If you have ever planned worship or conferences or meetings, you will understand. I rarely, almost never, enjoy, receive inspiration, or feel renewed when I attend an event that I have planned. It is hard to be in the moment, when you are watching the clock, keeping track of what’s next. It is hard to be inspired when you are texting your co-leader, checking on your flight-delayed preacher. It is hard to listen, to sing, to absorb when you are directing traffic from the front row. It is just hard.
But many times last week in the midst of our Leading Women gathering, I found myself sitting on the front row NOT watching the time, NOT signaling the next speaker. I found myself swept into the moment–it was a wonderful, unexpected feeling!
At the very beginning of our time together last week, Molly T. Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary and founding mother of Baptist Women in Ministry, stood and declared that Leading Women was “as historic, perhaps, as that first organizing meeting of Baptist Women in Ministry in 1983.” I knew then that I needed to pay attention, to soak this gathering in, and so I did.
There were so many special moments. I watched as two friends of 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 I will be forever grateful for!
Pam Durso is executive director, Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.