Rev. Holly Woodall currently serves as pastor of Lineville First and Oak Grove United Methodist Churches in Lineville, Alabama. She earned her Master of Divinity from Memphis Theological Seminary and also has a bachelors’ degree in Communication Arts and a masters’ degree in English from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Prior to her call to ministry, she worked several years as a career advisor. She remembered many times as a child wanting to be a pastor, but when some in her tradition told her that women were not to preach, she assumed that door was closed. What at the time appeared to be many years of floundering, she now sees as her “desert years,” before she embraced God’s call on her life.
As a career coach, she often advised people to take risks and take chances, so she decided to take her own advice. She made a list of pros/cons and regrets/chances, very quickly realizing that God was calling her and she needed to act. At the time, Woodall was attending a United Methodist Church, pastored by a woman. Seeing this pastor’s ministry inspired Woodall that she could do the same.
She registered for a Preview Day and left from that event knowing that MTS would be her seminary home. Memphis Theological Seminary was Woodall’s first choice seminary because of its relationship with the United Methodist Church, her ability to commute from Northern Alabama, and the opportunity to be part of a close-knit seminary community of students and professors. From the moment she stepped on campus, she felt like she was at home. She loved the spirit and focus on social justice and the commitment and excitement of the faculty and staff. MTS offered a welcoming, supportive environment.
Woodall’s favorite thing about MTS was also her greatest surprise: the moments before and after class. She expected transformative learning, but she was profoundly surprised by the friendships she made, many of which continue to sustain her as she serves in ministry. When she needed support, MTS faculty and staff were always there for her. She found a family at MTS, people who were on the journey with her through good times and bad.
Woodall now serves a two-point charge in Lineville, Alabama. Her time at MTS prepared her well for ministry because its diverse community taught her how to celebrate worship with many different kinds of people. MTS helped her to love God by seeing God in every kind of person. This theological foundation has sustained her as she’s faced sexism and other persecution in her ministry. MTS gave her “sure-footing”; she is confident that she is a good minister, that she can exegete scripture in a healthy way, and that she can lovingly lead her congregations according to their missions.
To those considering Memphis Theological Seminary, Woodall offers: “Something so lovely and special about MTS is that you’re never alone on that journey unless you choose to be.” Even after she has graduated, her seminary friends and professors continue to be there for her. “MTS is not just a place where you can learn about God, but where you can learn about yourself, how to see God through your relationships. This is so important to ministry and to Christianity.”