Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A reflection on the life and ministry of Harriett Howard Bright.

Harriett Howard Bright was the first woman ordained to ministry in the Church of the Brethren. Dana Cassell, Brethren Volunteer Service worker in the Ministry Office, told the following story of Bright's life and ministry as she presented the "Resolution on 50 Years of Women's Ordination in the Church of the Brethren" to the General Board:

"Harriett Howard learned the art of spinning at the age of ten. It wasn't too long before she moved from spinning to weaving, and soon became an expert in the craft. She completed her first coverlet at age 12. Later, she paid her way through Berea College with her weaving, graduating in 1936 with a bachelor's degree in Home Economics. She completed a master's degree in Crafts and Arts at George Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn., in 1944, and began teaching weaving throughout the south.

"She married Calvin Bright in 1945, and the couple moved to Chicago, where Calvin attended Bethany Seminary. As a soon-to-be pastor's wife, Harriett received a year of theological training at the seminary, and served with her husband in his first pastorate in Peoria, Ill.

"In 1947, Harriett and Calvin were commissioned as missionaries by the church, and moved together to China. Harriett taught weaving and crafts at West China Union University until the unstable political climate forced her departure in 1950.

"When she returned to the United States, Harriett became the head of the Weaving Department at Berea College until she was called by the denomination to be National Director of Mission Education. In this capacity, she and Calvin traveled the country, visiting and speaking in more than 600 Brethren churches.

"In 1952, the Brights moved to Richmond, Ind., where Calvin had been called to a pastorate. Harriett, experienced in many forms of ministry, was licensed to preach the gospel in Dec. 1955, and was soon called to serve as pastor to Four Mile Church of the Brethren in Liberty, Ind. Three years later, in Dec. 1958, Harriett Howard Bright became the first woman to be ordained in the Church of the Brethren. She pastored several more congregations, and continued teaching and weaving until her death in 1982.

"I like Harriett's story because her life illustrates so well the realities of women in ministry. She served the church as a teacher, an artist, a missionary, and a pastor's wife for years before she became ordained and served as a solo pastor. For Harriett, I think, ordination was the church's acknowledgment of the ministry gifts that she had already been practicing for a long time."

--Dana Cassell is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker serving with the Ministry Office of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

Source: 3/12/2008 Newsline

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