Handmaidens of the Lord: Pentecostal Women Preachers and Traditional Religion

Handmaidens of the Lord: Pentecostal Women Preachers and Traditional Religion

Handmaidens of the Lord: Pentecostal Women Preachers and Traditional Religion

Handmaidens of the Lord: Pentecostal Women Preachers and Traditional Religion

Excerpt

Beginnings are difficult. "Where do you want me to start?" Sister Anna asks me. "How do I tell you about my life? I was saved when I was nine years old; I was seventeen when God called me to preach. But those are my markers. What are the markers you are looking for?" Such a good question. We are so tuned to biographical data as a linear progression: she was born in 1892 to E. Jacobs and S. Jacobs, née Bishop; there were twelve children, four boys and eight girls; she went to school in Sparta; she married William Richards at age seventeen and bore four children of her own...

But when I ask a woman preacher, "Tell me about yourself, about your life," the markers are all different. I've had to learn to listen; I need to learn their markers rather than teach them mine. Their accounts are more like the patchwork quilts that grace their beds. Certain moments come to mind first, remind them of another similar day, a different moment. Their lives are a mosaic, some events more textured than others. Some occupy a whole block on the quilt, others only share a space with related times and memories appliqued one on top of the other. Remembering lifts the layers. Digression is a religious pattern itself, woven like the coverlet's shuttle, forward and back, to reveal perfection on both sides. Yet, a look at their various individual stories reveals a traditional pattern, a common story with uncommon embellishments. Not only in the story style and performance, but in the content as well, these stories prove to be examples of folk narrative.

The "life stories" of four women preachers included in this chapter are representative of the kinds of stories I have gotten from women preachers throughout the central counties of Missouri. Most of the material that comprises their personal stories is taken from interviews; however, because parts of these stories remain in the active repertoire of these women as . . .

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