By Rev. Brittany Darst
It all started one Saturday evening in the Virginia mountains. I had just delivered my first “message” (read: sermon) at the annual retreat for my college campus ministry. The campus minister, a trusted friend and mentor, approached me on the porch as I cooled off. “After hearing you speak, I really think you should consider full-time ministry,” he said with conviction. A lightning bolt went through me. I had never considered it, but immediately I knew he was right.
I graduated college that year, but years would pass before I relented to God’s calling and started my M.Div. In the churches where I had grown up, women serving in leadership roles walked narrowly defined paths and were celebrated for toeing the ministerial line. The pulpit was so off-limits for women that a pastoral call had never even occurred to me. Those long-established patterns tugged against the way my heart had soared when I preached that very first time in college. Even when I began to pursue seminary, I kept telling myself, “we’ll see where this goes.”
Years and existential crises later, I am an ordained Cooperative Baptist Fellowship minister with an M.Div. and—at last—confidence in my calling. I work as a religious studies teacher and assistant chaplain at a private school, where I teach, preach and counsel young students. Every time I sign an email “Rev. Brittany,” I chuckle at how long I had hesitated to claim my own name.
During the long hours of quarantine we all endured last year, I began a project that has become part of my ministry: Magdalene Clergy Dresses. One long and boring day I used my sewing skills to make my classmate a clergy dress, complete with clerical collar attachment. Her joy when she put it on was infectious. So I made another one. And another one. And another…Now, my dressmaking shop on Etsy is growing steadily. I even shipped an order to Norway this spring!
Adding dressmaking to my ministry has been a vital part of helping me embrace and celebrate doing ministry in a female body. From simple black dresses to pink confections with sequined strawberries, my dresses celebrate women in all their callings. Every time I see a woman wearing one of my dresses, I see another reason to be confident and joyful in God’s choice to call us.
Where my ministry started? A moment of truth when fear drowned out both God’s voice and my own. How it’s going? Ask me again next time I’m sewing in my workshop.
Link to my shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MagdaleneClergyDress
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