Dr. E. Gail Anderson Holness (57)
Pastor, Christ Our Redeemer AME, Washington, D.C., five years

Hometown: Columbia, S.C., the youngest of 10 children born to J.R. Anderson Sr. and Beatrice J. Jacobs Anderson


Clark College, Clark Atlanta University – Bachelor of Arts
Howard University School of Law – Juris Doctorate
St. Mary’s Seminary and University Master of Theology
Howard University School of Divinity – Doctor of Ministry

1. How did you hear your call to ministry?
I think I had a call on my life from birth. I was from the South and that had serious implications for women; we were first ladies not pastors. Women were not accepted in ministry when I was growing up. My grandfather, brother and uncles were pastors. I am the first woman in my immediate family to enter ministry.

In 1992 while serving as a steward at Payne Memorial AME Church in Baltimore, under the pastorate of now Bishop Vashti McKenzie, I felt an urging to preach and teach God’s word, but I kept ignoring the feeling. I was restless and it felt as if some supernatural force was edging me on. I spoke to my pastor several times, however because I thought God had a sense of humor I continued to ignore the call. I was already a lawyer in a male dominated profession and ministry was overwhelmingly male dominated – no way, not me. Then on Palm Sunday it was as if something picked me up from my seat and took me to the front with crocodile tears coming down my face and I just yielded to His will and His way and have not looked back since.

2. What was the biggest surprise when you started ministry?
My biggest surprise was the “good ole boys’” network – how women were treated like second class Christians; how women were rarely if ever asked to pray at church events yet relegated to organizing programs and culinary events. It was startling how the women were getting ministry degrees just to get their foot in the door and many men who watched the door had only a high school diploma– they were men who were called and that was good enough.

I must admit that I had internal help from my brother, Rev. Dr. John Lewis Anderson, a Baptist pastor who helped me navigate the process. In the midst of my calling he was killed in a car accident that transformed my life.

3. Of what aspect are you most proud?
My life’s witness and the fact that my daughter, Ali Holness, accepted her call to ministry. I am proud of the global ecumenical work of which I have been engaged.

4. What’s the most exciting thing about your ministry?
The most exciting thing about my ministry is preaching and teaching. I love to proclaim the word of God from a practical urban perspective.

5. How does social media enhance your ministry, or not?
Tremendously. When we had the blizzard in Washington, DC somewhere around 2005, we were the first church in D.C. to have online service. When the Washington Post picked up the story other churches began to follow the concept. We have an online prayer ministry every Monday and Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:45 a.m., a Facebook page, an email and Twitter account. Social media keeps us globally connected.

6. Who inspires you?
I am most inspired by the life of my mother, Beatrice Jacobs Anderson and Winnie Mandela

7. What’s your favorite form of recreation? Self care?
Swimming, golf, tennis, downhill skiing and running/jogging. I started swimming competitively at age five at Drew Park swimming pool in Columbia, S.C. We were called the Drew Park Sharks. If African Americans had been allowed to be in the Olympics, it is my belief we would have been there. My mother would drop my brothers and sisters off at the swimming pool early in the morning during the summer and she had to pry us away in the evening. Back in the day we did not have access to an indoor pool in the winter. I love the water even now.

I have been playing golf for over 35 years and love the camaraderie that comes with the game. I played first seed on the tennis team while at Clark College. I don’t play tennis as much as I played years ago. My sister, Dr. Charlene Anderson Johnson, was my doubles partner before the Williams Sisters. We were in college together, so academics was our first priority, not sports.

My self care entails running 3-5 miles daily, inclusive of yoga and other exercise workouts. I try to stay physically fit because of this stressful and complicated world in which we live.