Daughters of Thunder, founded by Rev. Dr. Marsha Brown Woodard and Rev. Phaedra D. Blocker, began as a project with African American Alumnae at Palmer Theological Seminary. The project grew out of ongoing conversations (and a focus group) with female clergy of color about their particular needs as clergywomen (or clergywomen to be). Although one of the largest demographics attending seminaries around the country (including Palmer), women of color have consistently noted that it can be frustratingly difficult to find nurture, support, training—or just someone to talk to who really understands what it means to function in ministry as a woman of color.
In 2008, these conversations gave birth to Daughters of Thunder, a collaborative endeavor whose mission is to support, nurture and empower female clergy of African descent. We began by inviting African American alumnae and graduating seniors from Palmer to “Sistah Preacher” Gatherings where we raised the questions, vented the “stuff” and found that fellowship and laughter helped us to “feel like going on.” The women who attended had a fantastic time and committed to stay involved. We eventually expanded our circle to reach out to clergywomen of color from across the region.
God then led us to begin an annual celebration of women preachers of color, “Those Preaching Women,” which we have dedicated to the life and legacy of Dr. Ella P. Mitchell, who edited a series of sermon collections of the same name. Many of our preachers have been featured in Dr. Mitchell’s series. Preachers for the 2009 and 2010 events included: Reverend Dr. Laura B. Sinclair, Reverend Lisa Harris, Bishop Audrey Bronson, Rev. Dr. Betty Wright Riggins, Rev. Marsha Brown Woodard, and Rev. Dr. Bernadette Glover-Williams. Our 2011 preachers were Min. Tamika Holder, Rev. Latisha D. West, Rev. Willette Burgie-Bryant, and Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman.
Through our experiences at the Gatherings and “Those Preaching Women,” we sensed (and heard from women) that there was a need for something more—a time of extended learning, sharing, and fellowship. And so, we convened the Daughters of Thunder Conference for Clergywomen of Color—a multi-day conference that includes workshops, worship services, and fellowship/networking opportunities.
It is our prayer that Daughters of Thunder will help women called to a wide range of professional ministry reach their potential in Christ.