“At the age of 14, it was in the back of the Takoma Academy (Md.) chapel that I gave my life to the Lord,” said Pranitha Fielder at her ordination ceremony, Dec. 13. “I felt like I finally belonged, and in that moment, I felt for the rest of my life that I needed to help other people feel like they belonged. It was at 14 I knew that this is what I would be doing for the rest of my life.”
Fielder went on to say that many people don’t take 14 year-olds seriously. “Especially when a 14 year-old Indian girl says they’re going to be a pastor.” Fielder was born in India to Jaya and Jasmine Pilli and is the first ordained Indian-American woman in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. “A lot of people thought it was a phase. A lot of people thought it was a lot of things, but standing here today I can say that He had me provisioned. He has been enough and He has been faithful.”
Fielder recalls losing friends in high school because she was seen as “too religious.” When, years later, she told a friend that she had received a call from two conferences, her friend said, “You’re really doing this? Who’s going to marry you now?” Five months later, she met her husband, Kelan. Upon graduating from Columbia Union College in 2007 with a Bachelor of Theology, Pranitha was sponsored by the Potomac Conference to pursue her Master of Divinity at Andrews Theological Seminary (Mich.); she was the first graduate President Bill Miller extended a call to. It was at seminary she met Kelan who is now a pastor at the Emmanuel-Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ashton, Maryland.
Fielder is currently the youth and children’s pastor of Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Md. At the beginning of the New Year, she will transition into Sligo’s associate role of Pastor of Discipleship and Congregation Care. In 2002, she was asked by Pastor Terry Johnson to be a youth leader at Sligo church. Fielder spent the next five years working there in various capacities, including youth ministry, church office and New Community Fellowship.
While Fielder’s ordination is a first for Adventist women of Indian descent, Sligo has a long history of ordaining women. Josephine Benton, 89, who was in attendance for Fielder’s ordination, was ordained as an elder in 1973 and later became an associate pastor. While Benton received chaplain credentials which allowed her to perform weddings, she was not ordained as a minister during her career. In 2012, Josephine Benton received emeritus ordained minister credentials from Columbia Union president David Weigley, when, during a special constituency session, the Columbia Union voted to ordain without regard to gender.
“The reason I’m so emotional is because what this church does for women, that so often are not allowed to do what they feel God has called them to do, is incredible,” said Fielder, as she fought back tears. “I counted one time how many women pastors we’ve had in the history of Sligo. At that time, I think it was 12. I daresay that most churches in any denomination cannot say that.”
“The greatest responsibility that a church has is to recognize the calling of someone to ministry and to be a blessing and not a curse in that journey,” said President Bill Miller during the homily. “So here we are today to celebrate what only God can do. It’s His responsibility to call; it’s our responsibility to affirm. God has called you Pranitha and the church celebrates, for God’s salvation story will have a special chapter written just by you.”
watch the service at: http://new.livestream.com/sligochurch1/PastorFielderOrdination