The church I attended from birth to high school graduation received Dr. Jane Tews as an Associate Minister around 1978 or 1979. As the first female Methodist minister in the Phoenix area (perhaps the first official female minister in AZ; but I don’t remember the statistics from so long ago), she challenged stereotypes and created opportunities for women in the church. I learned she had a massive stroke while I lunched with a dear friend, who had been in youth group with me. The following is my tribute to this pioneering woman.
I know you’ll never read this note. I had lunch with Jennie while my family visited my parents in Phoenix. She told me about the stroke you’ve had and that you are not expected to live. I’m sorry for all of those you currently minister to and those of us you mentored in the past. We will miss you.
I remember when you came to the United Methodist Church near Arizona State University. You were fresh out of seminary and the first woman minister I had ever seen. I remember the newspaper article about you. Being a female minister was a BIG deal back then. I think I was in 7th or 8th grade when you arrived for your new position.
I wonder if you knew how important you were to us girls in the late 1970s? The women’s movement had gained much; but most of us didn’t have real-life role models of what it looked like to have a woman in a leadership role. Thank you for letting us watch you and learn how to navigate through ‘a man’s world’ and make it our own. Thank you for showing us that we didn’t have to sacrifice faith in order to have an intelligent voice in our world. Thank you for showing us how, as women, Jesus lived through us. Thank you for modeling how necessary women are in leadership positions and not just support positions.
Thank you for pioneering the way for us to believe that we really could embrace whatever calling God had for us and never had to believe that we had to conform that calling to gender stereotypes.
I’ve thought of you over the years and what it must have been like for you to be a lone woman in a traditionally male position. To our eyes, you seemed so natural and confident. I’m sure it wasn’t easy at times. You and a few other women in my life developed my confidence to know that I am not lower than men. In 2013, it sounds silly to even think that was once a common belief about women. But, I and others remember the late 1970s/early 1980s, and know how ground-breaking having a woman in a leadership role was. I remember how young teens desperately needed role models to understand not just our culture’s changes, but to understand how to live out what Jesus offers to ALL believers.
Thank you, Jane, for being that role model. Thank you for your life. May you know fully God’s joy as you pass into His tangible presence, as you have been fully known by Him in this life.