Starting Early to Develop the Gifts of Women as Leaders

 If we want women leaders in the Church, says Gail Goldsmith in “Center Aisle,” we have to start early and develop the gifts of women from youth group to campus ministry and on to leadership in our new and renewing Episcopal Church. Sarah Neumann, lay deputy from the Diocese of Massachusetts and rising junior at Williams College, is one of those women found, continuing to develop, and on her way. Lifelong Episcopalian, mentored by a 92-year-old grandmother she calls “a bold person in a calm way,” Sarah says the nurture of parish, diocesan youth programs and camp enveloped her and imbued her with faith. But it was the invitation to be in the Official Youth Presence at General Convention in Indianapolis that was her first real “call” from God, that powerful tug to do something when you aren’t sure why, something that pulls you out of your comfort zone. And the experience expanded and confirmed her in that call. “People gave me opportunities, treating me not just like a ‘youth representative’ but giving me real responsibility, trusting what I had to say even when I was still figuring it out,” she says. Now she steps out of her comfort zone regularly, whether to mentor kids herself at camp as she was mentored, or to volunteer on the sexual assault hotline at college, or run for lay deputy to General Convention. She thinks stepping out of our comfort zone is what church is all about. “Church should be physically & emotionally safe, sure,” she says, “but church – the church we’re becoming – should make us UN-comfortable, not coddle us. If we really begin to act like ‘God loves everybody, no exceptions,’ it WILL make us uncomfortable. But that’s what we’re called to in the Episcopal Church: the discomfort of disagreement while still all being part of the same family in Christ.”

- The Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini


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