Shared by Grace May
Near the end of seminary, I started asking myself, “What am I going to do when I graduate?” In the late 1980s, there weren’t any conservative evangelical Chinese churches that I knew of that were ordaining women. Even if wanted to be a pastor, I felt like my way was blocked. I got really discouraged, and a progressive English ministry pastor in Boston even told me, “I think it’ll be 10 years before Chinese churches ordain their first woman,” and after a pause, he changed his mind and said, “Well, maybe 7 years.” He must have been prophetic, because it was almost 7 years to the day that I finally got ordained. I spent those 7 years getting over a lot of disappointment and some anger. At the same time, I attended grad school, with the hopes that with a doctorate, I could at least teach and train pastors, even if I couldn’t become one.
While working on my doctorate, I interned at Roxbury Presbyterian Church, an African American church in the heart of Boston. It was during this time that I realized that I really loved the work of a pastor: the one-on-one’s, visitations, praying with parishioners, etc. The pastor also gave me numerous opportunities to preach, and I was usually the one who turned him down, telling him I needed more time to prepare. But he never pushed me, and eventually I did accept some of his offers to preach.
I had a fantastic time at Roxbury Presbyterian Church. My main reason for being in an African American church was that I wanted to see how strong preaching could combine with good community and social action. Growing up, I had never heard a single sermon on poverty, equality, or justice. It was my social ethics professor who opened my eyes to the Bible’s prolific teaching on social justice. The church didn’t preach social justice every Sunday, but it was part of the fabric of the community — helping pregnant teens, collaborating with the mayor, acting as consultants for initiatives, and even taking a second offering on Communion Sundays to help people in need. It was an empowering 5-1/2 years, and I only left because I needed to finish my dissertation. I was then called to a Chinese church where I spent another 5-1/2 years, taught at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for a year, and finally came to New York City to pastor at a Presbyterian church and do some adjunct teaching. Then, God made one of my childhood dreams come true. The Overseas Chinese Mission, the church where I grew up and that had blessed me and sent me to seminary called me to be their English Ministry pastor. The church doesn’t ordain women yet, but since I was already ordained, they made an exception.
God is simply incredible and has the power to do the impossible. Now I want to be a part of God’s dream of seeing our sons and daughters prophesying (Ac 2:17). With the help of a superb board, we have just launched Women of Wonder, Inc. (WOW!), a non-profit dedicated to empowering women to fulfill their God-given dreams.
Looking back, I’m amazed at God’s faithfulness and guidance. Our God is just too good. And I’m excited for this next season of my life!
Rev. Dr. Grace May is a minister at large with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and recently launched a non-profit organization called WOW! (Women of Wonder, Inc.) to empower women to fulfill their God-given dreams. A Chinese American born and raised in New York City, she has a doctorate from Boston University School of Theology, an M.Div from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a B.A. in English from Yale University. Grace’s interests include tasting the cuisines from different parts of the world and worshiping with brothers and sisters from around the world.
Interviewed by Joy Wong