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.
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).
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.
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!
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!
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.