Therezinha Barbalho—Attorney, Pastor or Both?

Feature by Edwin Manuel Garcia

Therezinha Barbalho grew up in Brazil and wanted to be a pastor more than anything. But after graduating from the Adventist seminary, she faced difficulty finding pastoral employment beyond being a Bible worker, due to the region’s attitudes toward women in ministry.

She realized her dream career wasn’t going to happen, so she went back to school and became a lawyer.

Years later when Barbalho and her husband sought better medical care than Brazil could offer for their daughter who has autism, she sent her pastoral résumé to conferences in the United States. She was offered a job as a Bible worker at New Jersey Conference’s Luso-Brazilian church in Newark in 2004, then promptly became the associate pastor.

She later moved to the Potomac Conference to be the senior pastor of the Richmond (Va.) Brazilian church, then attended seminary, and today is the senior pastor of three Maryland churches: Silver Spring, Gaithersburg and National Brazilian, also in Gaithersburg.

The experience from her previous career has helped Barbalho present a good argument when making her case in sermons. “For me, to make a case, you have a point to develop from the Bible,” she says, “so I do use it to advocate for Bible principles.”

The legal experience has also been useful in handling interpersonal conflict between members.

“An attorney not only has an organized way to handle problems, but also … we were taught how to see further as we go to find a solution for something,” says Barbalho, who, for seven years, practiced as a civil lawyer dealing with contracts and copyrights.

She finds it easy to be impartial when mediating disagreements.

“As an attorney, I have to see both sides. I’m trained for that,” she says.



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