Karol A. Mason, 48, Associate Minister, Grace Baptist Church of Germantown
I’m a preacher woman.
And I’m a full-grown woman living in my fullness.
In the church, I think we should talk about the hard topics. I think it’s necessary to have workshops about sex and sexuality. And who came up with these ideas? Who decided that sex was evil? This is the problem. The church makes it evil. Especially for women.
As women of the cloth, we need to be able to understand that it is okay to talk about the dynamics of sex. When you talk about sex and sexuality, that is life-giving and life-affirming in the church. That is loving and that is a convicted love.
I have the right to say, as a Black woman and as a Black woman minister, that as women we have to be sexually responsible and sexually confident.
Whether you are married and having sex or single and having sex, you can’t expect someone to understand your body if you don’t understand your body. Even if you’re abstinent, I’m gonna need you to get a mirror, hold it between your little legs, look and see. You need to touch and understand does that hurt? Does that feel good?
I think we have to be able to say that as women and say that as a Christian woman. If your love conviction is “I don’t want to have sex till I’m married.” Okay. But you have to understand your vagina and all the pleasure points thereof. Or else you give command to a man or a mate to understand it. You’re assuming that your mate knows what you like.
You have to understand Roman culture and then talk about sex/sexuality. What people do is just pull it out scripture but don’t contextualize the history behind it. In Roman culture, everything was about power and power dynamic, especially over women.
Before I was preaching, I wore good heels and great clothes. When I became a preacher and got licensed, that doesn’t stop. Do y’all think just because I’m now going to be preaching I’m not going to wear my 6-inch heels? Oh no!
I’m going to need you to find in the Bible where it says that I cannot wear my fishnet stockings with the pretty hearts going through them and my 6-inch heels. I’m going to wear my clothes and be proud, because God knit me in my mother’s womb and I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Also, me being unmarried offends people. It offends them that I’m a Black woman preacher and, “How dare you not be married?” And I say cause I’m not. I might not ever be, but I still have a companion and live in my full-grown womaness.
Black women preachers walk the walk and talk the talk. That’s so cliche, but women support everything around them: their husbands, their brothers, their sons, their daughters, their nieces, their nephews, their parents, their colleagues, their friends, their dogs, cats, the bird, the fish. We are caregivers as women. We’re strong and still vulnerable. We also know how to be truthful, because to me, men preachers can get away with things that we can’t. We know the pain of being a woman in the pulpit and being considered less than or dealing with double standards.
Jarena Lee was the first Black female preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination. She felt called to preach, but then Bishop Richard Allen, who was the founder of the AME church, felt conflicted. He felt he could not have a woman preaching from his pulpit. One day there was a guest preacher who was supposed to speak and they didn’t come. She felt convicted and exhorted from her pew to preach.
When he heard this, he realized, “Oh, she is really called to preach.” He had her become the first Black female preacher of the AME denomination.I grew up seeing women in the pulpit. I knew women preachers growing up in Maryland. Then when I moved to Philadelphia to learn of this Jarena Lee -- it just continues the contextualization of ministry for me.
My mother, Sheila Mason, was adopted when she was about 18 months. What I learned from my mother was that, as Jarena Lee was convicted preaching, my mother was convicted to love. Even after she was adopted, she found her birth parents. She always taught us it doesn’t matter how you get your family, they are yours and you love on them. That was just a conviction my mother had.
People from the church would say, “Everything is so beautiful, Karol. Now we just need to get you married.” Actually we don’t have to get me nothing. Let’s be very clear. I am very self-sufficient. Why are you saying that I need a husband?
When I go to preach, my man comes and he’s proud. He lets the people hug and kiss me. At the end, he holds me gently in the lower part of my back, looks at me and smiles and then puts his lips to my ear. I nuzzle my ear in close. He says, “I love you. I’m so proud of you. I love seeing you preach. You make it plain for people and give life applications for the Bible. It’s so sexy and beautiful. I love it.”
Then he kisses me on the lips. He steps back and lets the people come to me.
That is just such a good feeling.
And yet, I go to my house, sometimes, and rest at night.
Or he goes to his and rests at nights.
We both provide what we need, companionship and love with space to understand that there are some facets of my life that he can’t touch. He respects that I have to write sermons and just emerge myself in that space. Maybe being in the house with him is too much, because his man energy is around.
I don’t need that I just need to hear God at this point.
And he needs his space.
It’s offensive when people think that because I’m a woman of the cloth, in order to be a complete woman first, and then to be a complete woman of the cloth, that I then must be married. God made me whole. Without my man. My man is an added bonus.
I’m going to be this bold, convicted in love, sex and sexuality, Christian, Black woman minister and meet people where they are. I’m going to keep being authentic and just love on people.
I get that from my mama.
I get that from Jarena Lee.
Karol’s Revolutionary Picks:
“Jarena Lee was the first Black female preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination. She felt called to preach, but then Bishop Richard Allen, who was the founder of the AME church, felt conflicted. He felt he could not have a woman preaching from his pulpit. One day there was a guest preacher who was supposed to speak and they didn’t come. She felt convicted and exhorted from her pew to preach.”