“We love each other because he loved us first.” ~1 John 4:19 NLT.
For a few months, I have been gearing up for a trip to Brea, California. Brea is near Anaheim and is extremely pretty. I rented a car, reserved my flights, and even ordered an Airbnb.
Why? Because, a few months back, I applied to join Propel Ecclesia. It is a group of about 120 women in ministry leadership; most are pastors. After being accepted, they began posting information about this in-person summit that was 3 days and 2 nights long.
I had a conversation with my cohort leader, who asked what I would like to get out of the group. My answer was community. There aren’t many female pastors that I know and some of the ones I do know are more “pastor’s wives” and less “pastors”. Where I am, I don’t always feel comfortable around them because they are head pastors at a local church and I am not, so they do not speak the same language to me. There really isn’t any support or encouragement for becoming a female head pastor: it is still a foreign concept that is stifling an entire gender.
In other positions, as a pastor, there still is not much education or guidance by others in ministry because it is more like a glorified title for “organizer”. There is nothing wrong with being an organizer (one of my giftings is administration), but, unfortunately, it feels as though you are less than or not educated enough…and that is how people talk to you.
Titles don’t always matter to people.
When a person has worked hard to get where they are at, they don’t want to be treated differently than God called. There are titles for a reason–God is a god of order and authority. We follow after Him and should not treat another differently, so I was leery about going to a conference of all women in ministry leadership.
My flights were fast getting there. I was able to sit on the aisle for each plane. Upon my arrival, I was blessed with a Mustang Convertible as a free upgrade. After getting the car, I picked up three other attendees who needed rides from the airport. Only one of those where in my cohort, but I couldn’t imagine not picking the others up. I felt privileged to get to know them.
The lady who was in my cohort was one of three women who decided to share a beautiful Airbnb with me. That afternoon was our first session, led by Christine Caine and Tara Beth Leach. They had two MCs, Bethany Allen and Jenni Wong Clayville, who were hysterical together. There was a photo booth, cohort tables for dinner which was Taco Tuesday, and it was amazing.
Day one was outstanding.
For day two, they provided breakfast, went into worship, and then a panel of female pastors spoke about ministry challenges. Their whole talk gave acknowledgement and validation that I was not alone in how ministry was working.
We had a cohort talk about what we need to leave behind to step into what we are claiming. This was followed by lunch, group picture, and breakout sessions. Both breakout sessions were wonderful, and there were a couple I wanted to attend but could only go to one at a time. There is a possibility that some of the teachers recorded their sessions. Maybe I will get to hear them later.
Free time came next. Several women from my cohort and me drove down to Newport breach to put our feet in the water. It was beautiful and we had so much fun just hanging out. We drove with the top down, talked ministry and Enneagrams. It felt like I belonged. I felt loved and seen for who God called me to be.
The evening session was predominantly prophesying and praying over each other. Christine brought an excellent word. As that night ended, I drove a cohort member to her Airbnb that happened to be a treehouse with a slide…so of course I slid down the slide.
Day two was outstanding.
In the morning, several people had to pack to get ready to head home right after the conference was over. They had breakfast burritos for us. More worship, panel session about spiritual disciplines, cohort session on who we are, and communion session. Everyone began to part their ways, but our cohort got in one last group picture and group hug.
These ladies just poured out love and genuine support for me and each other. There was no competition but instead exhortation. No one behaved as though their title was anymore important than another’s and instead offered up suggestions for furthering each other’s calling. It was just beautifully done in love. I have never seen anything like it before and cannot wait to connect even deeper with the nine in my cohort over the next four and a half months.
Each of us come from different states in the United States. There are some with similarities in family, calling, and passions but they all felt like true sisters. These are women who I would consider to be trustworthy for my inner circle and, as they are not in my circle of influence, they are able to speak truth without bias towards history, personality, choices, or jealousy.
Day three was outstanding.
From start to finish, love was present and unwavering.
This is Ecclesia.
This is church.
My heart is saddened to have had to leave them. We are connected and it feels like connection for life. Thank you Christine Caine and Tara Beth Leach for the organization and delivery of this program. Thank you Kat Armstrong and Tara Beth Leach for being our cohort’s facilitators, never failing to show us love.