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Pranitha Fielder Interview
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Watch video interviews at the end of this article.

My call to ministry was intricately tied into my journey to know Christ. I was born in India, and lived there for a little over seven years. My Mom, brother and I moved to America when I was seven and a half to join my Dad who had been in the States for about two years. I was devastated to have leave my grandfather who had played a big part in my young life. I was pretty angry about the move. It was all very different and I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere.
 
Anger became a part of my life. The first time I remember praying of my own free will, was when I was eight or nine years old. I had gotten into some argument with my parents, and I went into my room, slammed the door, and cursed God out the best an eight- or nine-year-old could.
 
I went to six different elementary schools—endured lots of moving around. When I got to Tacoma Academy (TA), as a freshman, I was still pretty angry. I didn’t want to be there.
 
During the fall semester the school conducted a Week of Prayer. At the end of one of the sessions, a note was passed around, asking if I wanted to sign up for baptismal classes. Now, I was one of those kids that didn’t get picked up from school until around 6 p.m., so having nothing else to do during that wait, I signed up to go. Spring semester arrived, and I got a note that said “Hey, you signed up for baptismal classes, so if you want, come to this room.” I thought, “well, why not.”
 
I started going to baptismal classes with Mr. Henry—going, but in body only—not in spirit. Then spring Week of Prayer rolled around. I sat through the meetings feeling nothing. On the last day, they made an altar call, and many of my high school friends went up to make a commitment to Jesus. I thought it was stupid! I thought it was ridiculous! Why were they going up there? I was so turned off, I got up and left the chapel. When I reached the back of TA’s chapel, one of the seniors who had been praying and encouraging me me all year long, saw me and gave me a hug. I just fell apart there. God’s spirit filled me and I finally felt like I belonged to someone. It was in that moment embraced by that hug—and crying my eyes out, that I felt this overwhelming realization that I wanted to spend the rest of my life helping other people feel this same sense of belonging to God.
 
So from that point on, I knew that I was going to be working for God and helping people feel at home with Him. This was my call to ministry. I was fourteen, and I didn’t know all the details about pastoring. I just knew this was what I had to do for the rest of my life.
 
My family and many people in my community thought that it was wrong for me to go into ministry. A woman and especially a woman from my country of origin, should not be seeking to be a pastor—that’s a man’s job. So started a nine-year struggle with my community and family.
 
My grandfather and great-uncles were all pastors, and even they thought that I shouldn’t be a pastor because they firmly believed that it was for men. I distinctly remember someone calling me on the phone—someone I hadn’t seen since I was five years old, who said, “What do you think you’re doing? Who do you think you are?—You can’t be a pastor!” Words like these were pretty discouraging for me. 
 
For the first semester of college, I tried to do a double major—biology and theology—to please my parents, because, of course, Indians have to be doctors. I knew, that while I could do other things, nothing else was going to fulfill me other than working full time for God in pastoral ministry. I knew that at the end of the day I had to answer to Him, not anyone else.
 
When I graduated from Columbia Union College (CUC), I received calls from two conferences. That was pretty amazing to me on three counts; being so young, being a female, being Indian. I called a family member for advice. I was really excited, and I said, “Hey, I’ve got calls to ministry from two conferences. My family member replied, “What?  Are you really doing this?” I said, “I’ve been in school all this time taking theology. What did you think I was going to do?” He said, “We thought you’d end up being a church secretary or something. Who’s going to marry you now?”
Discouraging advice for sure! Five months later I met my husband at seminary.
 
I’ve learned that if I’m faithful to God, no matter how difficult it is, He makes a way and He’s faithful to me. Even if He’s the only one in my corner, He’s sufficient to help me fulfill my call.
 
I was seventeen when I started working at Sligo Church as a student. The youth pastor had taken note of my work with campus ministries at Tacoma Academy and asked me to be a youth leader at Sligo Church.
 
There were three female pastors on the staff at the time. Sligo has a a long history of woman pastors—thirteen or fourteen over the years. I don’t think most churches, Adventist or not , carry that kind of legacy. They encouraged me, let me try ministry, pushed me, let me make mistakes. Sligo church became a safe place for me. When I was twenty-one or twenty-two, I got an invitation from a school in Hong Kong to do a Week of Prayer. I couldn’t afford a trip like that, but Sligo Church collected an offering and sent me to Hong Kong. They stood behind me.
 
When I couldn’t pay my school bill at CUC, there were members who came and tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Do you need some help with your school bill?” Or, “This month, God impressed me to help you with your school bill.” I don’t know how they found out, but that church was instrumental in keeping me going with their support.
 
I’ve been there thirteen years now, five years as a student, and then back as a pastor—first as youth and young adult pastor, and now as the pastor for discipleship. The encouragement I have received there, has allowed me to grow and mature in my ministry-calling.
 
While Sligo is very supportive and encouraging, there are still challenges where people outside of that Sligo community have made negative comments after they’ve heard me preach. Recently I finished marriage counseling with a couple, and they asked me to perform their wedding. A few months before their wedding day, they called and informed me, “We can’t have you do our wedding anymore, because some of our extended family, heard that you were performing the wedding, and they’re not comfortable because you’re a female pastor.” So I was not able to marry them.
 
The challenges I face pale a bit when I think of the challenges of women who do not have the opportunity I have been given. I think it’s an important story to be told because it’s easy for me in Sligo—in Potomac Conference—in Columbia Union, to do what God has called me to do. Thousands of women in the world cannot fulfill what God calls them to do.
 
Nonetheless, dealing with the challenges of being a female pastor can be painful, and tearful at times. Internally I just go back to the Lord and remember that He is the One who called me. While not everyone is comfortable with that, I only answer to Him. I’m not wrong in His eyes, even if other people think I’m wrong. I forgive, and move past it, remembering God knows what He’s doing.
 
I also rely heavily on my husband’s support. I’ve met men who are conceptually okay with women in ministry, but being married to a woman in ministry—now that’s not comfortable for everyone. My husband believes in my call to ministry as much as he does his call—he is a pastor also. I call him and we pray together, and I rely on him—his support and his encouragement.
 
I was ordained a few weeks ago. When the day came and I was sitting on the rostrum, absorbing everything, seeing my family and community in the audience, I was overwhelmed by the journey that I had been on with God. For the past sixteen years, God had guided me along every step of the way, planning everything, from where I was going to work, to finding the man who is now my husband. I felt this sense of total acceptance by God. The ups and downs I’d been through with Him, had shown me His faithfulness and sufficiency. He was all I needed and I had seen the fulfillment of my desire to serve Hm in full time ministry.
 
 
 
Pranitha Fielder - Short Interview
 
 

Pranitha Fielder - Full Interview