The African American Folklorist: Nerica Bowie On Breaking Tradition With a Passion
“Greater than being a preacher or being a financial leader is loving people. And love has two sides. Love covers you and protects you. But love also corrects you.”
Reverend Freddie Brown preached at the State Street Baptist Church in Bowling Green for close to 30 years prior to his passing. Brown, a native of Alabama, made significant contributions throughout the African American community, leaving a legacy that continues today. One specific contribution by Brown is the number of women he ordained and licensed to be reverends in the Baptist denomination. There were four women who Reverend Brown ordained and licensed, the last of whom is Reverend Nerica Bowie.
“He was preparing to retire and I came and he rescinded his resignation and told me a year later, you're really the reason I stayed because God said, I have to get you ready for maximum impact," Rev. Bowie said.
Nerica, native of Louisiana, arrived in Bowling Green 13 years ago. Once settled, Bowie began worshipping at a local church in Bowling Green. As she acclimated to her new environment, the call of ministry became more and more urgent. To her surprise, there wasn't much support from the Baptist congregants. The biggest shock came from the one group she thought with support her calling.
“It was the women...the women have been the greatest challenge for me in this city.”
Along with the women, it was the reverends who pastored the church that she had attended, until she met Reverend Freddie Brown.
“Freddie Brown was the only pastor licensing women and allowing women to preach in the area. Because of that, he received a lot of pushback, even being exiled from the big association that we pay fees to be in, because he took a woman to sit in one of the classrooms to learn, and that was not allowed.”
For Nerica, it's not about being disrespectful, speaking out of turn, or even wanting to be a man or in a man's position. However, it is about the walk of Jesus Christ.
“The same Jesus that spoke to this man of God, and talks to him, speaks to this woman of God too. So Jesus Christ taught us that everybody in the church does not have the same assignment. And he also teaches us that the kingdom of God is progressive.”
The Black church has many traditions, but Rev. Bowie calls herself a tradition breaker. And when asked how she knows what tradition should be broken, or carried on, she has this reply:
“What do we do when the church comes up against you? That's more difficult because it's almost like fighting your brother and fighting your sister. And then here I am now in the same breath saying, there are times as Jesus did, where in order to break tradition, and in order to free people into the love of God, [which] is what I call it. You have to do things radically!