15 local clergywomen: what they’re praying for now + where you can find them this Christmas

Eva Melton is one of the local clergywomen
Eva Melton is the founder of The Firm Foundation Church. Photo via Eva Melton

As Christmas 2020 draws near, we found ourselves wondering about senior clergywomen in Birmingham: who and where are they? What did it take for them to get to where they are now? What are they praying for this holiday season? If they’re having Christmas or Christmas Eve services this year, where can people find them?

We discovered more women clergy in the Greater Birmingham area than we could possibly include. So, we pulled together a group of 15 women leaders representing eight denominations. Keep reading to meet them and find out what they had to say. 

1. Rev. Dr. Sondra M. Coleman, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Rev. Dr. Sondra  M. Coleman is one of the clergywomen in Birmingham
Rev. Dr. Sondra M. Coleman. Photo via Rev. Dr. Sandra M. Coleman

Rev. Dr. Sondra M. Coleman is the Presiding Elder of the Birmingham District, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

  • The path: Obedience. I prepared myself when the call of ministry came upon me and left a career after 19 years in corporate America, entered seminary then served as Pastor for 17 years before receiving appointment as Presiding Elder.
  • Holiday prayers: I am praying for peace, protection, shelter, justice, health, healing and forgiveness for all.
  • Services: Some of the 12 churches in the Birmingham District will have virtual Christmas services. Details on Facebook.

2. Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church

Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton is one of the local clergywomen
Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton. Photo via Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton

Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton is the Presiding Bishop of The Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. She is the first female Bishop in the CME Church since its founding in 1870.   

  • The path: As a life-long member of our denomination, I reached a point in my ministry as a Chaplain Educator, that I felt God calling me to also use the gifts and insights that I had gleaned from that work in the church as Bishop. 
  • Holiday prayers: I pray for protection from the virus for those who are on the front lines, for healing for those who are sick, for comfort for those who are grieving.
  • Services: I will be posting a Christmas video message here.

3. Rev. Dollie Howell Pankey, CME + UCC

Rev. Dollie is one of the clergywomen in Birmingham
Reverend Dollie Howell Pankey, also known as D’ Marie. Photo via Rev. Dollie Howell Pankey

Reverend Dollie Howell Pankey serves as Creative Arts Ministry Consultant and Social Concerns Coordinator for the Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church and the Theomusicologist-in-Residence at Beloved Community Church.

  • The path: I rose to my present positions of leadership because of highly-developed ministerial and musical skills, the confidence of people in my ability to lead and have influence, the support of people of influence, and a praying community of others who have encouraged me on this journey.
  • Holiday prayers: In the holiday season of 2020—a year of great isolation, anxiety, and loss—I am praying that people will experience the truth of the name Emmanuel, “God with us.”
  • Services: I co-hosted a Longest Night “Heavy & Hopeful Hearts Service” with Rev. Melissa Self Patrick on the evening of December 21. 

4. Rev. Dr. Jayne Collins Pool, Episcopal

Rev. Dr. Jayne Collins Pool is one of the clergywomen in Birmingham
Rev. Dr. Jayne Collins Pool. Photo via Rev. Dr. Jayne Collins Pool

Jayne Collins Pool, MDiv, DMin serves as the Rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

  • The path: Involvement in governance of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, including serving on committees like the Standing Committee, Department of Stewardship, and the Task Force for the Stewardship of Creation, has allowed me to be recognized as a leader in our diocese.
  • Holiday prayers: This holiday season I am praying for people to learn the value of community as we continue to navigate the pandemics of racism and Covid-19.
  • Services: St. Mark’s will have a virtual Christmas Eve Holy Communion service at 5PM. Call 205-291-6730 and leave your email address for the Zoom link and password. You can also email stmarks.bham@gmail.com.

5. Rev. Carolyn Foster, Episcopal

Rev. Carolyn Foster
Rev. Carolyn Foster. Photo via Rev. Carolyn Foster

Rev. Carolyn J. Foster is Deacon with the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, serving at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

  • The path: In the Episcopal tradition, a Deacon is a clergy position for people called to serve the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonely and to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns and hopes of the world. My life experience growing up in segregated Birmingham has influenced my sense of calling to the ministry to those who are vulnerable and marginalized.
  • Holiday prayers: I am praying for the end to the suffering caused by COVID19, particularly as it has impacted the poor.
  • Services: St. Mark’s will have a virtual Christmas Eve Holy Communion service at 5PM. Call 205-291-6730 and leave your email address for the Zoom link and password. You can also email stmarks.bham@gmail.com.

6. Rev. Eva Melton, The Firm Foundation Church

text firmfoundation

Eva Melton is the Pastor at The Firm Foundation Church.

  • The path: I’m a pastor’s kid and have always had a passion for serving within the church since childhood. My ultimate call to plant a church in Birmingham, required complete surrendering to God’s purpose for my life. This has been the most rewarding experience of my life. To shepherd God’s people outside of a traditional model has allowed the fresh wind of God to blow in ways that I had not imagined.
  • Holiday prayers: My prayer is that we would remember the presence of Spirit amidst turbulence this holiday season.  Just as baby Jesus broke into time and space during circumstances that were not optimal, God can break into our space through our conscious awareness of Spirit’s presence.
  • Services: We will not have Christmas/Christmas Eve services this year.

7. Rev. Leanne Pearce Reed, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rev. Leanne Pearce Reed is one of the clergywomen in Birmingham
Rev. Leanne Pearce Reed. Photo via Rev. Leanne Pearce Reed

Rev. Leanne Pearce Reed is Pastor of Shades Valley Presbyterian Church (USA).

  • The path: I am deeply grateful for the generations of strong and gifted women before me who opened doors and shattered ceilings in the church; because of them, I can teach and lead today. 
  • Holiday prayers: As we celebrate the story of God coming among us as a vulnerable child, I pray that we might recognize divine love in our midst, still showing up in the most surprising guises. 
  • Services: Our sanctuary will be open 3:00-5:30PM on Christmas Eve for people to stop by for guided reflection and prayer (masks and social distancing required). Our Christmas Eve service of lessons, carols and communion will be posted online at svpcusa.org and on Facebook.
  • Location: 2305 Montevallo Road, Birmingham, AL 35223

8. Rev. Dorinda Broadnax, United Church of Christ

Rev. Dorinda Broadnax
Rev. Dorinda Broadnax. Photo via Rev. Dorinda Broadnax

Rev. Dorinda Broadnax is Pastor of the historic 138-year-old First Congregational United Church of Christ.

  • The path: We are blessed and honored to have faithfully trusted Holy Spirit to guide us in the rise to leadership, building on the following ministry tenets: plan, purpose, people, passion, and perseverance.
  • Holiday prayers: Taking these tenets to heart we are continuing in prayer for world peace during this sacred season.
  • Services: First Congregational will host a zoom fellowship on Christmas Day to bring our family and friends together for encouragement through prayer. Find details here.

9. Rev. Jennifer Sanders, United Church of Christ

Rev. Jennifer Sanders is one of the clergywomen in Birmingham
Rev. Jennifer Sanders. Photo via Rev. Jennifer Sanders

Rev. Jennifer Sanders is the Coordinating Pastor at Beloved Community Church, UCC. 

  • The path: I followed a clear, persistent call from God into the ministry and to the pulpit at Beloved. 
  • Holiday prayers: We give thanks for community, connection, and God’s presence in the world, while we pray for transformative justice, wisdom, true equity, and healing for all people and the planet. 
  • Services: Learn more about our Christmas Eve worship and ongoing activities by filling out our Visitor Connect information form.

10. Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, United Methodist Church (UMC)

Bishop Wallace-Padgett, clergywoman in Alabama
Bishop Wallace-Padgett. Photo via Bishop Wallace-Padgett

Rev. Dr. Debra Wallace-Padgett is the Resident Bishop of the North Alabama Conference.

  • The path: I have always had remarkable mentors and colleagues accompanying, encouraging and helping me discern God’s leading in my ministry journey. 
  • Holiday prayers: I am praying for all those adversely impacted by COVID-19, the end of the pandemic and the elimination of racism in our nation and world as well as offering prayers of gratitude for the availability of God’s constant comfort, forgiveness, guidance and presence.
  • Services: There are about 650 churches in the North Alabama Conference.  To find out their worship schedules and offerings, google the United Methodist Church closest to you.

Why are there so many senior clergywomen in the UMC?

Because Bishop Wallace-Padgett holds such a senior role in the United Methodist Church, I asked her why such a large number of the senior women clergy that I found came from the UMC. Here’s what she said: 

“The United Methodist Church is one of the denominations recognizing and affirming God’s call of women to ordained ministry.  The Methodist Church granted women full clergy rights in 1956. Across the decades many gifted women have been ordained and served churches of all sizes and in a variety of contexts in the United Methodist Church.”

Rev. Sally Allocca, who’s been serving at East Lake United Methodist for 28 years, elaborated:  “it is because of the denomination’s openness to the gifts of women and the strengths and tenacity of the women in ministry to make the way for others.”

11. Rev. Malinda Jowers Weaver, UMC

Malinda Jowers Weaver is one of the clergywomen in Birmingham
Rev. Malinda Jowers Weaver. Photo via Rev. Malinda Jowers Weaver

Rev. Malinda Jowers Weaver is Pastor of Avondale United Methodist Church.

  • The path: First and foremost, my role as a church leader began by answering God’s call to go into ministry.  After years of seminary training, completing the United Methodist ordination process, and serving other congregations, my bishop (also a clergywoman) appointed me to serve as the Pastor of Avondale UMC.
  • Holiday prayers: This holiday season I am praying the same weighty prayers that I have been praying for several months … I am praying for an end to COVID … that God will lead all people to lay aside selfish ideologies and take public health and safety seriously … that God will give mental and emotional strength to our healthcare workers who have sacrificed so much of themselves during this pandemic … that God will guide us in dismantling systemic racism and oppression … that we will have the resources to continue to help those struggling financially to support themselves and their families.  I’m especially praying for wisdom to know how to lead my congregation in doing our part to make these prayers become reality. 
  • Services: In the interest of public health and safety, our Christmas Eve worship service will be virtual.  It will be available on our church Facebook page and our YouTube channel beginning at 9:00AM on Christmas Eve.

12. Rev. Stephanie York Arnold, UMC

Rev. Stephanie York Arnold is one of the clergywomen in Birmingham
Rev. Stephanie York Arnold. Photo via Rev.Stephanie York Arnold

Rev. Stephanie York Arnold is the Senior Pastor of Birmingham First United Methodist Church.

  • The path: I was privileged to serve alongside the fantastic team of lay leaders and staff at First Church for 8 years as their associate pastor before being appointed in 2018 to serve as their Senior Pastor.
  • Holiday prayers: This Advent I am praying for healing unexpected joy for our world…We all need some joy right now!
  • Services: After talking with the medical professionals that are a part of the First Church community we have made the decision to remain virtual at this time due to the increased spread of COVID 19.  You can find links to our 11AM Sunday morning services and our 5:30PM Christmas Eve service on our website at www.firstchurchbhm.com. All services are on Facebook and YouTube.

13. Rev. Sally Allocca, UMC

Sally Allocca is one of the clergywomen in Birmingham
Rev. Sally Allocca officiating a wedding. Photo via Rev. Sally Allocca

Rev. Sally Allocca ia Senior Pastor at East Lake United Methodist, where she has served for 28 years.

  • The path: Working in an underresourced community is a call that I have felt since I started ministry and have grown into—tenure is very important in that. My love for it and a gracious welcome have allowed me to stay doing this work.
  • Holiday prayers: We need a sense of hope in so many ways and we need a sign of the possibility of justice. 
  • Services: We have a service of lessons and carols that will be on Youtube and Facebook on Christmas Eve. We are having a candlelight communion service at 3:30PM outside in the parking lot, weather permitting. People will stay in their cars wearing masks and socially distanced.
  • Location: 7751 1st Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35206

14. Rev. Emily Freeman Penfield, UMC

Emily Freeman Penfield is one of the clergywomen in Birmingham
Rev. Emily Freeman Penfield. Photo via Rev. Emily Freeman Penfield

The Rev. Emily Freeman Penfield is Pastor of Woodlawn UMC.

  • The path: A combination of God’s grace, the appointment of our UMC bishop and my experience and gifts for pastoring in urban settings for the past 20 years.
  • Holiday prayers: This holiday season I am praying for people who desperately need recovery—recovery from COVID and the toll it takes on a body, but also our recovery from the brokenness of financial poverty, racism, mental illness, and the effects this pandemic is having on us all.
  • Services: We are holding our Christmas Eve service at 5PM on Dec 24th.  It will be livestreamed over our Woodlawn UMC Facebook page.  If the weather is favorable, we will be gathered in person, in the garden, for a socially distanced service.
  • Location: 139 54th Street North, Birmingham, AL 35212

15. Rev. Julie Conrady, Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Julie Conrady
Rev. Julie Conrady. Photo via Rev. Julie Conrady

Rev. Julie Conrady is the Settled Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham.

  • The path: One of the reasons I felt called to the UU Church in Birmingham was their history of calling two women ministers before me; at other churches, my gender certainly played a role in how I was received.
  • Holiday prayers: This holiday season, I pray for all our healthcare heroes and all those who are suffering from COVID, and for all of our frontline workers who are at the mercies of employers and companies to keep them safe.
  • Services: We are hosting a Blue Holiday Service Dec. 22nd at 7PM on Zoom, and our Christmas Eve Service will be drive-in style at 4PM on the 24th or livestreamed.
  • Location: 4300 Hampton Heights Dr, Birmingham, AL 35209

Now tell us, Birmingham, what other clergywomen in Birmingham did we miss? Tag us on social @bhamnow on Facebook and Instagram or @now_bham on Twitter and let us know.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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