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My pastor’s wife is an infectious disease specialist shaping COVID-19 ministry

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As a Southern Baptist pastor’s wife and Director of Worship, Kitty Horton has long worked weekends. Her Saturdays and Sundays usually filled with choir practice, volunteer breakfast meetings, widow’s banquets, and baby showers. Not lately. As the Manager of Infectious Diseases at a local hospital, Kitty has been spending her weekends working 12 to 14-hour shifts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Until recently, she had not had a day off since March 5.

The pastor’s wife and infectious disease expert has merged her medical and spiritual roles into a unique mission-focused service to Sky View Missionary Baptist Church in rural Fancy Gap, Virginia, and to our rural Appalachian community.

Weeks before the U.S. Center for Disease Control recommended cloth face coverings used in public, Kitty told her husband, Pastor Wendell Horton, that there was going to be a shortage of face masks and shields, not only at the hospital but for the general public.

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“There was a need for certain supplies like masks at the hospital, but we couldn’t order them,” Kitty told me over the phone late Sunday evening. “We couldn’t get them and everyone was going to need them.”

Kitty tried to replicate a face shield purchased by the hospital using cut plastic, elastic, and contact paper. She was successful. When she showed her husband the face shield, they together determined this was a crucial mission opportunity for the church.

Nurses wearing masks and shields by Sky View Missionary Baptist Church.
Nurses wearing masks and shields by Sky View Missionary Baptist Church. | (Courtesy of Chelsen Vicari)

“She said we need these shields and we are going to run out of face masks,” said Wendell Horton during an interview with SBC of Virginia. “I just went to the hardware store and got the supplies that we need to make those and we’ve made hundreds of them since.”

Sky View congregants and church staff have crafted hundreds of face masks and shields. These vital personal protective equipment (PPE) are being donated to hospitals, nursing homes, and caregivers throughout rural Southwest Virginia.

From the pulpit, Kitty co-leads weekly Wednesday Facebook Live seminars alongside Dr. Robert Pryor, a local internal medicine practitioner (and my Sunday school teacher). These seminars offer updates and medical insights on the coronavirus spread and trends within our region.

Kitty Horton delivers updates on COVID-19 via Facebook Live.
Kitty Horton delivers updates on COVID-19 via Facebook Live. | (Courtesy of Chelsen Vicari)

Too often rural churches’ abilities are underestimated simply based on congregation size. Sky View is not a megachurch. We have an average weekly attendance of 300 on Sunday mornings. Sky View is not a wealthy church. It ministers in one of the poorest counties in Virginia. Our church is extraordinary, in my opinion, but also an example of the effectiveness of a rural church.

Kitty is also breaking down ugly caricatures of Southern Baptist women and, more broadly, traditional evangelical women.

Progressive Christian author Jen Hatmaker painted an exaggerated picture of conservative evangelical women during a recent interview with Religion News Service while promoting her new book.

“Now I can look in and just see all of these women who are so gifted, so intelligent, so wise and good and powerful, such incredibly talented teachers and preachers still following the rules of the patriarchy, still conceding their own gifts to the world,” Hatmaker said.

She continued: “It's not even subtle inside that world. It's overt. It is: ‘You do not have authority to lead.’ ‘You will be subservient here.’ ‘The men are in charge — specifically, the white men.’ It's such a constant state of gaslighting that you don't even know that you have permission to challenge the system that is still keeping you disenfranchised.”

Kitty Horton is not interested in discussions of the patriarchy or disenfranchisement. She has too much work and ministry to do. These conversations seemingly only take place among the progressive left elite. Meanwhile, I can imagine Pastor Wendell’s laughter if I were to use the term “subservient” to describe his wife.

Kitty is a gifted teacher, worship leader, and a medical expert. Even so, she is not interested in the spotlight, writing books, or speaking tours. This pastor’s wife is secure in her church leadership, having served alongside her husband for the past 25 years.

Her congregation and community cherish her not because of her titles or popularity, but because of her love for her neighbors. Because despite working 14-hours shifts non-stop, she calls and text messages congregants to check in on their mental and physical health.

She mobilizes missions outreach in the midst of a global pandemic, not to earn accolades but to glorify God and, hopefully, introduce lost souls to their Savior Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate mission to which my pastor’s wife is committed.

Chelsen Vicari serves as the Evangelical Program Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. She earned her Masters of Arts in Government from Regent University and frequently contributes to conservative outlets. She is also the author of Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith. Follow her on twitter @ChelsenVicari

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