By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
Sunday will be a special occasion for Meadow Oaks Baptist Church in Temple
The congregation will be celebrating its first anniversary with the Rev. Lillian Hinds as senior pastor.
Her gender is what makes the occasion noteworthy.
'Having a female senior pastor is unique in Baptist life,' said Tom Henderson, mission director at the Bell Baptist Association.
The Association doesn't keep a formal tally of female leadership in Bell County Baptist churches.
'Different churches operate in different ways,' Henderson said. 'Some have team leadership, others have a hierarchy of pastors. It's up to the church as to how it runs things.'
So there's no organizational body that's authorized to speak for all Baptist churches.
But traditionally speaking, Henderson said, it is rare for women to take the helm of a Baptist church.
There's only a handful of them in Texas.
'There can be struggles for women pursuing a leadership position within the church,' Mrs. Hinds said. 'I had a tough time in the seminary. But I've been lucky here.'
She said her welcome at Meadow Oaks was warm and friendly.
'A committee sought me out,' Mrs. Hinds said. 'Most were excited when I got here.' Some were hesitant.
'There were a very few who had a wait-and-see attitude but that passed quickly,' Mrs. Hinds said. 'A few might have left, but I'm not aware if they did. For as long as I've been here, everyone in the congregation has been close, hard-working and appreciative of one another.'
In her first year as pastor, she's learned several lessons.
'I've come to see that church is about relationships, loving and working,' she said. 'Not about positions and authority. God has a plan for the church, but it will take all of us, not just a couple of us, to make it work.'
Mrs. Hinds joined Meadow Oaks in September of 2008 after retiring from a career as a therapist and studying at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco.
'I felt like God called me to come and pastor,' she said. 'It has been a longing in my heart for a long time, to work with people and help them.'
Her master's degree in psychology does not conflict with her faith as a Christian.
'They don't exclude one another,' Mrs. Hinds said. 'They go hand in hand in the business of understanding people and the pain they feel.'
And to those women who are seeking careers in church leadership, Mrs. Hinds has the following advice:
'It's important to remember is that it is not about gender, it's about Jesus - and when it gets hard, remember He who called you and that He is faithful when people are not.'