The Annual Gathering of the Anglican Women of the Diocese was held Saturday, April 22, at the Church of the Resurrection, North Charleston. Planned by Diocesan Women’s president, Sunny Walker, and other board members, including Janet Stoda, Brenda Rindge, Tracy Sutpin, Dab Dent, Cathy Jacobs, and Nell Stone, with meals provided by members of Church of the Resurrection, the event was a day of encouragement, fellowship, learning, and refreshment.
Sisters in Christ started the day with fellowship and joyous worship together. After a delicious breakfast graciously prepared by Mary Kauser, Mary Frances Ahl, and other women of Church of the Resurrection, the Rev. Rich Giersch, with assistance from Ann Caldwell, led lively and inspirational music worship in the sanctuary. Giersch’s music, resonant with themes of God’s goodness, love, and grace, prepared the women for the message of the day.
Speaker Van Weston, of All Saint’s Church, Pawley’s Island, and the sister of Rich Giersch, delivered a riveting–and heartening—presentation, “Can You Hear Me Now?” Weston’s message emphasized the Lord’s desire to be an integral part in the lives of His people, His outpouring of love in sending Jesus as a living sacrifice for all, and His loving forgiveness for anyone who has fallen away but repents and opens his or her heart and life to Him. Van also assured the women that God cares about the particular personal concerns and needs of every one of His children. Weston reminded her audience of the realities of God as a Creator who brought men and women into being out of love, and as a Father who listens compassionately to the desires of our hearts and wishes to intervene directly in our lives.
Toward the end of Weston’s initial teaching session, Weston shared a “Love Letter from God” that touched many hearts profoundly. Greeting the reader as a “precious daughter,” the letter presented the voice of God communicating with the reader through a selection of Scriptural passages expressing His immeasurable love and knowledge of each person in His creation as well as His assurance that He will guide the steps of someone who opens her heart to Him. As such, the letter reiterated the Lord as a Father who knows each man and woman intimately, loves us unconditionally, and desires to protect and guide us daily. President Sunny Walker expressed, “I heard God’s voice as I read the letter. Tears flowed–they were good tears.”
Attendees were also reminded of God’s role as a loving Redeemer. To underscore His love, protection, and forgiveness, Weston showed a beautiful picture of Jesus holding a tiny lamb as she stressed the absolute dependence of sheep on their shepherd for guidance and protection. Our Good Shepherd cares deeply for each of us, His sheep, and opens His arms in joy and loving forgiveness when any one of us has fallen away but penitently returns to Him.
“Van was very inspiring and engaging. I could have listened to her all day,” said Cathy Jacobs, of St. Paul’s Church, Summerville.
Small group gatherings after each of Van’s two presentations allowed participants to exchange ideas and discuss the ways in which Weston’s teachings impacted each woman personally. “Van’s small group questions were relatable and led to wonderful discussions,” said Lisa Snowden, of Church of Our Saviour, John’s Island.
Other attendees shared the following statements about the teachings and small group gatherings:
“The realities of God the Creator knowing me before I came into the world and caring for me as a Father were things I needed to hear.”
“The day made me feel uplifted. I enjoyed talking with women from other churches and listening to moving talks by our speaker.”
“I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence through Van’s teaching and the conversations in my small group.”
Walker announced that this year’s Fall Women’s Retreat will be held in October at Epworth by the Sea, on Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia.
The event provided a day full of blessings for those who attended. Walker commented, “The event was a success. Women from churches all over the diocese talked, laughed and worshiped together, and Van gave everyone a strong message to take home with us.”
By Nell Stone, Church of Our Saviour, Johns Island