Today marks one year that I have been serving as executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry!

On my first anniversary of this ministry, I would like to share three lessons that I have been learning in the past 12 months of doing this incredible work during a pandemic.

1: Connection is a fundamental aspect of any kind of ministry.

Before BWIM, my ministry journey included congregational, denominational, and educational ministries. In each of those roles, walking alongside people in the journey of faith-life has been the gift that kept me going on the hard days…and the same has been true of BWIM.

Even if it has been on Zoom or in a phone call, connecting with people has become the fuel that propels me forward and the currency which funds my imagination for the future.

In our pandemic existence for the past year and a half, we often find ourselves doing our ministry jobs alone in our homes or offices. The continued solitude can sometimes push us toward further withdrawal with the result being that we don’t make the extra effort to reach out.

But I’m learning not to let isolation win. Connecting and communing with people made in the image of God opens my soul to better connect with the one in whose image we are made, and that most sacred connection is the source of all work worth doing.

2: Don’t underestimate people’s commitment to a cause worth fighting for.

I will be honest—I came into this role and the past year worrying about BWIM’s future. In the midst of a world-upending pandemic and one of the worst economic downturns in our nation’s history, not to mention the post-denominational, post-institutional trends in the Church that were already present, I wondered if people, congregations, and organizations would continue to give to BWIM.

And you have! With more generosity than I could have imagined!

I have learned that people who are committed to equality and equity for women among Baptists are not deterred in even the most difficult circumstances. So I give thanks and have the deepest gratitude for all you are doing to continue to support our work of advancing women in ministry forward in Baptist life.

3: Women in ministry have come a long way among Baptists, but we haven’t arrived.

One of the ministries BWIM has is to be story keepers and story protectors. In the past 12 months I have heard the stories of quite a few women. Some of those stories have led me to rejoice, but far too many others have literally brought me to tears.

Advocacy work often feels tiresome because it isn’t something that one program, one person, or one organization can “fix” quickly. Instead, we slowly and methodically peel back layer after layer. Then, just when we think we’ve removed the layer that was covering up the goal, we realize we’ve only exposed a whole new set of issues that must be dealt with.

Though some Baptists have peeled back a few layers of oppression against women, if the stories I’ve heard are any indication, I’m afraid we still have quite a few more layers to go.

But see lesson #2 – we will not be deterred in our purpose! Together, we will continue the good work of encouraging women serving in and who are called to ministry, and of advocating among congregations, organizations, and institutions for the affirmation and empowerment of all women among Baptists.

So as I begin my second year of ministry with BWIM, I am looking forward to continued connection, gratitude, and enlivened advocacy in partnership with you.

Meredith Stone is the executive director at Baptist Women in Ministry.