The Rev. Victoria Robb Powers, senior pastor of Royal Lane Baptist Church. Photography by Yuvie Styles.

Church wasn’t just a place to go to hear the soulful sounds of a Baptist choir or the passionate melodic declarations from the preacher; for the Rev. Victoria Robb Powers, church was more than just a few hours on a Sunday morning.

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Church was home.

Growing up, she wanted to eventually gain a leadership role in ministry. She knew that as a Baptist woman with a desire to lead, she had to work twice as hard to be recognized and seen.

Not only is this Lake Highlands mom of three the first female senior pastor, but she is also the first Hispanic senior pastor, of Royal Lane Baptist Church.

When did you start to think of church as a possible career for you?

I was around high school age when I realized that maybe I could trust my passions as my purpose. All this passion I had for the church was sort of indicative of where I was supposed to be. I actually grew up in a very conservative tradition that didn’t allow for women to lead. So it was really unusual to feel this call toward church ministry. I also never saw a woman lead growing up. They [women] were never behind pulpits. They didn’t teach. They didn’t do anything. Despite all of that, I still knew that’s what I am supposed to be doing.

When was the first time you saw a woman lead a congregation?

I went to Baylor when I graduated from high school because I wanted to major in religion, and I wanted to study more about church history and ministry. When I was at Baylor, I learned that there was a church in Waco, Texas, that had a female senior pastor. I remember being really confused when I first learned that because I didn’t know that was a possibility. Not just in my own Baptist tradition, but anywhere. I had no concept of women in ministry. I went one Sunday morning to hear her just because I was curious, and I wanted to know what it looked and sounded like for a woman to be preaching and pastoring a congregation. I came in late and sat on the back pew wanting to remain anonymous. I still hold on to this day that she is the best preacher I’ve ever heard, male or female.

What was it like to finally see a woman lead a congregation?

It was a really significant moment for me because I often tell people, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Seeing her is really what ignited my imagination about what might be possible for me. I was able to sort of picture and visualize my own body behind a pulpit, my own voice preaching. It really changed things for me.

How were you able to get your start in ministry?

After seeing her preach, I learned that there were other kinds of Christian denominations that were more celebratory of women in ministry. I went from college to Brite Divinity School at TCU and got my Master of Divinity. I worked for a couple of years as a hospital chaplain at Baylor Hospital near Downtown Dallas. After that, I knew I was ready to be in congregational ministry. Unfortunately, I’m a Baptist, and there are not a lot of progressive Baptist churches in the Dallas area. There are about two, so I was really limited in my options for where I could serve. I actually spent the last eight years of ministry in the United Methodist Church. I’m not a United Methodist, and I never became a United Methodist. The only reason I did that is because there were no Baptist churches that would welcome me. I just kept waiting, and then at end of last year, I got a phone call from Royal Lane Baptist Church. They were looking for a senior pastor, and they were hoping that they could find a female senior pastor. So here I am.

So if you can go back to that very first Sunday as the executive pastor, what was that day like for you and leading up to it?

I was filled with excitement. When they call a new pastor to lead the church the congregation has to vote, and I think you only need three-fourths of the congregation to vote in favor. I was so encouraged because Royal Lane had voted yes. I had 100% of the vote. It gave me so much confidence stepping into this role because I knew this isn’t a church that just says they want a woman pastor. They really do want one. I had to remind myself even that morning that I belong here, this is my space, and I belong behind this pulpit.

So was there backlash when you first started, and how did you handle that? Is there still backlash today?

There was no backlash in the church itself. I’m so grateful and just thrilled at the enthusiasm that I have received from the congregation and the pride that they have in their pastor. Occasionally, I get letters sent to the church from crazies in the neighborhood who just think that women have no business being pastors and that I need to repent. The backlash is sporadic, and it’s not from members within my own church. It’s just from those in the neighborhood that for whatever reason, hold the sexist beliefs that women can’t be called to ministry.

What do you like to do when you have free time?

Oh, when I do have free time, I like to read fiction. I’m a big fiction reader. I am also an author.

I have a children’s book that’s coming out on Aug. 15. It’s called My Love, God is Everywhere. It’s a children’s book about a mother and a daughter who is curious about where God is in different circumstances. “Is God here” is essentially the question that she keeps asking. It is my first book. I cowrote it with a dear friend of mine, Cameron Mason Vickrey. We’re really excited about it.