It's hard to do justice to a lifetime of Christian service in just over an hour. But for a group of 75 professors, students, and family who gathered this weekend at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's Kaiser Chapel for the memorial service of Catherine Clark Kroeger, we came close.

Surprise and disappointment lingered over Catherine's sudden death February 14 from complications due to pneumonia, Lyme disease, and grief over the death of her spouse of 60 years, Richard Clark Kroeger Jr., who died three months ago. Yet the service focused not on her untimely passing but on her God-honoring life.

Scott Gibson, director of the Center of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell and professor of preaching and ministry, gave the call to worship and prayer. As a bulk of Catherine's work was dedicated to espousing the equality of men and women in both Christian ministries and homes—notably in The IVP Women's Bible Commentary and No Place for Abuse—it was especially significant that teachers and students of homiletics were touched by her work.

Kroeger's work impacted Christian theology, but her academic focus was the role of women in the early church, classics, and human sexuality and relationships. Aida Spencer, one of her colleagues in the New Testament department, read one of the most cited passages on men and women in the Bible, Galatians 3:23-29: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Aida, with her husband, William David Spencer, who also gave remarks at the service, work for the Priscilla Papers, a journal that serves the academic community on issues of biblical equality and is an outlet of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), the organization that Catherine founded in 1988. She served as the Minneapolis-based organization's president until 2001, when Mimi Haddad stepped in.

Catherine's dedication to the edification of Christ's servants through Christ's love was evidenced in the many stories shared of her home life, her support of her husband in ministry, her rearing of five children, and her numerous foster children and spiritual grandchildren at the seminary. Goran Kojchev counted himself among the privileged to call a learned and wise woman "Grammy." Kojchev is an MANT student and worked as Kroeger's academic assistant for the past two years. He recounted Catherine's hospitality and avid devotion to swimming in lakes and oceans—even into her octogenarian years.

Lauding Catherine's precision and breadth, David Eastman from Yale University noted that while the mere presence of female faculty undoubtedly changed the atmosphere in the halls of Gordon-Conwell, Kroeger's impact did not solely grace the ivory towers of academia. Indeed, Catherine's heart for God's women—wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, and mentors—was pronounced in her impact on women who struggled not only with sensing a call to ministry but also in the shadows of domestic abuse.

Kroeger was sensitive to the ways male headship could be used by some to justify abusive behavior, and worked to establish the organization Peace and Safety in the Christian Home (PASCH), dedicated to eliminating domestic violence. The most touching remarks given at the service came from a woman who said her life was saved by Catherine's work. The woman, an M.Div. student at Gordon-Conwell, told of her entrapment in an abusive marriage and how Kroeger's books and articles on Christian equality and the biblical stance on abuse in the home led her safely out of the marriage.

In the days leading up to the memorial service, I reflected heavily on the impact and teachings of Kroeger. I had already graduated from Gordon-Conwell when I took my first class from her—"Women in the Early Church"—at the Boston-based Center for Urban Ministerial Education. Catherine's aplomb under contentions from some students when discussing the role of women as Eucharistic celebrants and priests in the early church came from her personal Bible study and prayer. I will never forget with what joy I received Catherine's proposition that "the chosen lady" of 2 John was an actual woman, not a church! Indeed, her teachings on kephale (the Greek word for "head") and misinterpretations of female subjections and silence were not always welcomed at Gordon-Conwell. But the collegiality and respect which with students and faculty discussed such issues was encouraging.

As I stand with an M. Div. in hand, entering my second year teaching religion at the college level, it is not Kroeger's academic achievements that I wish to emulate, nor her amazing 60-year marriage, but the theme of her life and the goal of every Christian: that she loved Jesus and served him faithfully.

Cristina Richie is serving Jesus in the Boston area as a professor, pastor, writer, speaker, and theologian.