By Monique Henderson
Parkway Hills UMC
Welcomes Dawn Douglas Flowers
Growing up, The Rev. Dawn Douglas Flowers enjoyed attending church, worshiping, studying the Bible and connecting with members of her family’s United Methodist congregation.
But it didn’t occur to her to become a pastor until a bit later in life.
“When I think back on it, I realize that I didn’t really see myself in the pulpit,” said Flowers, who moved from Bay Saint Louis to pastor Parkway Hills United Methodist Church in Madison this summer. “There weren’t a lot of female pastors. That wasn’t something that I saw in my life, and so it wasn’t something that I really thought about as open to me.”
In college at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Flowers was a biology major and thought she was bound for medical school. But she kept finding herself being put in positions to teach the Bible, preach and serve others. Repeatedly, people told her she needed to put aside her med school plans and head to seminary. With encouragement from friends, family, and her campus minister, the Rev. Karen Koons Hayden, she attended seminary at Duke University.
In college, she said she didn’t spend much time grappling with her gender and how she might be received as a female pastor in Mississippi.
“School was school,” she said, laughing. “You were kind of insulated from the outside world and those expectations and considerations. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I really grappled with those things.”
After graduation, Flowers served as campus minister back at her alma mater, USM. Then she headed to Union, where she pastored two small United Methodist congregations. She later spent several years at Main Street United Methodist Church in Bay St. Louis, her most recent appointment.
Flowers is open about the fact that each ministerial change has brought its challenges. In the case of her Parkway Hills appointment, she said it wasn’t something she initially requested. But the more she talked to UMC leadership, the more she thought Parkway Hills might be an exciting opportunity.
The church’s former pastor, The Rev. Bruce Case, baptized her two oldest children. Both Flowers and Case have said that the two have similar philosophies and attitudes about ministry and the role of the church in the greater community.
“I felt it was a place where I could serve with integrity—a place that is friendly and open and where we can recognize the gray areas and then say, ‘Let’s talk, listen to all sides, and see where we go from there. It’s a lot like (my last church), a place where we don’t always have to agree but we still agree to be the church.”
Still, despite the shared philosophy, she acknowledges the move wasn’t an easy one.
“The first year is always kind of hard,” she said. “You feel like you have to start over. But I do love the energy of Parkway Hills—the energy and fearlessness to hear an idea and be open to trying it. It’s just a safe, welcoming space where people can struggle and grow in faith and service. I want to keep that energy there. I’m thankful for that.”
Flowers said that none of her moves would be possible without the adventurous spirit of her husband, Shawn Flowers, a teacher and coach who will be traveling between Madison County schools this academic year. It probably helps that he is the son of a Methodist minister himself, and knows the ins and outs of ministerial life, she agreed.
Flowers, who is 37, said that like most families, she and Shawn work to balance work and home life. Her three children, who range in age from 4 to 11, are involved in a variety of activities— including music and art and sports—that keep them on the go. This summer, she tried to start her day with some time at home with the children. They enjoy being outdoors together and watching movies.
On challenging days, she said she thinks it’s important to remember the sense she had back in college that she was called to the ministerial life.
“You really have to have a strong sense of your calling—to know that you have a call from God to be in the ministry. It’s what keeps you grounded and it’s what keeps you moving forward and growing.”
Monique Harrison-Henderson is an educator, writer, and speaker who attends Parkway Hills United Methodist Church. The Meridian native lives in Gluckstadt with her patient husband, two busy junior high children, and a spastic Labradoodle. You can read more of her writing at www.moniquewritesall.com.