My sister and I began our education at a little Christian elementary school that met in an old church building that had been converted into classrooms. My Mama, who was raised Catholic, and my Pops, who had gone to church intermittently growing up, knew there was a God "out there", but beyond that, weren't sure of much else, and wanted Kate and I to have the opportunity to develop a faith of our own.
And so it was from the lips of my elementary school teachers, all women, that I first heard the story of Redemption, tales of this God-man Jesus who wrapped himself in flesh, who died and rose again so we could be made new. They taught me songs and read me stories, prayed before snack time and read from worn Bibles lying open in the folds of their skirts.
It was because of their words that I first became captivated by the gospel and the possibility of a life lived in Abba's love. And, as the story goes, my tiny self came home one day asking why we didn't go to church like everyone else. It was because of them that the Schwartz family began attending the church we've called home now over a dozen years.
I've been in Christian education my whole life—from preschool until present, age 4 to 24. And I still think about those women, and the impact they had and continue to have on my life and the life of my family. And I've been thinking about them in particular lately, because I haven't had a woman teach me about the Bible in any kind of formal setting for almost a decade, and probably won't anytime soon.
In middle school, all of my Bible classes were taught by a man—who was wonderful, and from whom I learned a great deal. My freshman year of high school I took a Bible course from a retired missionary woman, but since then, my formal theological education has been exclusively in the hands of men, almost all of whom were white.
I minored in Biblical Studies during my undergraduate career, and never had the opportunity to take a class from a woman, of whom there were only two at my university.
I am in my masters program now, studying Biblical Exposition, where my chances of taking a course from a woman are even slimmer. It's possible I will take a course or two from men of color, but that number will not be nearly high enough.
Part of what fascinates me about this dynamic is that in all of the years I've spent in Christian education, female students have always, and I mean always, largely outnumbered our male counterparts, but the moment I stepped into graduate school, my female classmates all but disappeared.
And I think about those women, in those early years, who planted the seeds of the gospel in my soul, who are in a very real way responsible for who I turned out to be, and where I am now. I needed them then, without a doubt, but I need them now, too.
I need to hear the gospel from the lips of women in the halls of my seminary. I need to hear how they study the text, how they interpret difficult passages, and what it is they think about the mysteries of our faith.
I needed to hear authoritative teaching and preaching from the voices of women in my undergraduate studies.
I needed to be lead and challenged and educated at the hands of women in high school and middle school.
I need to see the daughters of Mary operating in the dignity that was given to them at the tomb as the first people to carry the message of the gospel.
I have a deep love and high regard for the men who have taught me from the pulpit and the lectern—I've needed and need them, too. But I don't ever think there is going to be a lack of their voices in my life to tell me about Jesus.
I need a diversity of voices, because where we lack diversity, we miss out on the gifts God intends diversity to brings us. We miss out on the fullness of who God is, and how he is moving and speaking in the lives of people who are different than we are.
I need to be taught by women to be reminded that I have a place here, too.
“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message. (John 20)