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Mary Beth Dunbar-Duke
Mary Beth Dunbar-Duke

No Ordinary Time // Ordination Time

We are coming to the end of the season of the church year we call “Ordinary Time” but tomorrow is no ordinary day. At least not for Mary Beth Dunbar-Duke. She will be ordained tomorrow afternoon in a special service at Providence Baptist Church in Cookeville, Tennessee.

In Baptist life ordaining women is still a pretty big deal. Even in 2010 ordinations of women are often a novelty, meaning they are often a “first” for the congregations that do the ordaining. In Baptist circles ordination remains a local-church practice. Since 1964 more than 2,000 women have been ordained in  moderate and progressive Baptist churches, many of which departed from the Southern Baptist Convention. The ordination of women was one of the central issues over which Baptists fought and fractured between 1979 and 2000. It remains a fault-line of division.

That history will have to take a back seat tomorrow, however, because it is a day when a congregation will call out and set apart a new minister. Beth will be blessed and ordained by the people of the church, and from that day on she will carry that blessing and those of us who are gathered with her into her work of ministry. Even Baptists who are ardent supporters of the “priesthood of all believers” need leaders and those who devote their energies full-time to the work of ministry.

Beth will pass through a service that blesses her for just such a vocation tomorrow. She has been preparing with study in seminary and pushing at the boundaries of her life as a nurse into this new calling for some time now. What a great celebration and culmination tomorrow will be! And just the beginning of a challenging and gracious way to live and work.

And just the beginning of a challenging but very rewarding calling.
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