Two weeks ago Baptist women gathered in the lovely sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee. Our theme for the three-day Leading Women event was CELEBRATING BEAUTY. At the first session of that gathering, I spoke these words: “In each and every moment of our lives, we find beauty. In the gains and in the losses, we find beauty. In the successes and in the failures, we find beauty. In the joyous laughter and in the grieving tears, we find beauty. For God’s spirit works in and with and through us in each moment, making all things beautiful, redeeming every heartache and pain, every happiness and joy.”
We then proceeded to celebrate the beauty of those women who walked before us, paving the way, blazing the trail. We celebrated the women who have stepped into places of leadership and service, sharing their beautiful gifts with us all in these present days, and we celebrated the beauty that is to come as God calls and gifts more women as pastors, counselors, preachers, teachers, leaders, chaplains, encouragers, and mentors.
That celebration of beauty continued for me well past the conclusion of Leading Women. On Sunday evening, May 7, I sat in another lovely church sanctuary. This one in Nacogdoches, Texas: Austin Heights Baptist Church. The sanctuary was filled with faithful Baptists and friends of Baptists, and all those gathered shared in celebrating the beauty that is our friend and leader, Suzii Paynter. We named her giftedness. We affirmed her calling as a minister, and we laid our hands on her. We recognized the minister she has long been, the minister she is now, and the minister she is yet to be. And it was beautiful.
For the beauty of her ordination service, for the beauty of Suzii’s long-held calling, for the beauty of her strength and courage, and for the beauty of her faithfulness, thanks be to God.
Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.