Women in Church Leadership

By Opio Jackson


OJ: Briefly tell us about yourself

AP: I am called Alice Phannuel Kenyi, lay reader at Gosheni Parish of Episcopal Church of South Sudan.  I started going to church while l was still very young but after I got married I could rarely go and sometimes only on Christmas, Easter and other big feasts in the church.

Although I regularly go to Church l believe that God has a purpose in my life because He did not allow me to break away for Him.

God had revealed himself to me when my husband was seriously ill and under Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The doctors could not allow us to reach him but we were just waiting whether he would come out alive from there. The next day when I wanted to see him the doctor again said no one was allowed to get into the room where my husband was. Everybody who were around me including my children and my in laws could not relieve my husband from his pain  

I go to a quiet room and started praying to God. I was praying while crying to God with tears.  Not so long, the doctor sent someone to me to take a tooth brush and bathing towel to my husband. Immediately I felt relieved because God had listened to my pray.

I decided to call one of the pastors from Pentecostal Church who was with us in Khartoum. I narrated to him the testimony and how my faith helped my husband from his pain. Right from that day I came very committed in the church.   My Holy Bible has never been away from me. I always read it from time to time and my faith in God has grown very strong. So even my husband who used not to go to church regularly became very committed in the church since we narrated to him how God was so quick to answer our prayers during the time he was sick and at the ICU.

OJ: How did you get to the position you are holding right now?

AP: My serious commitment in the church started in 2008 especially after we came back from Khartoum to Juba in 2011. Since our arrival in Juba I have been praying at Gosheni Parish of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) which is now known as the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS).

In 2017 I was nominated for the training of Lay reader in the church by the congregation because the Bible says any work you do in the church whether you are a singer or drum beater; it is praising God.  Then I and other colleagues were sent to the diocese to undergo training of lay reader in the church.  After a successful training, I was consecrated as a lay reader for Arabic language at Gosheni parish.

OJ: How are you being perceived by men and the entire congregation?

AP: In the church where I pray, we are six consecrated lay readers in total. There are three women and three men.  During our training we were staying very well and the men were not saying that they are better than us.  In the Church everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord and there is no one better than the other.

For you to be able to preach the words of God, one needs to have strong faith and belief because it is Him who will give you the wisdom to preach his words to the people.

In our parish the whole congregations do not have bad perception towards us as women. I do remember when I made my first preaching during Bari Mass everybody was coming to me after the service to congratulate me for the wonderful preaching.  It was from this appreciation where learned that most people do believe that women are able to lead the church and preach the word of God.

The word of God is only one but its preaching varies from one preacher to another but its main purpose must be to adore and glorify Him. We don’t stand on the Holy altar to show off ourselves that so and so does not know how to preach. But to pass the message of God in order to bring salvation to His people and we need not to feel proud to others when we stand on His altar.

As servants of God our work is to spread the message of Jesus Christ to his people regardless whether you are a woman or a man. Therefore, I have not realized any wrong perception from the congregation.  

OJ: What roles are you playing in the church as lay reader?

AP: The work of the lay reader is to act as an assistant to the pastors. The church has lot of activities which cannot be done by the pastors alone. As a lay reader I always prepare the readings for the pastor, and sometimes take the reading if requested by him.

I also help in some administration work in the church such as the registration of the entire congregation after the service, to register those who received the Holy Communion as well as amount of offertory collected.

Lay reader can also conduct counseling within the church to young families, youth, those with trauma and any other faithful who is in need of counseling. I also preach in the church and recite burial prayer if directed by the pastor in his absentia.

OJ: Do you anticipate seeing more women in leadership in the church?

AP: Already we have women who are pastors and in our parish there is one call pastor Martha Ayaa who is doing very.

We all know that the numbers of the people who always attend Sunday service, majority of them are women and young girls compared to men. This shows that women have a great role to play in the church because they are the majority in all churches.

We have a great chance to be God servants in the church because the church does not discriminate. I want to tell women to stand firm in their faith so that in future they would be able lead the whole church well.

 OJ: Are you ready to become a pastor if God calls you?

AP: I will not hesitate His call because I know I am already in the church serving Him. What I ask from Him is to increase my faith and the love for me to do His work. I pray that, let me remain very humble and fear Him all days. God always gives strength to the one who fears Him.

 I want to preach His word through the power of the Holy Spirit and not my own strength. Therefore, if God calls me to become a pastor I will not refuse because I want to serve him more.  

Do not think a woman’s view is not being taken into consideration in any discussion in the church?

We always have meeting together with men whether in the church or in the residences and in many occasions the view of everybody is being taken very important. My contribution and the one of other fellow women are not being ignored because in most cases we tend to give strong views that are often embraced by men.  

OJ: What roles women in the church play to bring peace in the country?

AP: We know that the church is playing a vital role to see that peace is restored in the country. Therefore, women as a group in the church have big role to play in order to bring peace in the country.  We need to continue preaching to the people about peace and love by encouraging every citizen to love one another.

If love your neighbour you cannot kill or rob him. If we have the love for one another we will not differentiate someone because he is from Dinka, Nuer or Bari. You will see every person in the image of God.

OJ: What is your message to some churchrs that discriminates against women?

AP: I want to tell everybody that women have responsibilities to play in church though in the past they were prevented from leading services on beliefs that women are so attractive to men.

Some churches believes that when a woman get to the altar her body appearance will cause sexual desire to men which they think would lead men into sin.  But to me that is not true because every woman who accepts God is able to lead people in the right way. She can change the lives of many people from failure to success.  The words that come from her mouth are words that can touch your heart because she has been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

I am appealing to all churches to allow women to participate in the church activities.

OJ: What are some of the challenges you face as you continue to serve God?

AP: There are always challenges in every work you do especially in the church if you don’t have strong faith you will run away.  Surprisingly a pastor may call you at a time when you are doing your domestic work to go carry out church activity somewhere.

 I personally I have always left my duty in the family and rushed out to respond to God’s assignments it is because the work of God is more important to me than my own work.

For instance someone may die and a pastor may call you to go and burry the person so you will have to leave your family work and run for that assignment.

Secondly, the church services are free, there is no monthly payment. It is not like other jobs where at the end of every month you are paid something.  Therefore, once you accept to serve God you must be ready to continue providing services to his people at your cost.

We should always be ready to serve God first and do our work after we have served him.

OJ: What is your message to the readers?

AP: My message to the general public is that everybody must put into practice the words and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Baptism that we received, we are called to be witnesses to his preaching by good deeds to others. Every person is able to serve God irrespective of the sex. As Christians we should always live in words of God so that we don’t fall into this earthly traps which are not everlasting.











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