Women from across eight states gathered July 9-10 for the Center for Women in Ministry’s first-ever event—the Women in Ministry Conference.
The center was established at Beeson Divinity School in January. According to Kristen Padilla, who is the director, it is to serve as a hub to encourage and equip women called to Christian ministry.
The conference did just that, according to those who attended, including Ashley Chesnut, M.Div. ’11, associate young adult minister at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham.
Chesnut said she was excited about having the chance to gather with other women who also felt a call to ministry or were currently serving in that calling.
“A conference like this addresses different questions and challenges than a general women’s conference,” Chesnut said. “Questions such as whether or not to go to seminary, or challenges such as what to do when you don’t find as many opportunities to serve after seminary as you had anticipated. This conference acknowledged these questions and topics and offered encouragement and networking."
A number of Protestant denominations were represented in the group, keeping with the ethos of Beeson, an interdenominational evangelical school.
“At the conference I met women in a variety of fields and denominations, and in a time when our culture and even the church is so divided, it’s encouraging to come together and to remember that Christ is what unifies us,” Chesnut said. “Even if we have differences in denominations and traditions, we’re all on the same side.”
The conference followed the theme, Minister Like the Magdalene, and featured talks from Jennifer Powell McNutt, the Franklin S. Dyrness Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Wheaton College and a founding member of Beeson’s Center for Women in Ministry advisory board.
During her talks, McNutt discussed how church history and biblical scholarship impact women in their callings and ministries. Samford University President Beck A. Taylor and his wife, Julie, came to McNutt’s talk at the July 9 worship service to show their support for the center’s ministry.
There were also breakout sessions led by women in a variety of ministry roles, which covered topics from publishing to pursuing doctoral work to ministering to women in light of the #metoo and #churchtoo movements.
The event was aimed at encouraging women in their callings.
“Ministry can feel isolating and lonely and being a female in ministry can sometimes amplify those experiences,” Padilla shared.
Much of that encouragement happened naturally as participants connected with other women who are doing similar things in ministry or had similar giftings, callings or passions, she said.
“It truly ended up being a conference where women were able to encourage one another,” Padilla said.
For more information about the Center for Women in Ministry, visit beesondivinity.com/women-in-ministry.