First female Methodist minister in Minnesota served in Spring Valley

A woman in Rice, Minnesota, has received a grant to research the life of the Rev. Mary MacNicholl, who once served in the area and became the first fully ordained female Methodist minister in Minnesota while in Spring Valley.

Cynthia Stupnik received a grant from the General Commission on Archive and History of The United Methodist Church for her proposal on the life and career of MacNicholl, who began her ministry in Fountain, Wykoff and Fillmore churches in 1949 and received full ordination at Spring Valley in 1958 before coming to a central Minnesota district in the 1960s.

“I am grateful for the Women in United Methodist History Research Grant that will help me bring to fruition my research and writing project on Rev. Mary MacNicholl. The first woman to receive full-clergy rights in the Minnesota Methodist Conference in 1958, MacNicholl’s vision of becoming a Methodist minister came to her when she was in kindergarten.  Throughout her life, she followed a narrow path to reach that goal,” said Stupnik. “Mary MacNicholl’s spiritual journey took bends and turns.  She faced daunting challenges, especially when she had to defend herself from male bias. By understanding how she forged a path for others to follow, one can truly understand God’s place for women in His church. Mary MacNicholl died in 1979 from a rare form of blood disease.  If she were alive today, she would be proud of the many women who have fought the good fight not to be identified as a ‘woman minister’ but simply to be identified as a minister, a reverend, or a pastor.”

The Women in United Methodist History Research Grant provides seed money for research projects relating specifically to the history of women in the UMC or its antecedents. Selection is made by a committee consisting of three persons who are historians of women in United Methodism.

 “At GCAH, we believe and experience every day the power of history not merely as remembrance but as an active engagement, the past pointing to purpose, the DNA that makes us who we are, forming how we live-into the future,” said the Rev. Fred Day, general secretary. “By pulling the stories of difference-makers in our tradition off the shelves and presenting them to the church, we inspire the church to challenge and pioneer new mission opportunities. These awards help ensure that this vital ministry of the church is continued by the next generation.”