The second in the series of the Faith Chronicles is FAITH – Seventy Times Seven. This is a true and inspiring story, written as creative nonfiction, of the first woman ordained in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. She is also the first ordained woman in any denomination in the state of Louisiana. Ada Caston Slaton Bonds was officially recorded in the minutes of the Louisana Presbytery as ‘Mother of All Presbyteries.’
Most of Ada Caston Slaton Bonds’ life was cloudy and stormy, but not all. There were isolated times of laughter and sweet pleasantries. Occasionally, in her later years especially, when her grandchildren were present, she would match her good wits with the life of the party. In her sermons, her never ending stories would bring humor to the congregation. At home, she would look back on incidents that made everyone sitting on the edge of their chair and yearning for more. She would tell stories of the deacon who carelessly dropped the offering plate and how the eyes of all present would watch a coin roll down the aisle to the altar for consecration. She would tell of a large lady who lost her footing on a pew that was unanchored, stopping Ada in the middle of the services. And, once the most frightening time in her deliveries, she would relate the story of the Ku Klux Klan and how she became so frantic, she forgot her sermon and dropped her hymn book and became speechless.
Yep, that was Grandma Ada. She always introduced humor to family gatherings. At church services she would resort to a series of unending stories of her life as a mother, pastor, wife, counselor, administrator and a preacher woman.
Love for her children and grandchildren was second to the love of God. When they suffered, she suffered; when they wept, she wept; anyway you look at it, she bore their burdens in her own sensitive soul. Reverend Ada Slaton Bonds would have hung on a literal cross for any or all of her children, had it been necessary for their deliverance.
Although very little is written, the seminary for future Cumberland Presbyterian Ministers was threatened with declining attendance in the Cumberland Presbyterian Seminary. At the General Assembly, Reverend Ada Caston Slaton Bonds, in a hall full of men, she being the only woman, had these words to address the annual meeting. “We have carefully and prayerfully considered all matters referred to us by the special committee of the Board of Education. We are deeply concerned in the welfare of our own college. Its progress depends much upon the loyalty and support of our church, and we have faith that every agency of our church will cooperate in every reasonable way to make Bethel College a success in its field. Therefore, we recommend that each minister give his support to Bethel College, and give an opportunity to the membership of the church to contribute to this institution of learning.” Signed Ada Slaton, Chairman and R.Y. Bell and W. H. DeFreese
Miss Ada was instrumental in getting better support for Bethel College. In the early 1900’s, nine of ten Cumberland Presbyterian Schools were closed due to harsh economic conditions, leaving Bethel College as the sole Cumberland Presbyterian school for those wanting to enter the ministry. To this day, May, 2014, it is still referred to as the Cumberland Presbyterian School.
Reverend Dr. Thomas H. Campbell, a lifelong friend and fellow Cumberland Presbyterian Minister and once Dean of the Memphis Theological Seminary had this to say about Ada in her last days. “…above all, her influence on the lives of many people in Louisiana and elsewhere has been immeasurable. Countless hundreds will rise up in the last day to call her “blessed!”
There are only four other women who precede Reverend Mrs. Ada Caston Slaton Bonds in ordination. Bessie Morris, Birdie Lee Pallette, Mabelle Reid, and Chloe Kratli.