Sandy Cove Christian Conference Center in Maryland provided the ideal, peaceful environment for 372 women from 15 different countries to be spiritually renewed. Under the theme, “Walk in the Light,” the 12th Moravian Women’s Conference, held June 25–27, brought together women from around the globe for fellowship, learning, spiritual development, worship and so much more.
Women traveled from the Caribbean, India, Nicaragua, Nepal, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Suriname, Tanzania, Honduras and both the Northern and Southern Provinces in the U.S. to be a part of this year’s event. Also attending were women from the new, emerging Moravian Churches in Albania and Cuba. To highlight the international nature of the event, devotions were led by women from Nepal, Albania, India and Nicaragua.
Keynote speaker Jennifer Sands inspired attendees with her faith journey following her husband’s death in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, NYC, September 11, 2001. Jennifer learned to obey and trust God as she moved from anger to faith. Jennifer’s humor was delightful and her life story was appreciated by participants, especially those who have lost a loved one (see sidebar).
Rev Dr. Craig Atwood, a professor at Moravian Theological Seminary, presented “Five Centuries of Women’s Leadership in the Moravian Church.” In his well-received talk, he spoke about the choir system, Moravian hymns and prayers referring to the Holy Spirit as Mother, and gave examples of women’s leadership and ministry.
“I think that it is time that the Moravian Church officially acknowledges that it first ordained women in the 1700s rather than 1957 or 1972,” he said, although the practice was ended and women excluded from official leadership positions in the years following the death of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf in 1760. Copies of his presentation are available on the Women’s Conference website (https://moravianwomen.wordpress.com/).
Rev Mary Katagile, Moravian pastor and university lecturer in Tanzania, spoke on “Gospel of Light: The Essence of Moravian Church Mission,” and led the worship service and Lovefeast Thursday evening, while Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Northern Province PEC President, led the Saturday evening communion and candlelight worship service which ended with enthusiastic dancing and singing in the Sandy Cove halls.
The Women’s Conference offered more than twenty workshops on a wide variety of topics. Highlights included a talk about “Simply Moravian: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Essentials” by Ruth Cole Burcaw; a workshop on “the Unnamed Women of Jesus’ Ministry” by Christian Educator and Southern Province PEC member Joyce Vance; and a presentation by Vjollca Mazi, a Moravian leader from Albania, on the lives and witness of Moravian women in Albania.
Other workshops included hymn-writing, Moravian women composers, dealing with conflict in a positive way, transformative giving, prayer, aging, missions and more. Free time activities allowed the women to pursue music, exercise, games and plants of the bible.
Worship and music played a central role in this year’s conference. The conference worship team provided the perfect environment and was led by the Rev. Margaret Wellert and the Rev. Cynthia Geyer. Phyllis Ronald provided beautiful piano music throughout the conference’s general sessions and worship services, while Moravian Music Foundation’s Nola Knouse and Gwyn Michel led band and choir.
Add to all those great speakers a beautiful setting on the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, good food, the fellowship and encouragement from being with other Christians, laughter, prayer and music and you have the recipe for a meaningful retreat. The entire conference was joyful, uplifting and glorified God.
The next Moravian Women’s conference will take place in 2019 and Sister Peggy Dodson from North Carolina will be chairing the event. Plan to attend! You will be greatly blessed.
Priscilla Weidman from Lancaster Moravian, Barbara Styers from Raleigh Moravian and Nancy Chandler from Hope Moravian contributed to this article. Photos by Myra Jones and Mike Riess
From the July/August 2015 Moravian Magazine