United Methodist ministers have itinerant lives. They go where they’re appointed and serve a church, or churches, until their district superintendent appoints them to another church that would benefit from their particular gifts. While rewarding, the work—and the lifestyle that accompanies it—can be challenging for anyone. It is often even more so for women in ministry.
To address some of these issues, a generous anonymous donor, working closely with the scholarship’s namesake, has established The Rev. Dr. Carol McGinty Rawlinson Scholarship at Candler School of Theology. While the scholarship can be applied to any degree program in the school and pursuing ordination is not required, recipients should be well into the discernment process. The scholarship is designed for “students who have an intuition and passion about how they would like to change the church and the world in a way that makes it better for girls and women,” Carol Rawlinson said.
Rawlinson 90T can speak to the challenges, as well as joys, of being a woman in ministry. She has served The United Methodist Church for more than 30 years as a pastor, chaplain, and counselor. In her first pastoral role after graduating from Emory, she pastored “three little churches in separate counties in South Carolina,” she said.
“I was the first female to pastor the small churches,” she said. The parishioners “weren’t sure a female minister could do as well —even though my male predecessor had the same qualifications. But after the first service, one man came up to me and said, ‘You’re a pro!’” With time, they saw her for who she was: their minister. Per Rawlinson, “As we grew to trust and love each other, I was able to share some of the most important moments in their lives, which is one of the many joys of ministry.”
Rawlinson’s earned trust helped when she encountered similar pushback at a larger church in her next appointment. “They were afraid people would leave and the church would fold,” she said. “I told the district superintendent that they should speak to my former parishioners and then decide.” They did, and Rawlinson served the Sumter church for six years, and “the church didn’t fold, it grew.”
After nine years as a pastor, Rawlinson honored a promise she’d made to herself to continue her education. She relocated to Atlanta, where she pursued a doctorate in pastoral counseling from Columbia Theological Seminary. “It was scary to make the transition, but I wanted to know if the pastoral role fit me or if there was more I needed to explore,” she said.
She made a leap of faith and landed on fertile ground. Rawlinson spent the rest of her ministerial career as a counselor, working for entities such as the Roswell United Methodist Church Counseling Center and the Care & Counseling Center of Georgia. Rawlinson specialized in “dealing with complicated, multilayered grief. Almost everyone who came to me was in grief of some sort.” While no longer In a pulpit, the ministerial aspect of her calling was deep. “I ministered to so many who needed to learn about the grace and love of God but were wary of the institutional church. Changing a life changes the world, wherever it occurs. Ministry has no walls.”
Rawlinson’s experience as a church minister ranged from whitewater rafting with youth to helping individuals and families navigate through their darkest hours. Recognizing that deep calling comes with challenges to complete the journey, Rawlinson desires to inspire and help others continue this important work. Just as God has worked through Rawlinson’s ministry, there are more Candler students seeking to find their voice to Inspire grace and love in a world and church in need of these attributes. Rawlinson believes that God will continue to call others to have a special role in the transformation of the church and the world for the benefit of women and girls. This scholarship is to help those students fulfill their special calling.
In keeping with Rawlinson’s experience of a call outside the pastorate, the new scholarship in her name can be applied to any degree program at Candler. Pursuing ordination is not required. The scholarship will be available beginning in Fall 2022. One scholarship will be awarded per year and will be available to qualified students in their first, second, and third year of study.
As someone who found her way to ministry later in life, Rawlinson envisions that scholarship recipients may be in a similar situation. “I hope that the scholarship will not only offer financial assistance, but that it might encourage students to finish the degree program at Candler with that assistance—and while there, discover a larger world than they knew coming in,” she said.
Finally, Rawlinson has one additional wish. “I hope that I will be able to meet the scholarship recipients one-on-one and learn more about what they are looking for, how they see themselves in ministry,” she said. “That would be a gift to me.”