Sister Care seminars in Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference

By Pat Hershberger

The Mennonite, December 2010
Mennonite Weekly Review, November 15, 2010

Mennonite Women (MW) USA’s Sister Care seminars brought 122 women together in Idaho, Oregon and Washington on three gorgeous October weekends. The seminar was offered in three locations to accommodate the distances between congregations in the Northwest. (Pictured above, Jana Oesch, Caldwell, Idaho depicting Mark 2.)

The seminar was co-presented by Carolyn Holderread Heggen, who serves on the Mennonite Women USA Board; and Rhoda Keener, MW USA executive director; with materials they have authored with board president Ruth Lapp Guengerich.

“Sister Care acknowledges women’s gifts of caring and equips them to respond more effectively and confidently to the needs of others in their lives and in their congregations,” Keener said.

The Sister Care seminar integrates biblical stories and truths with psychological insights. “What we believe about our personal worth and identity makes a difference in how we care for others,” Heggen (right) said.

Women came to the seminar to grow in understanding of their calling to care, to learn how to better care for themselves and others, and to deepen their ability to listen in healing ways for one another. Each seminar included personal stories from several local women about experiences of loss and grief. The closing worship invited participants to first share a “bowl of tears,” then anoint each other from a second bowl with the “transformative living water” that Jesus offers each of us.

The seminar provides time for women to connect around welcoming tables and encourages them to share the materials in their congregations.

“The time around tables was invaluable to process what we heard,” said Jo Miller, a participant from Bigfork, Mont. “Upon returning home, we met with our church elders to share about Sister Care. We couldn’t stop talking about the impact it had on us.”

A participant from Oregon wrote, “I hope to connect in more intentional ways with women who have experienced or who will experience loss.”

Kathy Bilderback of Boise, Idaho, summed up the seminar, “Between nibbles of chocolate and refreshing bottled water, we visited our own life stories to find the hues of color representing the events that have brought meaning in our lives. As we listened, we learned how to bravely set boundaries so that we might honor each other. We delved into the healing power of listening and practiced listening when courageous women among us shared their journey of loss and the grief that ensued. After each story we sang them into God’s presence.

“We left with a training manual that holds many more nuggets of truth and understanding. It was a solid weekend of sisters being sisters and with the hope that when we meet again, we will be honored to remember that our time together moved us a bit closer to God and to one another.”

Upcoming Sister Care seminars are planned by Mennonite Women USA for Iowa, Pennsylvania, Illinois, South Dakota and Kansas, with local Mennonite Women leadership providing event hosting. For more information, contact MW USA.

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