Leading Women ConferenceApril 26-28, 2017
On April 26-28, 2017, 120 women gathered at First Baptist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee to celebrate the influence and voices of women from across Baptist life. Attendees participated in worship, leadership development discussions, networking opportunities, and conversations.
Leading Women began on Wednesday afternoon with three LEAD Talks (think TED Talks with a Baptist woman twist) presented by Kasey Jones, Molly T. Marshall, and Suzii Paynter. In addition, attendees selected from eighteen other LEAD Talk on Thursday with topics ranging from advocacy, financial well-being, life-long learning, leadership, and mentoring. The gathering also featured three worship services led by Carol McEntyre, Ossie McKinney, and Meredith Stone. The Friday morning session opened with a conversation with Raquel Contreras and concluded with a powerful worship service that included testimonies from Ashton Wells and Linda McKinnish Bridges.
Following the gathering, Pam Durso wrote in a BWIM blog post: “There were so many special moments. I watched as two friends from seminary days stood together in the pulpit-–now both are seminary presidents! (Molly T. Marshall and Linda McKinnish Bridges) I cried as a retired missionary sat next to her Chilean Baptist pastor friend (Joyce Wyatt and Raquel Contreras). I marveled at the new friends that blossomed quickly. I laughed (and took selfies) with some of my students–both present students and those who have graduated and are now busy bringing change to our world. There are too many stories to tell. Too many beautiful stories. For last week, a group of Baptist women made space for beauty. They listened to one another. They learned from each other. They cried together–and laughed. And they were inspired and renewed, and so was I. Leading Women was an unexpected gift, one for which I will be forever grateful!”
In her blog post, “Mothering Like God,” Kelly Moreland Jones wrote of the conversation with Raquel Contreras: “I was moved to hear her journey from pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom to widow and single parent during her mid-forties. She told us about being excused from a business meeting expecting the people to be gathering a widow’s offering behind closed doors, following the death of her husband. Instead, she returned to the meeting, only to learn that the church wanted to call her as their senior pastor.” Raquel also shared about the time she found herself in a sea of bickering men. Finally, those men turned to prayer and “sought Almighty God’s will for the leader who would help heal wounds and propel them into the future.” The prayer time resulted in every male candidate for the presidency of the Chilean Baptist Union stepping forward to remove his name from the ballot so that the group could nominate a godly woman. The Union then elected Raquel as their president by acclimation. Kelly concluded her blog, “Raquel Contreras’s story is nothing short of a miracle. It is evidence of a living, loving God walking among us.”
Leading Women was a powerful, much-needed gathering to celebrate the beauty of leading Baptist women. If you missed the gathering, the large group sessions and the worship services videos are available below.