By Joy Wong
I recently saw the movie Waiting For Superman in which there were brief clips of Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools system of Washington, D.C. I had heard of her controversial leadership in educational reform, but I had never seen her face. Whether I agree with her position on education, there was one thing I was sure of — after watching her in action in those brief movie clips, taking on leadership as an Asian American woman in a challenging multi-ethnic arena, I found myself feeling incredibly empowered and encouraged. While I have no aspirations to become a chancellor of a public school system, all of sudden it wasn’t as hard to picture myself as one.
One of the things that consistently holds me back in regard to becoming a pastor or minister is that I can’t seem to picture myself as one. As a hospital chaplain, while others griped about the formal dress code for chaplains, I was inwardly glad of the requirement for suit jackets because I felt that everything else about my appearance — being a relatively young-looking Asian American woman — was working to disqualify me as a legitimate minister. When I imagine myself as a pastor, I imagine a vocation in which I’d have to emulate all things masculine, swearing off skirts and everything else remotely pretty and feminine. Essentially I find myself asking the question, Can I be all of who I am, and be a minister?
This is something I continue to wrestle with. Not only do I have a hard time picturing myself as a minister, I also imagine that others would have a hard time picturing me as a minister — and thus, accepting and respecting me as one — which makes it even less appealing to become a minister in the first place. What will it take to break out of this vicious cycle? I’m not sure. But as more people look at this question, I have hope that as a community, we can take strides forward to picture new possibilities, and to make those possibilities a reality, with courage and conviction.
Joy Wong completed a Masters of Divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. She and her husband currently attend New City Church of Los Angeles. To contact Joy, please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.