They Went Before Us to Show Us the Way ~ Lydia Sexton


I am so grateful for my sisters who went into pastoral ministry and broke down so many of the barriers. Though there are still many barriers, attitudes and prejudices to overcome, I pray that for THIS day we are able to push all those conflicts aside and dialog for the hungry, the disenfranchised, the immigrants, the lonely and the many children of God who live without hope. God calls each of us to be a light in the world. For THIS day, be the light.

Lydia Sexton (1799-1872)

Lydia Sexton joined the United Brethren Church after her conversion in her early thirties. She struggled with a call to preach for several years. She twice refused a license to preach, but in 1851 received a license from the Illinois Annual Conference, making her the first woman so recognized in the United Brethren tradition. She served her church as a traveling preacher until the age of 70, when she became the first woman prison chaplain at the Kansas State Prison in Spring Hill, a position she held for one year. The quotations are taken from the Autobiography of Lydia Sexton (Dayton, Ohio: United Brethren Publishing House, 1882).

“I thought, if I were only a man it would be no hardship to me, nor even a cross, to preach, but rather a pleasure. But for me, a woman, to preach, even if I could; to make myself a subject of ridicule and comment among my friends and kindred, and thus also bring reproach upon our glorious cause!”
(p.213)

“I would to God that all who have children entrusted to their care would feel the great responsibility thereby imposed, and realize the infinite importance of early religious instruction; for in general, manhood and old age will be characterized by virtue and happiness in the ratio of their early religious training.”
(p.250)

“I know with what doubt many will receive these statements as to the call to the ministry; and their skepticism is based upon what they construe as the teachings of the Bible. But I learn that ever since God has had a people he has occasionally had a place where women could render effectual service.”
(p.253)

“I never preached at a place without having the satisfaction to learn that they desired me to return. I mention this only as a matter of encouragement to some of my sisters who feel that they have a call to the ministry. Do your whole duty, and look to God for help.”
(p.867)

From: Voices From Our Past of the General Commission on Archives & History of the United Methodist Church

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