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Washington Voices

Soroptimists honor women who help women

She’s a small woman who has met many big challenges in her life. In the late 1980s, she ended an unhealthy marriage and went back to college. She adopted four young children when she was in her 50s. She works two jobs, and she’s an ordained Episcopal minister.

Christine Soule is this year’s recipient of the Soroptimist Ruby Award, an award given to women who help women, recognizing and honoring Ruby Lee Minar, the first federation president of the Soroptimist International of the Americas.

“I felt very out there about receiving this award,” said Soule, who is a little shy about the attention that came with it all. “It’s very nice to be recognized for my accomplishments, but I had to get used to the thought.”

Judy McGrady, a member of the Spokane Soroptimists, said it’s always difficult to pick the winners of the annual awards.

“We get so many qualified applicants for each award,” McGrady said. “We solicit nominations from high schools and organizations that help women; helping women and girls to live a better life is what we are all about.”

Dan Fox from Lutheran Social Services nominated Soule.

“I’m just so blessed to have him as a mentor in my life,” said Soule, who works as a therapist and group facilitator for Lutheran Social Services.

Growing up, she wanted a big family so badly she told stories about made-up siblings.

“My mom just about died when she found out,” said Soule, laughing.

Living in Montana, she married very young and had three children. Yet her family life was not ideal. The man she married had an explosive temper, and though he never hit her, he once put his fist through a door.

“He would go out and buy a $3,000 boat without telling me about it,” Soule said. “He was a builder, so it was either feast or famine at our house.” Women friends began asking her how she managed staying in such a difficult marriage; her children, who were by then grown, were asking her the same question.

“They challenged me,” Soule said. “I began realizing that he wouldn’t change.”

She and her husband sought counseling together at a Christian retreat. A female counselor, who was also a priest, offered to move in with the couple and help them work on their problems.

“One day I came home early from my painting class and I found them in bed together,” Soule said.

She walked out the door and went to live with family in California.

“I was so naïve; I didn’t see what was going on,” said Soule, shaking her head.

Yet it was that betrayal that set her life in motion. She moved to Spokane in 1991 to attend Eastern Washington University’s applied psychology program, and she trained to be a chaplain at then-Deaconess Medical Center. When she graduated from EWU in 1993, she took a job managing a domestic violence shelter in Spokane.

“I had this passion for helping women, for helping them understand that they don’t have to be in a relationship that’s demeaning or abusive,” Soule said. Soon after, she was hired by Lutheran Social Services, where she has been for 17 years.

At Lutheran Social Services she works primarily with adult survivors of trauma.

She continued her religious education and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 2008.

She never remarried, but she kept growing her family.

When Soule’s longtime friend died from bone cancer, she left behind four grandchildren she had been raising. Soule didn’t hesitate for a moment: She adopted them all.

Today, the children are 18, 19, 20 and 21 years old.

“Raising more children wasn’t exactly what I thought I was going to be doing in my 50s,” said Soule, laughing, adding that the Episcopal Church has helped her and the children in many ways.

About being a minister, Soule said it’s her true calling.

“Your call changes during your lifetime. This is God’s call, too, and that is when life feels really good.”