Refuse to be intimidated
Carolyn Tyler Guidry realised very early on in her ministry that her voice wouldn't always be valued — she was a woman.
The year was 1977 and she had just been ordained as itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal church.
“I was sitting with other male elders and people were making suggestions to the Bishop, so I made a suggestion, which I felt was valid,” said Mrs Tyler Guidry, now a church bishop herself.
“Then one of the senior elders said to me, ‘We let you in here, but you need to be quiet'. Except I'm not the kind to be quiet and he soon learnt I couldn't be intimidated. My response was, ‘I'm as much of an elder as you are'. I hadn't been doing it as long as him, but I still had been given the authority and believed in my calling enough to speak up.”
She's been encouraging and empowering women to use their skills and talents to advance God's Kingdom ever since. This weekend she will speak at a conference here, organised by Deyone Douglas and the AME Churches of Bermuda's Women in Ministry.
“Sometimes, as women, we know that God has called us to do certain things and He has given us authority to do it, but because people will oppose us we will back up and not go forward,” the 81-year-old said.
“My message to women who attend this weekend's event is to be empowered. Do not be intimidated because you are female. If God has called you, and as long as you have been given the proper authority, you should proceed in that calling.”
Mrs Tyler Guidry grew up in a Christian home in the United States and has attended church her entire life. She remembers answering ‘the call' to follow God when she was just 8, however, it wasn't until decades later that she realised she was destined to pursue full-time ministry.
“For me, the call to enter ministry started to become more intense when I was 39 years old,” she said. “I was married, raising a family and I was working at a bank. Still, I felt this urge.”
She began having vivid dreams of standing in an auditorium speaking in front of hundreds of people. It scared her, but she began praying and diligently reading God's word.
“I also talked to my husband about it, hoping he would tell me he doesn't want to be married to a preacher, which would let me off the hook. But he just said, ‘I'm 100 per cent behind you to do what God has called you to do'.
“A few days after that I went to church, and in the midst of the sermon I saw myself again in front of this auditorium speaking. I went down to the preacher and said, ‘I believe God has called me to preach' and he confirmed that was what God had impressed upon him as well. So, it took me a while, but I finally surrendered and the rest is history.”
In the years since May 1973, she hasn't second-guessed that decision, always believing that the path was the right one for her.
“No matter how many people told me God doesn't like for women to preach or those who rejected my ministry, I have never doubted what God was doing through me or my ministry,” she said.
She served as a pastor and presiding elder before she was elected as the second female bishop of the AME church in 2004.
Her goal has always been to minister and pour into others' lives to the best of her ability. Due to her commitment and sacrifice, she believes God has blessed her and her family richly.
“My children are college-educated, good and hardworking people, serving in the church,” she said. “My sons are good fathers. God has covered my ministry over the years and given me six children — five sons and one daughter — 13 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.”
Widowed twice, the biggest lesson she's learnt through it all is the importance of staying faithful and being obedient. She feels blessed that God has allowed her the opportunity to still be active and useful.
“My body is a little feeble these days, but my mind is strong,” she said.
“I know that when you trust in God there is no limit to what He can do in your life. I'm proof of that. I was a little girl born out of wedlock and raised by my grandmother, but I have been elevated to the highest position in my church, travelled all over the world and been richly blessed through my family and friends. Who can ask for more than that in life?”
• Carolyn Tyler Guidry will speak at 8.30am today in the Discovery Room at CedarBridge Academy as part of the Women's Empowerment Weekend organised by the AME Churches of Bermuda. She will also speak tomorrow at 11am at St John's AME Church, 41 Wilkinson Avenue, Hamilton Parish
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