Pamela R. Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry in Atlanta, Georgia, and is an adjunct professor at McAfee School of Theology. She received her Ph.D. in church history from Baylor University. As mother to Michael and Alex, she is discovering with her husband, Keith, the adventures of parenting teenagers. She likes researching and writing history, especially the history of Baptist women, but she loves sitting down with a cup of coffee and listening to people’s stories.
You are the editor of a new book, This Is What a Preacher Looks Like: Sermons by Baptist Women in Ministry. What interested you about this project? How did it come about?
The t-shirts came first—bright, aqua-colored t-shirts with This Is What a Preacher Looks Like printed across the front. Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) produced and distributed the t-shirts during the celebration of the organization’s twenty-fifth anniversary in 2008, and they made quite an impression. But apparently the t-shirts made more of an impression than we imagined because late in 2008, Keith Gammons of Smyth & Helwys contacted me about putting together a collection of sermons by Baptist women. Keith wanted this collection to be named after the t-shirts. So you take a
really great t-shirt, add a clever editor with an idea, and the result is This Is What a Preacher Looks Like: Sermons by Baptist Women in Ministry.
How is the book organized? What’s in it?
The book is a collection of thirty-eight sermons by thirty-six Baptist women. The collection is divided into two sections. The first section has five sermons preached at historic turning points in Baptist life. The second section consists of thirty-three sermons preached on Sunday mornings to a gathered congregation, on a weekday morning to students and faculty worshiping in a seminary chapel, on a Wednesday night to teenagers worshiping around tables, or in a meeting room on a college campus. These sermons provide a glimpse into the hearts and minds of Baptist women who are ministering and preaching in the first decade of the twenty-first century. They are a slice of our history as Baptists, introducing us to the daily concerns, the theological insights, and the journeys of Baptist preaching women.
What part of this book excited you most? What are you excited to communicate to readers?
I doubt that many Baptists have had the opportunity to hear thirty-six Baptist women preach the gospel. I certainly haven’t heard that many. And I’m excited that this book provides so many sermons in one collection. This Is What a Preacher Looks Like is a great reminder that Baptist women preachers have many looks, many preaching styles, and many voices. We are young and older. Our voices are soft and loud, prophetic and pastoral, humorous and sincere. We are veteran preachers and new to preaching. We live in all geographic regions in the United States and in places all around the world. We come from a variety of Baptist faith traditions, and we hold theological positions across the entire spectrum. We are African American, Asian, Latina, and Caucasian. We are sisters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and friends. Baptist women preachers are truly a diverse group, and I love that diversity. I believe our diversity is one of our greatest strengths as Baptists—and as Baptist women preachers.
What does your present ministry look like?
I have the best job in the world, because every day is an adventure. My goal is to fulfill the BWIM mission statement: To be a catalyst in Baptist life, drawing together women and men in partnership with God to illuminate, advocate, and nurture the gifts and graces of women. Fulfilling that mission looks different depending on the day. Some days I work on educating and informing Baptists about the gifts and ministries of Baptist women. I do that through the BWIM newsletter (Vocare), through our monthly e-newsletter, and through our website and Facebook page. I plan meetings, including our annual gathering, which is held in conjunction with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly. I also get the word out about our annual Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching emphasis. We encourage Baptist churches to invite a woman into their pulpit each year in February. And almost every day, I seek to build relationships and connect with women who feel called to ministry or who are already serving in churches. I also have opportunities to write, teach, and preach—all of which I love doing. But what I like best is sitting down with a cup of coffee and listening to people’s stories (which really means I am nosy and like asking questions).
Outside of your ministry, how do you enjoy spending time?
I love to read. I can’t go to bed at night unless I’ve had some reading time during the day. My all-time favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it every year. I also love playing board games with my family, although I no longer will play strategy games with my daughter, Alex. I find it too embarrassing to be beaten so badly by a thirteen-year-old. And oddly enough, I have recently had some fun car time with my fifteen-year-old son, Michael. He is learning to drive, and while I’m generally terrified during the actual driving experience, I love that he is becoming more independent.