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Group supports female clergy

The Rev. Dr. Madelene Beard got the idea to minister to her fellow clergywomen when she was appointed by the United Church of Christ to mentor three other clergywomen.

When it came time for the three women to graduate from seminary, Beard was no longer required to be their mentor, but they said they didn’t want to lose her.

“We can still be friends,” Beard told them. That’s when she realized “there is a need to continue to mentor women in clergy and women who are aspiring to be professional clergy,” she said.

At that time, however, Beard did not think she had time to start a clergywomen’s organization. Finally, in 2008, she answered the call.

“Being obedient unto, I believe, the will of God, on July 12, 2008, we held our first official meeting in my home,” said Beard, who is the pastor of Galatians United Church of Christ.

The organization, Deborah’s Women in Ministry of Greater Hampton Roads, began with six charter members, and has since added two more. The women meet monthly to pray, share their experiences and encourage one another.

“We share our experiences, whether they are jubilant or unpleasant,” said Beard, who admits female clergy still aren’t as accepted everywhere as their male counterparts.

“In that sharing, we find strength,” she said. “It’s really a very enriching and empowering experience.”

The organization will celebrate its official dedication on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Beard’s church, 2320 Manning Road. Dr. Robert L. Hobbs, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church and president of the Suffolk Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, will present the message, and Mayor Linda T. Johnson will be on hand to present a ceremonial recognition.

The organization hopes to create its own outreach ministries, such as a food bank, clothes closet, and transportation for seniors to their medical appointments. Members also plan to host workshops and conferences for women and will plan mission trips, as well as support charities with their offerings. An offering collected at Sunday’s event will go toward Haitian earthquake relief efforts.

Beard found the organization’s name and symbol (a palm tree) in the Bible, where Judges 4:4-5 tells readers, “And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.”

For more information on Deborah’s Women in Ministry, call 934-0897.