The American Baptist Women’s Ministries of New Jersey gathered for their annual conference and retreat at the beautiful Harvey Cedars Bible Conference Center in Long Beach Island on June 1- 3. Over 85 women, girls, and young women from 16 churches and 6 associations participated in the retreat. For many of these women, it was their first time attending the retreat. The theme was “Feel.” Through music, workshops, and Bible study, the women were invited to a space of honesty and vulnerability where they could experience transformation and encounter God’s grace.
The Rev. Miriam Mendez, Associate Regional Pastor, was the invited Bible Study leader. Through her teaching on “the bleeding woman” (Luke 8:43-49) and “the stooped over woman” (Luke 13:10-17), she challenged the women to recognize that our circumstances do not define us. We are no longer unnamed and invisible but are called daughters. She reminded the women that our encounter with God’s grace gives us status and a new identity.
Brian and Lynette Smith are an endorsed missionary couple of American Baptist International Ministries in partnership with the Haitian Baptist Convention. They shared their journey as they prepare to serve in Haiti and challenged participants to discern how they may be “called to more” in their community, region, and around the world.
Workshops included reflective prayer and group spiritual direction. Speakers shared about the 4S project, a faith based initiative to empower women in Rwanda; Sacred Safe Spaces, which raises awareness of victims of domestic violence; strategies for financial security; and mission experiences in Thailand. Participants also had the opportunity to play hand chimes and make red baby hats to donate to mothers through the American Heart Association program.
The closing session was led ABGirls and young women who led us in inspirational music through hand chimes and dance. We were then invited to participate in the Lord’s Supper led by Rev. Dr. Carla A. Romarate-Knipel, Rev. Estelle David, and Rev. Sue Royle.
The Rev. April Van Ness introduced and dedicated the new officers for 2017-2018: President Sue Groves (Memorial Baptist, Yardville); Secretary Sheila Donaldson; and Treasurer Gail Gillespie (FBC Peddie Memorial, Newark).