By Edward Gilbreath
SAN DIEGO, CA (August 16, 2013) — More than 850 women packed the grand hall of the Town and Country Resort and Conference Center here Thursday night for the opening worship service of Triennial XIV, the premier event of the Department of Women Ministries.
“Some of you might be here tonight because of a pushy girlfriend or because you wanted to spend some ‘girlfriend’ time in this beautiful city,” said executive minister of women ministries Meagan Gillan, who delivered the conference’s opening address.
“But many of us are here because we desire to grow—we desire to be rooted,” she added.
Gillan’s primary task was to set the table for the week and introduce the various facets of this year’s theme “Rooted.” Based on the enthusiastic reaction from conferees, she succeeded.
A dynamic, all-female worship team led by Jen McDonald of Resurrection Covenant Church in Chicago helped guide the congregation in spirited praise that prompted Efrem Smith, superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference, in his words of welcome to invite the gathered women to “tear the room up” with their worship. “Just don’t send me the bill,” he added with a smile.
President Gary Walter also offered a welcome. After joking with Gillan that as a husband and father of three daughters he felt at ease in a room full of women, he told the gathering that “people are praying for you, that God will touch your heart this week.”
During an impromptu “roll call” early in the service, women from every ECC conference stood and “represented” when their region was called. Not surprisingly, the Pacific Southwest outnumbered other conferences. But it was a visual illustration of the wide geographical range represented in the room, with women from all over the United States and Canada, as well as countries of Asia, Africa, Central and Latin America, and Europe.
Gillan also asked women to raise their hands based on how many Triennials they had attended in total. Only two women could claim the accomplishment of having attended all fourteen Triennials: Betty Carlson of the Evangelical Covenant Church of South Bend, Indiana, and Frances Gunberg of Brookdale Covenant in Brooklyn, Minnesota.
When “Women’s Work” was first recognized as an official administrative board of the Covenant in 1979, Carlson was elected as the board’s first chairperson. And Gunberg, who at 82 years old is a lifelong Covenanter, said she looks forward to the conference every three years because “it’s an opportunity sent by God for us to grow as women.”
That was precisely the message Gillan seemed eager to impart to these Covenant women as they prepared for the next three days of worship and learning in San Diego.
“Women, God is calling us to go deep,” she said. “When we go deep, we understand what is really important. When we go deep, we leave the heresy of ‘Jesus-plus-something-else’ in the dust, and we get rooted in him and him alone.”
Triennial XIV also features workshops, local outreach opportunities, and a 5K “Fun Run” to raise money for the women and girls of Congo. Other keynote speakers include Kanyere Eaton, pastor of Fellowship Covenant Church in Bronx, New York; Judy Peterson, campus pastor at North Park University; Renee Stearns, an international human rights advocate; and Bianca Juarez Olthoff, a writer and speaker who is the chief storyteller for the A21 Campaign, an anti-trafficking organization. The conference runs through Sunday morning.