She has been called the Harriet Tubman of ministry. She’s been described as Billy Graham and Oprah all rolled into one. But the Rev. Dr. Suzan D. Johnson Cook, more affectionately known as Dr. Sujay, takes these praises all in stride. The minister/activist/author is too focused on her mission of spiritual awareness and peace. So focused and effective is Cook, that President Barack Obama nominated her to be the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom for the United States of America. If confirmed, she will be the Advisor to the President and Secretary of State for Religious Freedom. "I am honored to have been nominated by President Obama as Ambassador at Large for the Office of International Freedom," says Cook.
Now she has spread her message to women via a new book, her tenth, On Becoming a Woman of Destiny (Tarcher/Penguin). The book is a guide for women, offering tips for women on making the most of life’s most difficult moments. Besides this latest book, she has also penned: Too Blessed to be Stressed: Words of Wisdom for Women on the Move” (Thomas Nelson: Nashville) and Sister to Sister, Volume 1: Devotions for and from African-American Women (Judson Press: Valley Forge).
"There were so many books written from a male viewpoint on the second half of life, but I couldn’t find any for the mature woman that dealt with the whole woman, the change of seasons we undergo and transitions. As I approached my fifties, most of the women around me and with whom I came in contact were beginning to share the same concerns and raise similar questions," explains Cook on why she decided to write On Becoming a Woman of Destiny. "Some were empty nesters, others on the other side of marriage, as widows or divorcees. So this book is about learning how to turn trials into triumph, making life work for us. As much or more planning has to go into this stage of life, as when you’re just starting out."
According to Cook, all too often women try to please too many people; they forget to take care of themselves. This can be a downfall for women--at home and at work. "We don’t take or make time for ourselves. When is it ever going to be “OUR” turn? The reading of this book is an action step towards fulfilling that. Be GOOD to yourself," she says. "Too often, we put others before ourselves or stay in places and with people who are not gratifying and who are not edifying. At this stage and age, we can choose whom to be around and who you want around you."
Her advice to women both for corporate and personal needs boils down to "following the Judeo-Christian model of Deborah found in the Old Testament," she recommends. "I often recommend that women put the four pillars into action: Intelligence, Spirituality, Action and Community -- especially surrounding one’s self with like-minded women to support you. We call these Destiny Circles. You can create or join one. I know several women who are finding “fresh air” in having one right now."
How did she get to this point where millions--even the president turns to her for advice? Cook has been in ministry for some 30 years, reaching out to certain niches. In fact, Dr. Sujay pastors a lunchtime congregation of workers in the Wall Street area, known as “Wonderful Wall Street Wednesdays”. They refer to her as the “Wall Street Pastor.” She is the founder and CEO of Wisdom Women Worldwide, WWW - the first international, intercultural, interfaith center for women leaders. She is also the president of the Women In Ministry International Summit, an annual gathering of pastors, women-in-church leadership, and laypersons from ten nations.
Dr. Sujay, who received a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University; a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary; a Doctor of Ministry degree from the United Theological Seminary and graduated from Harvard University (where she later became an Officer and Faculty Member), was elected as the first Black woman to become the senior pastor in the 200-year history of American Baptist Churches of the USA. Dr. Johnson Cook also served as the Senior Pastor at the Bronx Christian Fellowship Church (BCF) which she founded in 1996 until her retirement from there in December 2009.