Disembark from the Staten Island Ferry and drive just a few minutes along the coastline down Bay Street and up the hill through the quiet, house-lined streets and you will find First Central Baptist Church. But walk through the church’s big white doors and the force of the church, and the quaint suburban atmosphere outside is all but forgotten amidst the powerful gospel music.
Last Sunday, after morning service, as the sun shined outside, church members filled the pews of First Central Baptist Church for a second time that day.
“Not only is the sun shining on the outside, we’ve got a little bit of that sun on the inside in our sister, Marcia St. Juste,” said the church’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Demetrius S. Carolina.
The whole church turned out to support this one woman to see her ordination.
Juste is one of 19 children in her family and a member of the sisterhood Delta Sigma Theta. She is a mentor to many young girls through her Waiting for True Love Program and many children through her TODAY (To Overcome the Difficulties of Addiction in our Youth) Program, but the church that raised her in ministry served to grow her family even more.
As she walked in on Sunday, beginning her ordination service, she made eye contact with someone in every row. And at the end of the service, she thanked every mentor in presence personally–a task that took about 10 minutes.
However, becoming a leader in the church is not always easy for women like Juste who hear the call to ministry. According to the Baptist History and Heritage Society, although some churches had ordained women to the deaconate since early in the century, Southern Baptist churches did not begin to ordain women as ministers until 1964. But once women gained the right to become church leaders, they still faced tough adversaries. Just this August, Baptist leaders in Atlanta threatened to cut off a church that maintained a woman as co-pastor.
Rev. Laurie Hill agreed and traveled all the way from Philadelphia to charge Juste in ministry, a ceremony where a reverend gives guidance on how to behave as a future minister. “When I look at you, I see myself,” said Hill, reminding the congregation that both were the children of reverends and had worked hard as women to serve their communities and reach the title of reverend.
“Folks will intimidate you by being a woman… preach anyway,” advised Rev. James Morrison in his sermon dedicated to Juste. “[God] called you to call other young women.”
And call she did. After being presented with her Bible, Juste took to the pulpit, singing out, “I really love the Lord,” and inciting many other women in the congregation to stand up and say, “Hallelujah,” immediately proving that Juste had what it took to lead other young women to follow in her footsteps.