contributed by Bettye Johnson, Theressa Hoover UMC member
March is Women’s History Month. The Arkansas Conference has a history in ministry recognizing women with gifts for being leading disciples. In this article, I will lift three names in the African American community: Theressa Hoover, Maxine Allen, and Edna Morgan.
Theressa Hoover was called by God to lead, and she did lead. After graduating from Philander Smith College, Hoover was recognized for her commitment and hard work in Arkansas and the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries offered her a job. This led her to New York where she continued to shine her light.
Hoover continued her education with a M.A. degree in Human Relations and Public Policy and used her voice to encourage women to serve around the world. She was the highest-ranking woman in the United Methodist Church, as head of the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries.
At the time of retirement, Theressa Hoover served close to fifty years in ministry. She returned to Arkansas and continued to lend her voice to encourage women to serve. Churches are commonly named for men, but Theressa Hoover has a church in Little Rock, named to celebrate her legacy and continue to shine her light.
Rev. Maxine Allen was the first African American to be ordained an Elder in the Arkansas Annual Conference and has always been a leader. The oldest of five children and in a dual-parent working household, she had the opportunity to be in charge and make sure all chores were done before Dad and Mom returned home from work each day.
After graduating from high school, she started working for Southwestern Bell. Allen’s work ethic was so outstanding that she was promoted to management, which allowed training for leadership within the company. Allen knew she wanted to be in ministry and presented herself for service in the Little Rock Conference, at St. James in Lonoke. Allen followed the path of training to become a Local Pastor.
Leaving Southwestern Bell after 20 years of service, she moved forward to graduate from Philander Smith College and then Gammon Theological Seminary, where she graduated with a Master of Divinity. Rev. Allen returned to Arkansas, where she was named the Dean of the Chapel at Philander Smith College. Outstanding leadership led her to be appointed to the Arkansas Conference Office serving in Mission and Ministry.
Rev. Allen retired in June of 2018, but she is still serving in ministry as senior pastor at St. Paul, Maumelle, in Little Rock. Her Spirit remains high as she continues to lead in retirement, encouraging others to serve in outreach ministry.
The Southeast District is blessed to have a native daughter come home and lead. A rich foundation in the church was formed for a child at St. James in Pine Bluff. Rev. Morgan speaks lovingly of her relationship about the opportunities that moved her forward in the church. Growing up as a little girl learning to play the piano brought her closer to ministry by providing music for worship in the places that she called home outside of Pine Bluff.
Morgan married her high school sweetheart, graduated from Hendrix College, and set out to develop a home life that would be centered around church participation. Morgan accepted her call to ministry while living in California; her first job was Outreach Coordinator. The coordinator position put her in the community and allowed her light to shine as a true disciple of Christ.
Becoming a female in the pulpit was a slow progression, but Morgan followed her calling and started seminary training, however, this was put on hold due to the illness of her daughter. Moving back to Pine Bluff put Rev. Morgan back in the village that nurtured her in her young years. Rev. Morgan, along with her husband, was able to do outreach ministry as she connected to physicians that healed the serious illness of her daughter. She then completed seminary with a Master of Divinity. Her willingness to serve with humility in her hometown is a light for the first female African American District Superintendent to serve the Southeast area of Arkansas.
Theressa Hoover’s entry in the Black Hall of Fame of Arkansas 2000
Interview with Rev. Maxine Allen, March 11, 2022
Interview with Rev. Edna Morgan, March 18, 2022