A feisty woman and great church leader

Women holding pastoral positions continue to cause a stir in the religious world despite the changing times.

Women holding pastoral positions continue to cause a stir in the religious world despite the changing times.

While most churches have embraced the participation of women in leadership positions, there are those that still limit women's roles to virtual silence and submission.

Women in some churches are seen only as good at serving tea, becoming Sunday school teachers or leading the worship, but not good enough to stand and teach from the pulpit.

It was against these odds that Pastor Ingrid Zulu, 41, of the Christ the Rock Bible Church in Protea City, Soweto, rose against to fulfil her dream of becoming a pastor.

Zulu's emotional and spiritual journey restores principles of survival and renewed hope for those who believe in their destiny.

Below, this mother of two, Hlengiwe 19, and Paul, 15, shares with Khanyisile Nkosi how the breakdown of her marriage, divorce and her outspokeness about women's rights nearly cost her her pastoral ordination.

Question: When did you become involved in church activities?

Answer: I became involved in Christian activities at the age of 14 when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. After matriculating, I got married and remained active in the church. I was a spoilt wife. My husband provided for the family and I didn't see the need to work.

Q: Have you always wanted to became a pastor or did it just happen?

A: I believe I was born to be a pastor. I always knew that it was my destiny.

Q: Why did it take you 23 years to finally live your dream?

A: There were a lot of challenges along the way. Back in the 1980s, churches were not that receptive to women leaders. I also became unpopular because I fought for women's rights in the church.

For instance, I became unpopular for standing up for a young girl who was to be "punished" in church for falling pregnant out of wedlock. I felt it was unfair that only she had to stand before the congregation to confess her sins while the boy who impregnated her was not reprimanded.

My divorce in 2004 added fuel to the already burning fire. The church used my divorce to prevent me from being ordained. That was the most painful period of my life. But I drew strength from doing what I loved most, which was motivating and encouraging women, using the word of God.

Q: When and how did you start your own church?

A: I started my church in 2004 after my divorce. Actually, the divorce was my wake-up call. It was only then that I realised my potential. I was alone and had to start from scratch. I rented a backyard room. I then invited women and started Thursday prayers in Protea City. I taught them to pray, read and understand God's word. Realising that the area was new and didn't have a church, I saw a need for a Sunday church. I talked to some women and we approached the city council and requested the use of the local hall. Our request was granted.

Q: Were you working when you started the church?

A: I had just found work as a tea girl. I couldn't afford the rent for the hall so a friend offered to pay. While working as a tea girl, I was given an opportunity to work in the accounts department as an assistant credit controller. I trained myself on the job and was later promoted to credit controller, a position I still hold. All this happened within three years.

Q: Does the church run any community development projects?

A: Yes, as the church grew, we began a community project to pay school fees and offer food parcels to the needy.

Q: Are there any challenges you are experiencing in your church as a woman pastor?

A: The main challenge is convincing men to come to church. They often say it's hard for them to be led by a woman pastor, but the good thing is that they encourage their wives to attend church

Q; What advice can you give to women who want to become pastors.

A: Anointed women should know that they were ordained by God, and no man can take that away. They should remember that faith without action is as good as being dead, and that they must always believe that they can do anything.