing number of women are becoming pastors, evangelist L. Michelle Bush said there’s more work to to be done and that women leading congregations should be the norm, not just the exception.

“The old stuff ain’t working,” said Bush, who in 2017 became pastor of the Gathering Seed Fellowship Church, a congregation that offers a range of programs for people who meet in the multi-purpose room of a building in the 1300 block of Florida Avenue NE. She said instead of focusing on stain glass and pews, the church is all about “meeting needs in the community.”

“Every Tuesday we have ‘Real Talk’ on Facebook Live, we have a job-training and placement program that other ministries will duplicate, we have a leadership program for youth and this Friday we are hosting an international networking lunch for Christian business leaders and clergy,” Bush said. “Christ was in the community doing life with unbelievers first. People need their needs met as well as the word of God.”

L. Michelle Bush
L. Michelle Bush (Courtesy photo)

Prior to starting her own ministry, Bush worked in the ministry of the late Rev. Judy Talbert, Pastor of Faith Tabernacle of Prayer for All People in Southeast.

“Pastor Talbert was one of the most Influential religious leaders in the city before she died and I will always remember her passion for her Fatherhood Initiative and for fathers and programs for ex-offenders and those marginalized in our community,” she said.

From Talbert to the late Apostle Betty Peebles, who led and grew Jericho City of Praise to more than 19,000 members, some of the largest congregations in the area have been pastored or co-pastored by women. These churches include Rev. Susie Owens, co-pastor of Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church? and Rev. JoAnne Browning, co-pastor of Ebenezer AME in Fort Washington.

While some Protestant denominations still prohibit women from preaching or leading churches, a growing number of movements, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of God, the United Methodist, Congregational Church and Presbyterian, are welcoming female pastors.

Rev. Cheryl Sanders, pastor of the Third Street Church of God, and Rev. Ianther Mills, pastor of Asbury United Methodist are two of numerous women who lead large congregations in the D.C. region.

With Women’s History Month now underway, it is interesting to note that a number of female pastors have come from the realm of politics, including Rev. Zina Pierre, a former White House staffer, and Rev. Unnia L. Pettus, founder and CEO of Nobody But God Ministries who was the press secretary for former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly. Unlike traditional ministries, these spiritual sisters employ the internet and social media.

Pierre is founder of Zina Pierre Ministries and the Breaking Room, a virtual prayer and deliverance ministry in Lanham, Maryland. She is president and CEO of the Washington Linkage Group, a government relations and strategic consulting firm in D.C. She is also the author of the book “Your Prayers Matter to God: 30 Day Strategic Prayer Guide and Devotionals,” as well as host of The Word Network’s weekly show “The Breaking Room with Dr. Zina Pierre.”

Founded upon the book of Isaiah 10:27, The Breaking Room’s mandate is to empower men and women of God to “break through spiritual and natural barriers and birth into a purpose filled life” through the word of God, teaching strategic prayer and faith coaching.

Pierre has hosted “virtual revivals” featuring Bishop David G. Evans, Bishop Jackie McCullough, Dr. Jamal Bryant and others. In August 2014, she launched “The Breaking Room Encounter” conference, held each August and hosting speakers such as McCullough, Bryant and Bishop Greg Davis.

She began her virtual prayer journey in September 2011, when she served for over three years as an intercessor for Girlfriends Pray, a virtual international prayer network of over 165,000 women across the globe.

Pettus, who earned her doctorate from the University of Maryland at College Park, launched Nobody But God Outreach Ministries in January 2007 which provides counsel and support to women and their children in the District of Columbia Metropolitan Area who are victims or survivors of emotional, verbal, or physical domestic violence.

“This is not a brick-and-mortar ministry, it is about outreach behind closed doors and places where other pastors would not go,” Pettus said. “I go to homeless shelters, I reach out to grandmothers who are raising children because their daughters were victims of domestic violence and one was shot 12 times.”

In October 2007, Pettus published her own story, “Nobody But God: A Journey of Faith From Tears to Triumph.”

Even though she has dealt with medical issues, divorce and domestic violence, Pettus said it is all part of her ministry.

“I was called to minister in dark places. I was divorced 16 years ago, but God is everything that I need,” she said. “Too many people want to be seen, but I have to be in these dark places.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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