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Woman's Unlikely Path to Ministry at Covington Church

This article appears courtesy of KY Forward and is written by Molly Crain.

As a young girl growing up in Edgewood in Northern Kentucky, Kyle McDougall was taught that women weren’t allowed to take leadership roles in church. Apparently, she didn’t listen very well.

McDougall, a graduate of University of Kentucky and, later, Lexington Theological Seminary, was recently ordained as a minister in a formal ceremony at Covington’s Madison Avenue Christian Church — where she first received her call to ministry five years ago.

“My background was very conservative,” said McDougall. “Coming to Madison Avenue, I was able to figure out what I believed and why I believed it, in a way that worked for me. It wasn’t somebody telling me what to believe. And that’s what I love about the Disciples of Christ. They let people figure things out on their own, which is great.”

Although McDougall didn’t always know that she was going to pursue a career in ministry, she did know that she wanted to do something with at-risk youth.

After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 2007 with a degree in Family Consumer Sciences, McDougall’s uncle— who was the moderator at the Madison Avenue Christian Church — invited her to apply for an open youth director position.

McDougall vividly remembers one particular Sunday of worship there.

“I was sitting the pew and during the sermon and everything just kind of went really quiet. Like I couldn’t hear anything else, and I just felt all these emotions at once. I felt fear, I felt excitement, I felt like I wanted to cry … laugh. I had heard this voice, a whisper of a voice that told me that I was home and this was where I belonged.”

Shortly after, in May 2008, McDougall was interviewed and then hired for their youth director position.

It was through Madison Avenue Christian Church that she met senior minister, Chinna Simon, who encouraged McDougall to go on to seminary school.

“That just opened up a whole new world for me,” said McDougall about seminary school.

Simon described McDougall’s growth in the church as, “quite the transformation for her. She comes from a background where women are not allowed to be in leadership roles, let alone go on to become a minister. So she came in thinking that that would not be something she would want to do.”

But the welcoming and nurturing environment of Madison Avenue Christian helped McDougall see her full potential.

“She started seeing that the leadership skills God has given her should be used without reservation or limitations,” said Simon. “She went on to Lexington Theological Seminary, got her master’s in divinity, was ordained and was ready to bare leadership roles in the life of the church.”

McDougall’s membership with Madison Avenue Christian has been almost over five years now, and her duration at the seminary, four. On Tuesday she submitted her final seminary project and was the first hybrid (in class/online) student to graduate from their program.

But McDougall’s plans aren’t to stay at Madison Avenue for much longer. Now, after ordination, her next step is to do a residency at the Central Christian Church in Lexington and discover where and how she will best serve Christ.

“This is the first time Kyle will be venturing out to do anything beyond youth Christian education, worship support,” said Simon. “I think as she goes on she’s going to find where her interests are and begin making meaningful contributions to the Lexington church.”

In retrospect, McDougall never really considered joining her love for children and helping people with Christianity. “It’s funny how it all came together. And I didn’t plan on going back to school.”

But the communities she met through Madison Avenue and Lexington’s Theological Seminary were life changing.

“I was introduced to all these people who thought a completely different way about homosexuality, about women in the church, about gender equality and helping the poor,” said McDougall. “Just all these things that I’d never really been introduced to.”

With support from her peers and other female ministers she finally gained confidence in her career choice.

“Its just been wonderful to be encouraged in that way as a minister because at first I had a really hard time dealing with the fact that I was a woman and that I wanted to be a minister,” said McDougall.

“It just all felt right, though,” said McDougall, “When I finally got to the other side.”

McDougall is now eligible to practice ministry for the Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ across the United States and Canada.

Molly Crain is a recent graduate of Transylvania University.

Photo: Kyle McDougall/via Madison Avenue Christian Church