VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 8/9/12)—American Baptist Women’s Ministries held its 2012 National Women’s Conference at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, July 21-27. “In the Potters’ Hands: Sculpted Vessels” provided inspirational worship services, special seminars, and educational experiences to help women understand themselves as created by God, gifted for ministry, and called to serve. AB Women’s Ministries focus on empowering women and girls around the world was a strong theme throughout the week.
American Baptist women of First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, and New Vision Baptist Church, both of Nashville, provided tremendous leadership and support through workshop and event leadership, caring for the creation of a worship space, ushering, and a myriad of other details. Additionally, the conference was graced by a concert of the Women’s Choir of the First Missionary Baptist Church of Huntsville, Alabama, during closing worship.
Minister Rhonda White-Warner of Oakland, California, Bible study leader for the week, also preached powerfully for Sunday morning’s worship. The Rev. Glynis LaBarre presented Rev. Christine Smith and Minister Kathryn Johnson of Covenant Baptist Church of Wickliffe, Ohio, who shared their life-changing ministry with women returning to society after a period of incarceration, COTAAN (Covenant Outreach Through Advocacy and Agency Networking), an outreach ministry that is receiving funding support from AB Women’s Ministries this year.
The Rev. Becca Stevens, designated as a 2012 Champion of Change by President Obama, brought a powerful message of healing and hope for the last evening’s worship service as she described the work of Magdalene House and Thistle Farms, supporting women recovering from addiction and life on the street. One of Thistle Farms’ staff, Shawna, shared her own personal story of recovery and conversion to Christ, lighting a Thistle Farms candle to symbolize the light of Christ that compassionate Christians can bring into seemingly hopeless places.
American Baptist Women in Ministry (ABWIM) also partnered in the National Women’s Conference, as ABWIM director Rev. Patricia Hernandez led a special seminar track entitled “Hear the Call.” In each session, women in professional ministry described their calls from God and their own ministry journeys, and led question and answer periods following. Significant stories were shared, and many viewed this seminar series as a highlight of the event. Worship experiences were co-led by lay women and ordained clergy in a celebration of the priesthood of all believers.
The National Gathering for Girls, typically held concurrently with National Women’s Conference, was on hiatus this summer as girls were encouraged to participate in “Immerse,” the national youth gathering sponsored by ABHMS in Washington D.C. the same week. Members of the national leadership team of AB GIRLS (NLT) led a workshop and participated in a panel discussion about youth and advocacy at Immerse. AB GIRLS still had a strong presence at the National Women’s Conference, however, through Twitter exchanges with conference participants and videos presented during evening worship at the National Women’s Conference. There was also a special time of prayer for the NLT, AB GIRLS, and all youth participating in Immerse.
Virginia Holmstrom, AB Women’s Ministries executive director, commented on the caliber of this year’s speakers and leaders: “Conferees stopped me in the hallway to say thanks for the variety of excellent presenters this year that included a delegation of Baptist women from Durban, South Africa; the Rev. Dr. Ronny Lanier as conference chaplain; inspirational speaker Lois Olmstead, the Rev. Sandra DeMott Hasenauer, performing artist Donna Dia Colletti-Lowre; AB GIRLS leaders via video, and seminar and workshop presenters that were experts in their fields. In particular, my heart swelled with pride to hear the volunteer choir of conferees sing what I would call “complex” Gospel anthems after having been coached by conference music/worship leader Rev. Dr. Samella Spence during only one prior hour-long choir workshop. They were fabulous! Indeed, every conferee had an opportunity to be a leader at this conference.”
Plans are underway for the 2013 National Women’s Conference and 2013 National Gathering for Girls, to be held at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak resort in Phoenix, Arizona in late July 2013. Visit www.abwministries.org for more information.