My friend, Suzanne Vinson, creates beauty—she is a painter, a writer, an artist. Over the years her art has found their way into my office, into my home. I have “Suzanne prints” framed and hanging on my walls, “Suzanne wisdom cards” framed and sitting on my window ledges, “Suzanne greeting cards” mailed out to the world.

Obviously, I am a Suzanne fan. Yet what I love most is not her drawings, not her creations of beauty. What I love best is her insight, her thoughtfulness. What I love best are her wise words. Suzanne prints small cards—wisdom cards—and each one is filled with encouraging words, affirming words, prompting words, inspiring words, smiling words, reminding words.

I have a collection of “Suzanne wisdom cards”—and the one that spoke to me over and over in 2018 read: FIND YOUR VOICE AND USE IT. One would think that by the time a person reaches fifty-seven, she would have found her voice, but the reality is that I continue in that journey. I continue to seek and find my voice in all areas of my life—sometimes it is a voice new to me, sometimes it is a voice that I have buried and neglected, sometimes a it is a voice that challenges and even frightens me, sometimes it is a voice that needs polish. Finding my voice and cultivating it is rarely a simple process, and it is not a one-time and done discovery.

I have learned that finding our voice requires discernment. Finding our voice requires knowing ourselves and embracing our truest self. Finding our voice calls us to honestly evaluate our gifts and talents. Finding our voice compels us to identify our greatest passions. Finding our voice involves trying on multiple voices to see if they fit, growing confident and comfortable in the one that is ours. Finding our voice necessitates time, time to discover the unique and beautiful voice within.

The beautiful reality is that we are not alone in finding our voice—we have each other! We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who will join with us—our friends and colleagues, our professors and mentors, and our church members and community leaders, who will walk with us. Finding our voice is a collaborative effort—a discovery journey in the company of trusted and wise souls, who provide honest assessment and constructive advice. Finding our voice is a community endeavor.

“Suzanne wisdom” tells us that finding our voice is not the end goal, it is not the stopping place. Finding our voice is the first step—using our voice if the ultimate objective. Each of us has a multiple ways in which we use our voice—in preaching, writing, advocating, prophesying, pastoring. Using our voice and using it effectively and with authenticity requires practice, getting back into that pulpit over and over again until confidence comes, writing and re-writing that article or blog until those sentences are perfect, speaking words of compassion out loud again and again until they words sound right, and advocating for the oppressed, the hurting, the silenced until someone listens.

This year join us on this journey as we seek to FIND OUR VOICE AND USE IT.  Here are some ways you can be part of this journey:

Sign up and participate in our monthly conversations. Each month’s conversation will feature either a topic of interest or be intended for a particular group of women ministers. Some conversations will be educational in nature; others will offer support and networking opportunities. Use your voice to talk with us about things that matter:

  • Tuesday, January 15, 2:00-3:00 p.m., EST –”Sexual Abuse and the Church: What You Need to Know,” Special Guest: Nina Maples
  • Monday, February 4, 11:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m. EST – “A Conversation with Latina Ministers,” Special Guest: Nora Lozano
  • Tuesday, March 12, 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST – “A Conversation with Retired Women Ministers,” Special Guest: Kathy Manis Findley
  • Tuesday, April 2, 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST –”A Conversation about Living with Illness while Ministering,” Special Guests: Courtney Allen, Dorisanne Cooper, and Molly Brummett Wudel
  • Tuesday, May 7, 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST – “A Conversation for Sexual Abuse Survivors,” Special Guest: Nina Maples.

Read the BWIM blog and add your story. On some Wednesdays, the BWIM blog will feature stories about first preaching experiences. Add your story to the conversation by posting about your own first time preaching using the hashtag #myfirsttimepreaching.

Be part of Baptist Women in Ministry’s Month of Preaching this February. BWIM is redreaming this emphasis and in addition to featuring Martha Stearns Marshall, we will highlight three other significant Baptist preachers: Edna Lee de Gutiérrez, Ella Pearson Mitchell, and Helen Barrett Montgomery. Encourage your church to participate so that young and new-to-ministry women will be welcomed into pulpits. And share our bulletin inserts so that your congregation can learn about these Baptist women who found their voice and used them in pulpits, board rooms, denominational circles, and global venues.

Attend the BWIM Annual Gathering in Birmingham, Alabama, on June 19. “FIND YOUR VOICE AND USE IT” will be our theme for worship. The announcement of our preacher is coming soon!

This year let’s take this journey together and discover our truest and best voice and use it for good in God’s world.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.