The Christmas Holidays are upon us and as I do at this time every year, I reflect upon the memories of attending the Old Bethany Cumberland Presbyterian Church outside of Coushatta, Louisiana. I also reflect upon my novel, Faith – Seventy Times Seven and remember how Ada had a calling from God to preach his Word at a very young age. Ada fought great odds of ever becoming the first ordained woman of the cloth in the early 1900’s because of an all-male General Assembly. A woman to preach in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. I don’t think so!
No matter which Elder or which minister she would talk to, the conversation about God and gender would come up and they would always attempt to conclude the matter by saying Jesus was a man. This, I suppose, was to say his incarnation proves something about the gender of God, or in their own words, the ultimate superiority of “maleness.”
In the novel, Ada faced many adversaries, one being an abusive alcoholic husband. But, we are not here to discuss that, we are here to discuss her divine calling at the age of fourteen years. Okay, I must admit. In Jesus, God was once a man. But, he was once a baby, nestled comfortably in Mary’s womb, a small little human whose life depended upon a woman. Furthermore, a tiny small little baby boy who slept comfortably on his mother’s chest and, without a doubt, probably after several months said, “Mamma!”
Ada had the most difficult time convincing men that she had a calling from God to preach his Word. The one thing Ada never let go of was her FAITH. When Jesus grew up into a man and later was crucified and buried and forgotten about by men, it was no other than the women who came to his cave and it was the women who saw him first at the resurrection. It was their words that spread the joy!
I can still see my grandmother, Ada Caston Slaton Bonds of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church standing in front of two hundred members of the General Assembly and with such odds not in her favor, standing up in front of everyone and saying, “Gentlemen, like it or not,” stared up at the ceiling of the building, “God needs women… for friendship, for assisting in church matters, for the work of redemption, and yes, to be ordained and preach his Word just like the other two hundred men in the church!
Hats off to a Pioneer Woman of the State of Louisiana. First ordained woman minister. Lasting title given by the entire General Assembly, Mother of All Presbyteries. Longest active tenure of a woman minister in the United States. And, held the distinguished title of Moderator of the General Assembly six times! (So much for being a woman)
If you haven’t read her autobiography written by Sidney St. James, FAITH – Seventy Times Seven, click HERE.
The words in this story brought back my faithful training in my early years when we had revivals. Miss Ada truly showed her parishioners that yes, “Jesus is in this place”. I was fortunate to be able to attend a 2014 revival in Pleasant Hill, Louisiana honoring the MEMORY of Reverend Ada Caston Slaton Bonds. It will always be a special day in my life. Now that I have read her memoirs , I feel I know her joys, sadness, her love of family and her love of God! A Great Read… Josephine Starr