Being a woman in ministry often means being the first; the first woman pastor a church has received ever or in a while; the first to pioneer and pave a new way, standing on the shoulders of the many who went before in a different era or context.
On March 13 and 14, the Missouri Conference hosted the first (well, the first in a really long time) Women in Ministry conference, Unlock the Power. In the opening, Rev. Kim Jenne led the collective gathered in the Litany of Blessing for Women Taking Authority by Janet Morley. The litany, in italics below, lends itself to describing the events of the two days:
Blessed is she who believed there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord
Part of the mission and reason behind the conference was to lift up and invite Missouri women to consider what the next step in ministry looks like – be it more church, conference leadership or other opportunities. In SHE: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Women in Ministry, Rev. Karoline M. Lewis writes “Your leadership has to be a reflection of yourself that is then acted out in your competency.” Women were invited to discern how God had uniquely equipped them for ministry and how those talents and gifts translated into vision for ministry.
The schedule had intentional space for prayer, discernment and connection. Rev. Susan McCollegan served as conference chaplain, and Rev. Melissa Bailey-Kirk held spiritual direction appointments throughout the two days. Specific workshops, such as making the leap, focused on offering tools for taking the next step in ministry.
May you speak with the voice of the voiceless, and give courage to those in despair
In her opening devotional, Jenne said, “We play an important role in sharing a different piece of God’s vision for creation. We have to admit our power, even for the sake of others and even when it is sometimes hard, is a powerful witness to the work of Christ in all people.” Being a woman in ministry lends unique opportunities to speak into the lives of other women. Through a series of videos filmed at Converge, Missouri clergy and lay women told stories of what it’s like to be the first or the only woman pastor a church has had. They speak of the hope they had when their church received a female pastor during their youth. They tell stories of how their ministry has been a powerful example for the next generation of women clergy and lay leaders.
May you feed the hungry of mind and heart, and send away satisfied those who are empty
May you be strong to confront injustice, and powerful to rebuke the arrogant
Lewis, author of SHE: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Women in Ministry, presented three keynotes rooted in truth: The truth about the Bible and theology, the truth about bodies and authenticity, and the truth about sexism and leadership. As Lewis put it, her book and subsequently the keynotes are an “acknowledgement of what happens when the truth gets told.” She writes in the introduction to SHE that “the sooner the truth about what it means to be a woman in ministry is named and acknowledged, the better women in ministry and those who support them can engage the issues that actually matter when it comes to successful ministry.” Collectively, those truths were named, explained and grappled with over the two days at Community UMC.
May you not be alone, but find support in your struggle, and sisters to rejoice with you.
A key part of Unlock the Power was the fellowship opportunities. After the first keynote, women gathered in small groups to respond to Lewis’ remarks. Monday night featured dinner and optional affinity group seating, so, for example, lay women could network and connect with other lay women present. Every break in the schedule was filled with conversation and connection.
May your vision be fulfilled, in company with all; may you have brothers on your journey.
Both Monday and Tuesday offered a diverse set of workshops. Topics included discipling women, raising up a new generation of women leaders, transformative leadership in smaller setting, among others. The Daring Way facilitator Charity Goodwin led a workshop centered on heightened emotional awareness and how that impacts and improves leadership. On Tuesday, a plenary on serving beyond the local church featured Rev. Lynn Dyke, Rev. Karen Hayden, Rev. Amy Lippoldt from the Great Plains Annual Conference and Rev. Kim Jenne moderating. The Conference took questions and discussed 2016 episcopal elections, judicatory leadership and what happens inside the cabinet room during appointment season.
Blessed is she who believe there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord
Blessed are you among women