Minutes of the 100th Annual Meeting of ARP Women’s Ministries
Over 200 women from Ontario, Canada, Houston Texas, and places in between gathered at Bonclarken Conference Center in Flat Rock, North Carolina, to celebrate 100 years of ARP Women’s Ministries. In 1898, Synod appointed Mrs. R.D. Bryson as the General Superintendent of Woman’s Work. It is in this capacity Mrs. Bryson called all the churches and encouraged them to send representatives to meet in Due West, South Carolina, during the week of Synod 1915. During that meeting Mrs. Bryson’s vision of a Synod-wide organization was formed. While the name has evolved through the years–first, Woman’s Synodical Missionary Union, later in 1949, Woman’s Synodical Union, and in 2005, ARP Women’s Ministries–the desire to serve God has not.
The centennial celebration kicked off with a concert presented by two-time Dove Award recipient Babbie Mason. Her music filled the Bonclarken Conference Center Chapel with biblical truths taken from Psalm 100, I Corinthians 13, John 17, and more. Through music and personal testimony she challenged conference attendees to consider the story of others–often much more painful stories than their own. Rather than let the stranger struggle, take time to get involved. Her latest book This I Know For Sure (and song of the same title) celebrates her 50-year walk with the Lord, in which she exhorts her audience not to focus on things they do not know about, but rather celebrate the things they do know. Within the chorus are five biblical assurances that lead Babbie to an unshakable faith in the Lord:
There is a God in heaven,
and I am in His plan.
He will forsake me never.
My life is in His hands.
His boundless love will lead me,
as long as time endures.
Oh, this I know;
this I know for sure.
The concert ended with a short session presented by conference speaker Ellie Lofaro. Her passion for women and God’s truth was presented in humor, plainspoken truth, and practicality. Session I Believing God’s Promises (Genesis 12:1-2) focused on four promises provided to Abram and therefore us. First, is property. Is there a place we need to go that God is calling us toward? It could be a physical move–short-term or long-term–it could be a poor section of town or a need that God is calling us to fulfill. Second, is people. Who are the people God is calling into our lives? Families, fellow believers, homeless, women or children exploited by human trafficking? Third, is prosperity. In the body of Christ our cups run over in support. Receive the blessing and share it with others. Fourth, is prominence. Our distinction is in a genuine relationship with God.
After dinner attendees returned to the Chapel. Conference chair, Nicole McCoy, reconvened the celebration. Chip Sherer, Bonclarken Conference Center President, greeted guests. On behalf of ARP Women’s Ministries, Nicole McCoy, presented a token of appreciation for the support and service Mr. Sherer and his entire staff have been in planning the conference. Next Family Bible Conference Director, Rev. Tim Watson spoke. He congratulated the ladies on the 100 year milestone. Rev. Watson, thanked the ladies for ARP Women’s Ministries partnership with Christian Education Ministries (CEM) to coordinate the Family Bible Conference. In closing he invited all to stay a couple of more days to enjoy the fruits of this partnership. Attendees were then addressed by Steve Nichols, Director of Gift Planning for the ARP Foundation. Briefly Mr. Nichols explained that the ARP Foundation (ARPF) is a full-service foundation to help facilitate converting personal assets into ministry impact. The ARPF encourages individual and family stewardship by providing expertise related to planned and deferred gifts, wills and bequests, estate and lifestyle planning that minimize taxes, and optimize giving capacity at your direction. Mr. Nichols announced that a sizeable gift had been received in order to establish an endowment. The endowment is a forward looking revenue source in which the interest can be used to further the ministry of ARP Women’s Ministries. Anyone can add to this endowment at any time by donating cash, land, stocks, and other appreciated assets. Additionally, you may name ARP Women’s Ministries as a benefactor in your will either as a percentage or in a named dollar amount. ARP Women’s Ministries is grateful to the generosity of this dear Sister-in-Christ that believes it is important to encourage and equip generations to come. Moderator Mr. Larry Littlejohn brought greetings from General Synod. This year’s Synod theme God’s Imprint is a fitting compliment to this celebration. The Moderator offered three challenges to the women. First, to continue to teach the children. So many of our lives today were impacted by the imprint of godly women who taught us as children. Second, to train other women. And third, to tune our hearts to the imprint of God’s Word. On behalf of General Synod, Moderator Littlejohn, presented a $1000 check to ARP Women’s Ministries President, Sally Illman, in honor of the 100th celebration.
The pipe band (Campbell, Evan, and Patrick Johnson) opened the service in a traditional Scottish tune, after which the prelude was played by Ms. Eleanor Richardson. The call to worship taken from Psalm 100 was provided by Mr. Paul Bell, Central Services’ Executive Director. The congregation praised God for His faithfulness in song, prayer, and confession. Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas, Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church Columbia, South Carolina, preached the sermon Celebrating Women’s Ministry. Dr. Thomas explained that the book of Titus was written by Paul to a young Pastor on the island of Crete. While the whole of the book speaks to church life, the verses preceding and following the text (Titus 2:3-5) pertained to various groups within the church; with no one group singled out or omitted. Dr. Thomas shared that the church today would not be what it is without women’s ministries. Not the meeting, but what it does. Women’s ministries encourages women and thereby encourages the whole of the church. In the sermon Dr. Thomas considers the question, “what does a Titus 2 woman look like?” First, she models spiritual maturity. She shines with an aura that she is in the presence of the Lord. Second, she trains younger women. He cautioned this might require meeting at a time more convenient for them. Many younger women work, have small children, or live in another section of town. Invite them to your home or invite them for lunch. Take the time to engage them. And when they are not engaged, younger women should display a teachable heart and seek out the companionship of a godly woman. Third, a Titus 2 woman submits to the Word of God. As she submits to the teaching of the Bible it will outpour in each sphere of her life. After the hymn of response, Dr. Thomas pronounced the benediction and the service was concluded with a postlude by the pipe band.
Monday morning conference attendees enjoyed a selection of scones and fruit for breakfast, then gathered in the Chapel to worship in song led by Lori Overcash. Ellie Lofaro’s second session, Being an Overcomer, challenged attendees to look to the words of scripture in times of uncertainty. “Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before” (Joshua 3:4a). Like the Israelites we all find ourselves in a river to cross and Joshua 3 provides four steps to overcoming the obstacles, hurdles, and other stuff in our way. First is preparation; we need to meet Jesus everyday in scripture. It is through the study of God’s Word that we become the tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither (Psalm 1:3). Second is separation; we must be different. Our actions should be a pleasing aroma to God’s nostrils. Our lives are works in progress and we should be better Christians than we were a year ago. Third is anticipation; God amazes us when He makes the water from upstream stop flowing (Joshua 3:16a). Ms. Lofaro pointed out that when you are a Holy Spirit woman your agenda is the Lord’s. We only need to ask, “Lord what will You make of this?” Fourth is commemoration. In Joshua 4 verses 1-7 the Lord commands that twelve stones be taken from the middle of the Jordan and placed where they rested to serve as a sign and memorialize the event. From the words of Joshua we learn why memorials are built:
- Because people forget (vs 4-7)
- To remind people of God’s faithfulness (vs 22)
- To tell of God’s past activity (vs 21-23)
- To tell of the mighty power of God (vs 24)
- To tell that God is to be revered forever (vs 24)
After a short break Ms. Lofaro presented the final session, Building a Legacy. She explained there is a difference between heritage (something we receive and are therefore not responsible for) and legacy (something we leave and is within our control). The message of the Gospel does not change, but methods to educate others to the Gospel does and sometimes must change. She charged the group when asked “How are you today” to respond “I’m blessed.” This will serve as a short sermon to all we encounter. Ms. Lofaro provided ten reasons that building a legacy is important.
- Place priority on a spiritual legacy.
- Pass on a strong sense of belonging.
- Pass on a strong sense of value.
- Pass on an awareness of gifts and capabilities.
- Pass on the tools to be able to walk with the Spirit.
- Pass on the ability to relate to others as Jesus would.
- Encourage a growing relationship with the Lord.
- Place a high value on God’s Word.
- Face problems and difficulties as an overcomer.
- Share God’s rewards as you receive them.
The celebration moved to the Dining Hall where the Bonclarken Home Owners Association served lunch. Judi Hodges, CEM Training Specialist, highlighted the 2014/15 study books Opening Up Titus, by David Campbell, and A Woman’s High Calling: Ten Ways to Live Out God’s Plan for Your Life, by Elizabeth George. Both are available through the ARP Bookstore. Attendees were provided an opportunity to share how God has been faithful in their lives.
The festivities moved back to the Chapel and pianist, Eleanor Richardson, welcomed everyone with a prelude. Sally Illman, ARP Women’s Ministries President, welcomed attendees and opened the 100th Meeting of ARP Women’s Ministries. Elizabeth Burns, ARP Women’s Ministries Coordinator, led a time of reflection. She challenged attendees to consider the thousands of lives that have been touched and transformed through the work and example of the ARP women that heard God’s call to start what we now know as ARP Women’s Ministries. We think we have busy lives today, imagine how busy these women were. No modern conveniences (fast food, no driving to the mall, no automatic vacuum cleaners). They grew their own food, made their clothes, and manually labored for the upkeep of their homes. But busy did not stop these godly women who loved Jesus, that saw a need, and set out to address it. These women intentionally and lovingly chose to invest their time, gifts, and experiences in the lives of one another. They saw a world that was in need of the Gospel. The world today is still in need of the Gospel. Whether you are in the tiniest church in Mississippi Valley, the largest church in Catawba, the busiest church in Florida, or even the farthest church in Canada we need to be imprinted by the Gospel. What will these ARP Women’s Ministries look like 100 years from now? Will our churches be filled to overflowing with godly women or filled with women who are just too busy? Too busy to answer God’s call to lead and to serve women so they might glorify Him. Let us be encouraged by reflection, challenged through introspection, and excited in anticipation by God’s call.
Rev Rhett Carson, Senior Pastor Pinecrest ARP Church in Flat Rock, North Carolina conducted the invocation. Worship in Psalms were scattered throughout the service using a selection of Bible Songs. Elaine Reed, ARP Women’s Ministries Secretary, called the roll and read the voting criteria. The recommendations were presented as a seconded motion from the ARP Women Ministries Board (by Elaine Reed, Secretary motion 1-3 and 6-7; Sandra Zimmerman, Treasurer motion 4; and Linda Hardin, Nominating Chair motion 5). Each motion was voted on individually and passed unanimously.
- That the study book for 2015-2016 be Joshua: No Falling Words, by Dale Ralph Davis.
- That Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in Our Weakness by Barbara Duguid be the spiritual life study book for 2015-2016.
- That the theme verse for 2015-2016 be: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
- That the Financial Plan for 2015 be approved as presented.
- That the following slate from the Nominating Committee be elected for a term beginning September 1, 2014: Vice President: Jana Evans Secretary: Laura Navarro Spiritual Life Chair: Carolyn Taylor
- That Cathy Hunt be placed in nomination as the ARP Women’s Ministries representative to the Synod Nominating Committee for a term beginning July 1, 2015.
- That the offering collected at the 2014 ARP Women’s Ministries Annual Meeting be given to World Witness; designated for the advanced training and professional development of the school teachers in the ARP School System in Pakistan.
Speakers included Ms. Nannette Howard, World Witness Missionary to Pakistan and current Jubilee Birthday recipient; Ms. Shelia Osborne, World Witness Coordinator of Short-Term Ministry & Candidates & Liaison to ARP Women’s Ministries, and current Jubilee Birthday recipient; and Ms. Judi Hodges, CEM Training Specialist and former Jubilee Birthday recipient. Ms. Howard spoke about God is Faithful and periodically had the audience recite “God is faithful” back to her. The book of Joshua is all about battles. Even though Joshua knew that “God is faithful,” we read the reminder to be strong and courageous many times: Deuteronomy 31:6, 31:7, 31:23, Joshua 1:7, 9, & 18. It is a theme that does not stop with Joshua, but can be found throughout the pages of scripture. God wants us to be strong and courageous. We can be strong and courageous as we remember Who is with us. It is not about who we are and what we can do. It is about God and He is faithful. As you study Joshua in 2015/16 you will find Jesus on every page. But there is a reality check here. Exodus 23: 29, 30 says “I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply and threaten you. I will drive them out a little at a time until your populations has increased enough to take possession of the land.” God is faithful. We have every reason to believe that He will accomplish His good purposes and take us home.
Ms. Shelia Osborne recognized Jubilee Birthday Ladies. As part of the 100th anniversary celebration, World Witness thanked the ARP Women’s Ministries for the important role they have had in foreign missions. To date 13 women missionaries have been blessed to be called a Jubilee Birthday Lady, and have received the special offering as part of their support. Seven Jubilee Birthday Ladies were reunited at the meeting:
Mrs. Jerri Lotze – served in Liberia, W. Africa, Pakistan (1986)
Mrs. Melanie Seeger – Pakistan (1992)
Mrs. Pam Brunson – Mexico, Russia, Pakistan (2000)
Miss Judi Hodges – Germany (2001)
Ms. Judy Buis – Scotland (2007)
Mrs. Nannette Howard – Russia, Wales, Pakistan (2010)
Mrs. Shelia Osborne – Mexico, Short-Term Missions (2013)
Ms. Osborne concluded with a short video, which will be made available at arpwm.org.
Ms. Judi Hodges shared the legacy of Ms. Julia Hardeman Rhodes and the award in place to honor her. Ms. Hodges gave a brief history, telling how the Women’s Ministries’ pioneer had a servant’s heart and a vision to have a women’s organization. Ms. Rhodes also started The Bulletin – the first women’s magazine, which eventually became the ARP Magazine. She was a passionate and tireless advocate of creating awareness and action in connecting ARP’s across the denomination. The award that honors Ms. Rhodes is now under CEM to ensure its continuation. In her honor, this award is to be presented annually to a candidate who has demonstrated excellence in service and dedication in the ARP Church, reflecting the heart of Julia Hardeman Rhodes. Nomination forms for a worthy recipient, are available at arpcem.com/julia-rhodes to all ARP members. Completed forms must be received in the CEM office by the annual deadline of August 10th. The JHR Awards Committee will review and select the recipient by August 30th, and the Board of CEM will approve it during the September meeting.
ARP Women’s Ministries Past President, Sherry Bartlett, installed the board of officers. President, Barbara Sherrill; Vice President, Jana Evans; Past President, Sally Illman; Secretary, Laura Navarro; Treasurer, Sandra Zimmerman; Historian, Sandra Miller; Missions and Outreach, Lissa Shine; and Spiritual Life, Carolyn Taylor. Ms. Nancy Myers will serve as the 2014/15 Parliamentarian. President-elect, Barbara Sherrill had requested that Ms. Bartlett invite the regional Presidents to stand with the officers as they were installed–Canada, Jennifer Hovestadt; Catawba, Melody Howell; First, Lil Summerville; Florida, Rachel Reynolds; Mississippi Valley, Marge Smith; Northeast, Joanne Hamilton; Second, Cherry Murph; Tennessee – Alabama, Joyce Edgar; and Virginia, Reta Harris. Ms. Bartlett reminded them God called women 100 years ago to be visionaries just as He is calling them to be visionaries now to lead Women’s Ministries’ into the future. Remember: 1) God is calling you to serve Him and others. He will provide. 2) You are God’s emissary of light, love, and joy to a dark world. 3) Enjoy the adventure of the journey with Jesus Christ as your guide.
President, Sally Illman, reported the offering of $1,500 will provide World Witness funds for the advanced training and professional development of the school teachers in the ARP School System in Pakistan as approved earlier in the meeting. There were 156 attendees including 51 delegates, 101 other women, and 4 guests. The 100th Annual Meeting of ARP Women’s Ministries was adjourned in a closing prayer by Rev. Rhett Carson and a postlude played by Ms. Eleanor Richardson.
Conference attendees were invited to attend the Silver Tea hosted by Virginia ARP Women’s Ministries. All enjoyed the selection of vegetables, cheeses, sweets and drinks. Donations totaling $1,173.51 are designated to maintain Synodical Hall. Celebration activities were closed with Showcase. Attendees were able to interact with the various agencies, ministries, and partner organizations of the ARP Church. These organizations and the area Women’s Ministries President’s provided conference attendees with gifts and handouts.
The 100th Celebration of ARP Women’s Ministries enabled attendees to reflect on their heritage and remember God’s faithfulness to the women of the ARP Church. Our desire is that in the next 100 years women will continue to know Jesus intimately, love Jesus faithfully, and serve Jesus fruitfully!
ARP Women’s Ministries
2013/14 Board Secretary