Pastor Mode or Mama Mode as she is commonly referred to in the Francophone Christian community is woman of the year for me. She incarnates one of the main reasons a few years ago this platform, Femmes d’Espérance, came to be. She is Associate pastor of ICC churches, she is a seasoned speaker, author and recently has shown how project management skills at a level that frankly I ignore a woman could do in church context.
In a recent interview at EMCI, Pastor Mode humbly explains the journey that led her church to building one of the biggest churches in France. She recounts some of the difficulties that her team faced as they searched for land and later how the financial costs of it all were so great that she would not go through that again. She also talked about racial biases against evangelical churches in France which, is something that resonates with many of us on this platform. However, what stood out for me in the whole story was that a project that great, that significant, that revolutionary and history making was entrusted to a woman.
Thinking beyond the traditional role of the Pastor’s wife
If you’ve followed my writing in this magazine, you probably know by now that I was born to ministers. Church life is my life since forever and never have I seen a pastor’s wife be trusted with building projects. What I saw and came to understand as an adult was that a pastor’s wife was to be skilled at the following:
- Prayer: Lead prayer meetings held in cell groups at most or be present at every session at the very least.
- Hospitality: Welcome guests at church and at home, have a sense of décor and most importantly be a good cook.
- Worship: Many of the pastor’s wife I met would either lead worship or at least be members of the choir.
- Women’s ministry: Though pastor’s wife would not necessarily be the leaders of such ministries, they would be active members its leading body and frankly would influence most of what goes on there.
- Children’s ministry: In some instance, pastor’s wives would also contribute to Sunday school, although this ministry has and continues to receive too little attention.
- Teaching: Every now and then, you see a pastor’s wife on the pulpit. Over the last decade, we have seen a proliferation of female pastors. This was not always the case as it was believed that women were not called to that level of service.
Do you see where I am going with this? How in the world does Pastor Mode Castanou land the responsibility to lead a building project of that magnitude? Her answer was so humble. She said that God was looking for an empty vase and she made herself available. That said though, it still says something about the leadership in her church. I have, literally, never seen this in a black church. In fact, the last time a woman was put forward as a potential leader of a church where I served the longest, I remember it was other women in church who rallied against her leadership. I hope that this example will inspire us all to really get passed gender limitations and focus on what God wants to do and who he wants to do it with.
A hard working woman of God
Pastor Mode Castanou represents many of the women in our community who have and continue to inspire our generation. She is also a representation of hard-working women with God-given talents whose abilities are questioned and doubted by a society that is incapable of conceiving such talent in the body of such a person. In her interview, she talks about how banks rejected the church’s invitation to invest in this property despite it being addition to the city it was going to be built in and despite the support of local authorities. This kind of resistance to church projects is so common that we have sort of accepted it and learned to navigate around it. Still, it is inspiring to see a fellow black woman take on a project she knows will not have much support from regular investors and keep moving forward. As a jurist I can tell you that when you assess the difficulties ahead of a trial and the likelihood that your case will be rejected, my first reaction is to compromise or let it go altogether. Not Pastor Mode, she went on and pressed on until at some point during the journey, a bank decided to support the project. That support helped them with financial breathing room, but it also created precedence. That is, a financial institution can support a faith-based project in France.
More than a building
What Pastor Mode, her team and the entire ICC as an institution accomplished is far more than a building. They have built a stage from which messages can travel around the world in minutes through their virtual presence. Today, it would only take a few minutes on that stage, in Paris, to go viral in French speaking countries. This stage will attract speakers, artists, producers, authors, and politicians. It is only just the beginning, and the future is both exciting and challenging.
In France particularly, I think this accomplishment is also a message to businesses and political offices that Afro descendant people are making meaningful contributions and that they are here to impact and solve problems that rise in their communities. In other words, this accomplishment challenges anti-immigrant sentiments and challenges black communities to find solutions to issues that matter to them.