Founding Mothers by Pam Durso

March is Women’s History Month, the perfect time to do some remembering. March is also the month in which Baptist Women in Ministry was dreamed into existence. A planning meeting was held in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 20-21, 1983, and the thirty-three women who attended that meeting are our founders. We lovingly call them our founding mothers.

It seems only right that we honor and remember those thirty-three women by naming their names:

Becky Albritton
Pat Ayres
Pat Bailey
Linda McKinnish Bridges
Harriett Clay
Reba Sloan Cobb
Jeni Cook
Anne Davis
Pearl Duvall
Velma Farrell
Nancy Foil
Lela Hendrix
Cindy Harp Johnson
Molly T. Marshall
June McEwen
Barbara McNeir
Karen Conn Mitcham
Anne Thomas Neil
Carol Noffsinger
Brenda Paddleford
Betty McGary Pearce
Nina T. Pollard
Verna Quirin
Inez Register
Nancy Hastings Sehested
Linda Stack
Evelyn Stagg
Susan Taylor
Lynda Weaver-Williams
Carolyn Weatherford
Jenny Graves Weisz

Today, and every day, I give thanks for these women who recognized the great need for an organization that would do the work of connecting, networking, and advocating for Baptist women ministers. I give thanks for these women who made sacrifices of their time and resources to create something new, something significant that would give support and care to gifted and called Baptist women. I give thanks for these women who dared to dream big and to challenge Baptists to re-imagine a new future with women serving in all capacities of ministry. I give thanks for these women who made Baptist Women in Ministry a reality!

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia. The featured photo is from the 1985 gathering of what was then Southern Baptist Women in Ministry. Molly T. Marshall was one of the preachers for worship that year.

Baptist Women in Leadership: Then and Now, 2010 and 2017 by Pam Durso

“Leadership roles in major institutions still elude women. According to Catalyst, women hold less than 3 percent of the chief executive jobs in the Fortune 500 (and that is the highest number ever) and less than 16 percent of corporate officer jobs (a number that has remained static since 2002).” So begins the 2010 book, Her Place at the Table: A Women’s Guide to Negotiating Five Key Challenges to Leadership Success, by Deborah M. Kolb, Judith Williams, and Carol Frohlinger.

The same year that the book was released eighty-four leaders within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship movement, then led by executive coordinator Daniel Vestal, gathered at Callaway Gardens in Georgia. These Baptists spent three days talking about CBF’s future. I had the good fortune of being present and had the opportunity to address the group. I looked back this week at my presentation manuscript and discovered that I said essentially the same thing that the authors of Her Place at the Table wrote in their introduction: “Leadership roles of major Baptist organizations still elude women.”

Molly Marshall headshot

Molly T. Marshall

I started with these words: “I feel comfortable saying that in this room are gathered some of the strongest supporters of women in Baptist life. Indeed, the Cooperative Baptist movement from its very beginning has placed itself firmly and vocally on the side of women. Every year for twenty years now women have led worship at General Assembly, women have served communion, and women have preached. CBF national and state organizations have had women serve as moderators and as members of their coordinating councils. Most of the CBF-affiliated theological schools have women faculty members, and Central has Molly! (Molly T. Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas). Several CBF schools have 50% female student populations. Over 100 CBF-affiliated churches have women serving as pastors or co-pastors, and most CBF churches have women staff members and have women serving as deacons. Women have held visible leadership roles in this Baptist movement.”

I was a lot younger seven years ago and either naive or really brave because the next words I said were: “Here is when I meddle some . . . look around this room filled by some eighty leaders in CBF life. How many women do you see? How many of the women in this room are serving in top leadership positions? How many of the women present are coordinators and executives of CBF organizations and its partner organizations?”

I do remember pausing and gulping a bit after I said that. But here is what I remember of that room in 2010. Other than Molly, there were no other women seminary presidents in the room, because no other CBF seminary had a female president in 2010. There were no CBF state/regional organizations that had a paid female coordinator in 2010, and I think I may have been the only or at least one of the only executive directors of CBF-partner organization present (I was near the conclusion of my first year with BWIM, and at that point, there was certainly no guarantee that the organization would even survive).

Linda McKinnish Bridges

Linda McKinnish Bridges

What a difference seven years has made! The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is now led by Suzii Paynter. There are now four CBF state/regional organizations led by women: Rhonda Blevins in Kentucky, Phyllis Boozer in the northeast, Terri Byrd in Alabama, and Trisha Miller Manarin in Mid-Atlantic. And just this year we have added names to our list of women leaders. Amanda Tyler began service as executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty on January 3, 2017, and just this week, the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond announced that Linda McKinnish Bridges is their presidential candidate.

Seven years ago, I knew that it was critical for Baptists to have female executives and coordinators. I was convinced that for shifts to happen within Baptist life a few women would have to shatter those ceilings of glass and move into the top leadership roles. In 2010, women’s leadership was important to me for so many reasons, but mainly because I knew that for change to happen in local churches, congregations needed to see women leaders serving in the highest roles within our Baptist organizations and schools. I knew that for churches to call women pastors in increasing numbers they needed the female leadership visual. They needed to see in order to believe and to act!

In 2017, I am thankful for search committees who with courage over the past seven years have called gifted women into places of leadership, and I am grateful that our new Baptist visual is giving courage to more and more pastor search committees and congregations.
 

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

 
The featured image is of Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Women Pastors: The Good News and the Other News by Pam Durso

There are more women serving as pastors than ever before.

Churches are calling women pastors. This assertion is not supported merely by anecdotal evidence. In its recent State of Pastors Report, the Barna Group compiled findings from five different sources, consulted their own research, and concluded that there has been a slow and steady rise of female pastors. According to Barna, one of every eleven Protestant pastors is a woman, and that is triple as many women pastors as were serving twenty-five years ago. Barna’s report was reviewed by Halee Gray Scott in a February 26, 2017 Christianity Today article, which is titled “Female Pastors Are on the Rise.”

The conclusion of the Barna report does not come as a surprise to me. Last summer, Baptist Women in Ministry released its own report–The State of Women in Baptist Life 2015. It is the fourth such report, and I have had the privilege of working on each one of them. You should read the report! But here is what I concluded after I crunched our Baptist numbers.

“When the first State of Women in Baptist Life report was published in 2005, 102 women were identified as pastors or co-pastors serving in churches affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, or the Baptist General Association of Virginia. In 2015, BWIM also gathered information from the District of Columbia Baptist Convention. By the end of 2015, the total number of women pastors and co-pastors had grown to 174, which is a 71% increase over the last ten years. These increases indicate that incremental change is taking place.”

I recently updated my list of pastors and co-pastors. I have been busy adding new names in the last year (and also deleting the names of women who have retired or resigned). The net gain from December 31, 2015 to February 28, 2017 is twelve. Twelve! That is an average of about one per month. My list now has 186 names: 137 pastors and 49 co-pastors. And there are more names to be added soon! The news is good and should be celebrated.

But Scott’s Christianity Today article notes the hard news as well: “study after study finds women must work harder to get hired, promoted, or named to leadership positions.” In Baptist life, the process of being called by a church is painfully slow and often disheartening. Women still hear that old refrain, “Our church isn’t ready yet for a woman pastor,” and women often finish in “second place” to a male candidate.

After working with numerous pastor search committees and talking with many women candidates, I believe that one of the greatest challenges is that of hearing. Search committees and women candidates often “talk past each other.” A search committee member recently said to me, “Hers was by far the best resume, but when we talked with her, she just didn’t seem to want to be our pastor. She wasn’t confident in her calling or in her giftedness.” Meanwhile, a woman candidate said to me, “I invested myself fully in this process. I put my best self out there and was bold in sharing about my calling and giftedness.” The sad reality is that committee member — and that woman — were sitting at the same table, involved in the same conversation!  They were talking to each other but interpreted the experience very differently. I have heard similar stories multiple times in recent years.

My conclusion is that we must create spaces in which search committees and women candidates truly hear each other. That kind of hearing takes work and requires practice. In recent months, I have been reaching out more and encouraging committees to hear beyond just the words said in interviews, and I have been talking with women, coaching them to speak with confidence and clarity in their interviews. There is still  much work to do as we seek to hear one another and as we seek to follow the leading of the Spirit. My prayer is that we will all grow in our attentiveness and listen with care and openness to each other.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia. 

What if You Could Spend Time with Leading Women? by Pam Durso

What if . . . what if you received an invitation to listen to, spend time with, and learn from some of the most fabulous Baptist women around? Would you turn down an invitation? Of course you wouldn’t!

Well, here is your invitation: On April 26-28, join the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Baptist Women in Ministry as we celebrate the influence and voices of women from across the Fellowship movement. We will gather at First Baptist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee, for times of conversations, worship, leadership development resourcing, and networking. All women across the fellowship are invited.

This gathering begins at 3:00 on Wednesday, April 26, and concludes at noon on Friday. The good news is that registration is only $90 and includes a blow-out party on Thursday night! If you are a seminary student, a college student, or under the age of thirty, the cost is only $50.

Now for the even better news. If you come, you will hear from Raquel Contreras, Kasey Jones, Molly T. Marshall, and Suzii Paynter, plus you will experience the preaching of Carol McEntrye and Meredith Stone.

PLUS we will have eighteen LEAD Talkers (think TED Talks with a Baptist woman twist). Our LEAD Talkers will focus on topics such as self-care, finances, life-long learning, leadership, mentoring, and advocacy. Be watching for a list of all eighteen! And check out the registration page on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship website.

You are invited to spent time with, listen to,and learn from these most fabulous Baptist women! Don’t miss this opportunity!

Register for Leading Women here.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

 

 

What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid? by Pam Durso

Nearly four years ago, in March 2013, Knopf Publishers released Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, an extraordinary book about women’s leadership written by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. As one who reads books on leadership, especially women’s leadership, I was fascinated by Sandberg’s personal anecdotes and strong words of advice. I read the book several times, and much of what she wrote has stayed with me in these last few years and caused me to ponder. But one question she raised has haunted me:

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WEREN’T AFRAID?

As a confirmed and life-long rules-keeping, people-pleasing, and no-boundaries observing helper, minister, mom, professor, and friend, my list of fears seems endless. I never want to hurt, offend, cause pain, bring conflict, or exclude, and I have lived in fear of doing all those things. And I have often lived hesitantly, cautiously, and “nicely” in order to keep peace, to maintain order, to make sure everyone is comfortable and secure.

In these last few years, I have tried to “lean in” to Sandberg’s question (I know, but I just had to use “lean in”), and I have begun doing things that are scary for me. I have written and spoken and preached words that are stronger and sharper and less fearful. I am also trying to live into words spoken by my friend, Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty: “Do brave things. Once you do one brave thing, you will do others.”

And finally I am learning to embrace these beautiful words from John O’Donohue in his To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings:

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

What would you do, my friends, if you weren’t afraid? Praying that we all have the courage this day to live in love and fear no more.

Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

Those Preaching Women in Texas by Pam Durso

Dr. Renita Weems

                       Renita Weems

Last Friday and Saturday, I had the good fortune of attending the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry Conference at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. I always love being in my home state, but I love even more hearing powerful stories and sermons, Last week was almost more than my head and heart could take in! Dr. Renita Weems, a leading womanist scholar, gifted college administrator, and well-known author, was the plenary speaker, and her words were captivating, challenging, and inspiring.

The conference preacher was Meredith Stone, and I must confess that Meredith is at the top of my list when it comes to preachers. She has a extraordinary gift for helping her listeners see and hear the scriptural text in new, fresh ways, and she never, ever fails to push me to broaden my vision of the gospel. Her Friday sermon on the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet is one you need to hear.

Dr. Meredith Stone

                     Meredith Stone

Texas BWIM will have it posted on their website soon, and it was videoed as Facebook Live on the Texas BWIM page (don’t you love technology). Once you listen to her Friday sermon, give yourself a few days to sit with it and then listen to her Saturday morning sermon!

The panel discussion on Race, Women, and the Church was a much needed conversation with Jewel London, Anyra Cano, and Mary Alice Birdwhistell, which gave me great hope for the future of the church while also making me long for more conversations like this one. And I actually videoed it in my first ever Facebook Live attempt! (Sorry about the sideways picture at the beginning).

Rev. Ellen Di Giosia

      Ellen Di Giosia

I am so thankful for my friend, Ellen Di Giosia, who has served for two years now as the leader of Texas Baptist Women in Ministry. Ellen has given countless hours to the building of a new organization–those not-so-fun tasks of filing forms with the IRS and figuring out how to gather folks from across the very large state of Texas to do this important work. Ellen has done all this and more beautifully–and has shared her gift of leadership and her fun sense of humor with Texas Baptists who are committed to a shared vision of equality in the churches.

One of my most favorite things about conferences are the late night conversations and the lunch table discussions. Rarely do I stay up until midnight (which was really 1:00 a.m. for me), but when Nora Lozano and Patty Villarreal started talking, I was suddenly wide-awake.

Griselda Escobar and Patty Villarreal

      Griselda Escobar and Patty Villarreal

They shared with me about their dreamed into reality ministry–Latina Leadership Institute. They have created a life-giving, leadership-creating program, and their story is one I hope to hear more about in the coming days. The next day I sat by Patty and Griselda Escobar at lunch. Griselda was Baptist Women in Ministry’s 2010 Addie Davis Award recipient for Outstanding Leadership in Pastoral Ministry, and she is one of the most beautiful human beings I know! Just sitting next to her makes my heart happy.

The conference drew lots of college and seminary students–including a large and  enthusiastic group from Howard Payne University. I met one of those students, Jaci Garrett, who with the help of her professor and mentor, Melody Maxwell, just this week hosted the first ever meeting of a new student-led organization for women called to ministry at their university!

I also met some fabulous Hardin-Simmons students, who stepped into a number of leadership roles at the conference–they shared their gift of music, ran the cameras, passed out programs, and served as chauffeurs!

Hardin-Simmons students

             The Hardin-Simmons crew

I am so thankful Texas Baptist Women in Ministry–the organization! And even more thankful for the preaching and teaching and singing and leading women of Texas. On Sunday, I left my beloved home state full of joy and hope!

The birthday girls and their mom

       The birthday girls and their mom

 

 

But I didn’t leave without having lunch with my favorite Texas girls, both of whom are celebrating birthdays this week!

Happy birthday to you two! Love you lots!

 

 

 

 

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia. 

Soul Care by Pam Durso

Self-care was not “a thing” when I was in seminary or early in my professional career. I certainly didn’t see good self-care modeled by my workaholic minister father or any of my ministry mentors. Instead I learned about self-care from my students. They taught me the value of unplugging from email, walking away from the chaos for a day or two, taking time for friends and family, caring for my physical body, and finding space in the calendar for rest and renewal. That seems to be a pattern in my life—my students are my best teachers!

But it was Bernard of Clairvaux, a twelfth century monk, who was my teacher about soul care.  What can I say? I am a church historian.

Bernard wrote these words:

“Those who are wise, therefore, will see their lives more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself . . . Today there are many in the church who act like canals. The reservoirs are far too rare. You must learn to await this fullness before pouring out your gifts, do not try to be more generous than God.”

Over the years, Bernard has called me to over and over again, reminding me that I must be a reservoir, continually being filled by the springs of renewing water. I must take good care of my soul, because while ministry CAN be done as a canal—canal ministry is not lasting or sustainable. I cannot give, you cannot give, what we do not have. We cannot share grace if we have not received it.

During my sabbatical leave last fall, I knew that I needed to incorporate better practices of soul care into my daily life. I must confess that spiritual practices for me have most often fallen to the bottom of my “To Do” list and have been crowded out by all the “important tasks” of my day. Maintaining life-giving spiritual practices has always been hard for me (if confession is good for the soul, I guess this confession is part of my soul care, right?)

So back to my sabbatical. During those weeks in which I had lots of time and an empty calendar, I set aside time each day for prayer—making time each morning to speak words of gratitude for God’s goodness and care, to invite God into those my areas of challenge and stress, and to sit for a few moments in silence, listening, just listening.

I also began using a devotional book that I picked up at the Sacred Heart Monastery—Give Us This Day: Prayer for Today’s Catholic. The devotion has five sections for each day: a morning Psalm with a prayer, an evening Psalm with a Prayer, the daily Mass, a reflection, and “Blessed Among Us,” which are cool stories of significant saints of the church—most are Catholic heroes but some are not, and these stories feed my church historian soul.

During my time at Sacred Heart, I have made a daily practice of reading the morning Psalm and the prayer and then reading both the reflection and “Blessed Among Us.” I now do this each morning as I drink my coffee. (I am NOT a morning person so coffee is a strong incentive for me).

I also bought a journal and a set of colored pencils, and most every day, I write down words or phrases—not complete sentences usually, and some morning I draw something. I am a stick figure kind of artist so my pictures aren’t even close to pretty but they are colorful, and seeing all that color in my journal gives me joy.

I started this practice on August 31, which means that I have been faithful in this new prayer practice for five months. It is now a habit—instead of just wishful thinking on my part.

James Clear, in Transform Your Habits, says that it takes anywhere from two to eight months to build a new behavior into your life, and he helpfully notes that missing one day or a few days of the new practice does not materially affect the habit formation process. He concludes, “Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.”

We all know that soul care is critical for ministers—but most days we are so caught up in the doing of ministry that we forget to be a reservoir. The beauty of spiritual practices is that they are available to us at any age, at any stage of life. All we need to do is find a practice that fills our soul’s needs, commit to it for two months so that it becomes a habit, and then give ourselves grace on those days when we forget or fail.

I hope you too hear Bernard calling to you—over and over again—to be a reservoir!

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

Using Our Voices by Pam Durso

Lately, I have watched and listened as Baptist women ministers across our country have used their voices—in powerful, life-giving, hopeful ways.

Karen in pulpit uprightYesterday, my friend, Karen Zimmerman, stood in the pulpit at McAfee School of Theology’s chapel and preached a beautiful, challenging sermon on Ruth 2 and radical hospitality. Karen serves at Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta, a congregation made up of folks from some fifteen countries. Her love for the community that surrounds her church building, her willingness to open her heart and her home to immigrants and refugees, and her personal passion for and commitment to radical hospitality took her last Sunday afternoon to the Atlanta airport, where she used her voice to speak her love of neighbor.

Last week, my friend, Alyssa Aldape, stood on the steps of the Supreme Court and used her voice to combat racism. Alyssa is the associate pastor of youth and young adults at First Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. In recent years, she has found her voice, and she is using it to speak out against oppression and hatred.  Her courage and willingness to work for justice inspires me every day.

A few weeks ago, so many of my Baptist women ministry friends marched—in Washington, D.C., in Atlanta, in Dallas, in Seattle, in Chicago. They sang and prayed. They used their voices to call for justice for all people. They raised their signs and stood with thousands of other women to call attention to gender inequality. Their voices were heard that day.

For the four hundred plus years that Baptists have existed in this world, women’s voices have mostly been ignored, and sometimes we forget that we have the power to bring change in this world simply by using our voices, by speaking our convictions, by calling out for justice and mercy. But I sense that 2017 is going to be different. The voices have gotten louder and stronger. They have united with other voices. They have spoken words of affirmation and blessing. They have called for generosity and grace. I believe that now more than ever in our history, Baptist women’s voices are bringing hope and light to a world in desperate need of hope and light. Thanks be to God.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

Dreams Do Come True: BWIM’s Mentoring Program by Pam Durso

Sometimes dreams do come true. Mine did . . . last week.

About a year after I began serving as executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, I began dreaming of forming a mentoring program. I knew that women ministers needed supporters, encouragers, and mentors if they were going to be healthy and stay in ministry for the long haul. In 2011, I first shared my dream with the BWIM Leadership Team and talked them into starting small—and I also talked them into being the first mentors. (If you know me, the last sentence will not surprise you).

That fall, seven Leadership Team members formed mentoring groups, which consisted of three to four “new” ministers. Each group was unique—some were formed based on geographic proximity; others formed based on shared ministry experiences; and still others formed around seasons of life. The groups included pastors, mothers in ministry, and “outside the box, non-traditional” ministers. Several of those groups continue to this day. Some lasted a few years, but each group met the needs and fulfilled its purpose.

In the years since, new Leadership Team members formed new groups. My dream was slowly unfolding, but this way of building a mentoring program had limits. We could only organize one or two new groups each year, and only women ministers known to the BWIM staff or the Leadership Team members were included in the program. But the biggest drawback of our informal program was that there were no funds available to bring group members together—for them to see each other, sit by one another, and share in conversation and fellowship in person, and that, that was my big dream!

bianca groupAnd it came true last week in Cullman, Alabama, thanks to a generous grant from the Forum for Theological Exploration. We received the grant last year, and the money allowed us to develop a more formal application process and reach out across the country and across Baptist life to invite women new to ministry to participate. The grant also allowed for better technology for group meetings (we are loving ZOOM), but best of all, the FTE funds made possible a retreat.

So last Thursday, twenty-four members of our five mentoring groups gathered at the Sacred Heart Monastery, including two groups for new pastors, one for associate ministers, and two for outside-the-box ministers. On our first afternoon together, I realized and said out loud that this gathering was my long-time dream come true. And by Saturday afternoon, I realized that the reality was so much better than any of my dreams.

dorisanna jennifer silasWe all spent time praying, laughing, talking about sisterhood, sharing stories, discussing healthy practices for ministry, affirming and blessing each other, walking on the labyrinth, visiting the monastery’s cemetery, eating meals and snacks (chocolate, of course), and rocking baby Silas who came to the retreat with his minister mom (babies are always welcomed at BWIM events). The added bonus was our time with the sisters of Sacred Heart. They invited us into their sacred space and shared their prayer times with us. Sister Elizabeth, who is the director of their retreat center, talked to us about the content and rhythm of the prayer services and explained to us how to join in and participate. Her hospitality and kindness lingers with me—and with all those who were in Cullman.

I look forward to sharing in the days to come some of the beauty of our time in Cullman, but for now I leave you with a blog written by Emily Hull McGee, who shared her reflections on the retreat and also shared her sweet baby boy with all of us.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

The Friendship of Women by Pam Durso

Last fall I picked up a thin little book titled The Friendship of Women: The Hidden Tradition of the Bible. I admit that I rarely pass up a book that includes women in its title, but this one also had the word friendship. Lately, I have been fascinated, if not obsessed, with this idea of women’s friendships and sisterhood. So of course, I bought the book. Plus its author, Joan Chittister, is someone I have read before and admired.

Last week I was in an airport and then on an airplane, and I had that gift that travel often gives–time alone to read. I finally had the chance to read The Friendship of Women. It is only 89 pages and not heavy reading, but Chittister’s words gave me much to think about, much to ponder, and much to share. Three of her quotes that have settled into my heart are these:

“Friendship extends us into places we have not gone before and cannot go alone.” (xiv)

“Real friends are the ones who take us into their lives with the ease of family and the warmth of love…. They offer what women say they look for most in a relationship: encouragement, support, and  a sense that they themselves are worthwhile human beings. Real friends are simply there for us, no matter the pressure, no matter the pain. They are home for us when no other home is open.” (52-53)

“Acceptance is the universal currency of real friendship. It allows the other to be the other. It puts no barriers where life should be. It does not warp or shape or wrench a person to be anything other than what they are. It simply opens its arms to hold the weary and opens it heart to hear the broken and opens it mind to see the invisible. Then, in the shelter of acceptance a person can be free to be even something more.” (55)

Rarely do I have “holy moments” while sitting on an airplane, but last Wednesday, I did. I began to think of those friends who are “home” for me, and I marveled at the ways in which God had provided me with women who have opened their arms, opened their hearts, opened their minds, and welcomed me into their lives. As I flew over God’s good earth, I began thanking God for friends, the ones who nudge me toward better paths, new adventures, and deeper connections. I hope in your journey that you too have found “real friends,” sisters who share life with you! They are a sacred gift from God!

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.