In 1987, Congress designated the month of March that year as "Women's History Month." The annual observance continues to this day. United Methodist News Service invited several women, both lay and clergy, in The United Methodist Church to share their stories. Here is the response from West Virginia Area Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, elected to the episcopacy in 2012.
7:00 A.M. ET April 24, 2013 | CHARLESTON, W. Va.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
A. I was born in Cambridge, Mass., when my father was attending Harvard Business School. When I was a toddler, my family moved back to Milford, Del., where my father's family was located. I grew up three doors down from my grandparents, and they were constantly a part of my life.
I grew up in The United Methodist Church.My mother and father, Marjorie and Edward Steiner, taught Sunday school, and my father sang in the choir. The church truly was a sanctuary for me as a child. In and through the love and support of the church, I learned that I was valuable, loved and lovable. I had some learning challenges in my early years of life, and as I struggled with school and communication, the church was where I found sanctuary, peace and encouragement.
The church also gave me a great gift in its music. As my parents began to get me involved in the music of the church, I discovered that if I could put the ideas in my head to the music of the church, I could communicate in a way that people would understand. Music also helped me to retain and understand ideas and concepts in school as a younger person and continues to help me as a lifelong learner.
I have a Bachelor of Arts from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa.; a Master of Divinity from Duke University, The Divinity School, Durham, N.C.; and a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington.
Most recently, I served as director of connectional ministries for the Peninsula-Delaware Annual (regional) Conference. During my last year in that role, I also served as interim pastor of Bayside Chapel, a new United Methodist church start in Selbyville, Del. I was the first female superintendent of the Dover District, and served as dean of the cabinet. I was the youngest and first female pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church in St. Michaels, Md. Before that, I was associate pastor of Kent Island United Methodist Church, Chester, Md.
I am married to the Rev. Barry D. Steiner Ball, and we have two daughters, Sarah Elizabeth, 23, and Sandra Rebekah "Becky," 19.
Q. In what local church did you grow up?
A. I grew up in Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford, Del. My family was front-pew United Methodists! Amazingly, every Sunday, that same pew was available. Iparticipated in Sunday school, the choirs and the youth fellowship.
Q. What are your gifts and how doyou share them with the church?
A. I have the gift of encouragement. Like Barnabas, Paul's missionary companion, I can go into a wide variety of situations and see God's grace and power at work.Iam able to reveal the joy and presence of Christ and to encourage and empower people to be committed to Christ and to proclaim the good news of God in all places and at all times.Iam also a teacher and preacher, along with other spiritual gifts I use on behalf of others in a variety of ways.
Q. How do you nurture others, especially girls and women, through the church and in other aspects of your life?
A. I tell others to get the word "can't" out oftheir vocabulary.We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.This is a particularly helpful practice and message for girls and women in many areas who have been seen by families or society as being "less than" or "not as important as."
I also try to walk with people as best as I can.Ilisten. Ihelp people to find the answers that they really have within themselves for most of life's challenges, and I encourage people constantly to learn and to grow.Ialso challenge people to have the heart, mind and eyes of Christ.It is amazing what God can transform through us as we seek to be more like Christ.
Q. Why is Women's History Month important to you?
A. Women's History Month is important to me because it points to the value of women.It reminds me and others of the great women throughout historywho have fought to get out from underneath oppression, have fought for equal rights and have persevered in ways that have broken the glass ceiling. It reminds women that we can make a difference in the lives of our families and in communities and the world.Awoman's perspective is important and can inform decisions in ways that bring greater hope, help, strength and life to our families, our churches, our communities and the world.
This interview was conducted by Barbara Dunlap-Berg, internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn. Contact Dunlap-Berg at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].