A 2001 Harvard study of 40 communities in America ranked Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, as next-to-lowest in interracial trust. In a recent local survey, more residents reported having friends from diverse backgrounds but said they still lack trust of other races. Nicole Massie Martin, executive minister at The Park Church in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, lives and serves in this racially charged environment. “I serve in a predominantly black congregation in a city that struggles with racial tension,” says Martin. “In the south, people are cordial with each other, but hardly ever go beneath the surface. I feel called to help close racial divides.”
Martin has a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctorate of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She writes regular columns for the Faith and Values section of The Charlotte Observer, directs SoulFire International Ministries, adjuncts at Gordon-Conwell, and volunteers as the faith-based representative on the Housing Advisory Board of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, which works to end and prevent homelessness as well as advocate for affordable housing. Her first book, Made to Lead: Empowering Women for Ministry, was just released from Chalice Press.
I first met Martin on a trip to Israel earlier this year and while riding on a tour bus one night, listened to her share about the unique challenges of being a black female pastor, raising two daughters (ages 18 months and 3 years), and mentoring women in ministry. This interview grew out of that conversation.
As a black female pastor in the South, what are you up against?
There’s a stereotype of the “Southern woman” that I don’t fit. When I first got into ministry, a woman came up to me after church and said, “You’ve got to be careful going out to meetings at night, because there are a lot of women who are always willing to bring your husband a casserole. So when you’re home, you better make sure you cook for him.” That’s the stereotype: If you’re leading, then you must not be cooking, and if you’re present in the church, then there’s no way you can really care for your children. But there are so many great models of women that show you can operate in the fullness of your calling to your family and still minister in the church. And sometimes your calling to the family does minister to the church. So it’s not either/or.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Interview by Andrea Palpant Dilley