SONY DSCOver 200 women from Ontario, Canada, Texas, and places in between gathered at Bonclarken Conference Center in Flat Rock, NC, 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, SC, 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 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 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. 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.

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? Second, is people. Who are the people God is calling into our lives? Third, is prosperity. In the body of Christ our cups run over in support. Fourth, is prominence. Our distinction is in a genuine relationship with God.

After dinner attendees returned to the Chapel. Attendees were addressed by Steve Nichols, Director of Gift Planning for the ARP Foundation (ARPF) who 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. 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. 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 from First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC, opened the service in a traditional Scottish tune and additional music provided by Ms. Eleanor Richardson. Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas, Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church Columbia, SC, preached the sermon Celebrating Women’s Ministry. Dr. Thomas shared that the church today would not be what it is without women’s ministries. Women’s ministries encourages women and thereby encourages the whole of the church. In his sermon Dr. Thomas considers the question, “what does a Titus 2 woman look like?” First, she models spiritual maturity. Second, she trains younger women. 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.

Monday morning conference attendees 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. First is preparation; we need to meet Jesus everyday in scripture. Second is separation; we must be different. Third is anticipation; God amazes us when He makes the water from upstream stop flowing (Joshua 3:16a). 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.

During final session by Lafaro, 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.

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.

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. 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. 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.

SONY DSCMs. 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)

ARP Women’s Ministries Past President, Sherry Bartlett, installed the board of officers. 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.

President, Sally Illman, reported the offering of $1,500 will provide World Witness funds for the advanced training 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, pastor of Pinecrest Presbyterian Church, Flat Rock, NC.

Conference attendees were invited to attend the Silver Tea hosted by Virginia ARP Women’s Ministries. Donations totaling $1,173.51 are designated to maintain Synodical Hall. Celebration activities were closed with the Showcase. Attendees were able to interact with the various agencies, ministries, and partner organizations of the ARP Church.

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!

SONY DSCRecommendations

  1. That the study book for 2015-2016 be Joshua: No Falling Words, by Dale Ralph Davis.
  2. That Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in Our Weakness by Barbara Duguid be the spiritual life study book for 2015-2016.
  3. 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
  4. That the Financial Plan for 2015 be approved as presented.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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.