By Mallory Homeyer Herridge, LMSW, Mdiv
I know traveling to Abilene may not be great for all (re: time/distance, money, etc.). I’ll need to work out childcare, details, budget, etc. like many others; however, I think its powerful to think about our “why” for going…. Why it matters to us, etc.
I was thinking about recent anti-women in ministry statements/events and in a way, traveling to Abilene will be like a sacred act of resistance for me against the man-made systems and belief structures that squelch the Spirit’s leading in the lives of women. But equally as important, it will be an opportunity for spiritual pilgrimage--- to step out of my week and journey West, alone or maybe with women from my church, etc.
Taking time to travel and gather together specifically for a “BWIM” conference ….where we feel affirmed in our callings, vocations (paid or volunteer), where we learn and sharpen our skills in these callings and grow closer together in community with others on similar journeys (spanning generations), and therefore grow closer to God……. Is so needed.
I think about who God will stir to make the pilgrimage also… alone… or alongside women from their church…. Or perhaps with their daughters…. Or fellow ministers … with their spouses/significant others…. With their seminary and/or college friends…. Or youth group…..
I love that making the pilgrimage to Abilene means when I arrive, I will find “my people,” many of whom, I don’t even know yet. I may hear a story from Debra Bell about how in Houston, they are praying weekly for women in ministry across the state—which means, they pray weekly for me. I may receive a hug from her or a new minister I have never met and they may say as they hug me, “you belong here, sister, welcome.”
I think about the opportunity I will have all weekend to praise God alongside the voices of my sisters – some of which will be praising God in their first language, some of which will be praising God with their hands, some may be reverent as they take it all in … but ALL of which will be comfortable and at peace as they praise.
I think about how I will be able to hear difficult stories of sisters in ministry on the front lines and how we will weep alongside one another and for those they are serving. I think about how Jesus will be there weeping with us.
I think about how I will hear incredible stories of how God is calling women of all ages to serve, preach and lead and how we will pull up seats and make room so that more can listen and hear. I think about how we will hear how God is moving among male leaders to make room for their sisters and how some are even handing the torch to these sisters God has continued to raise up. I think about how we will celebrate these stories together and feel empowered by God’s faithfulness to his promises!
I think about ministers that will arrive exhausted and need to be emotionally and physically supported. I think about women that may finally feel they have a place to connect—as they leave the weekend and go back to serve alongside their husband or pastor in a non-affirming church. I think about ministers that will arrive as a part of a “to-do” list and leave ALIVE because the Spirit will breathe new life in their lungs. I think about seasoned ministers that will arrive glowing, because they have been around—learned self-care and surrender – and are ready to impart that well-earned wisdom gently, to fellow sisters.
I think about how the opportunity to be together…. Really together…. will be a visual representation of the Kingdom. Women leaders (and men) from all areas of the state, of all ages and experiences, speaking many languages, serving in many roles, etc. will make the pilgrimage to gather together to remember that we belong to one another, we belong to God and we will have opportunity invite others to feel affirmed in this call too.