More than 700 women attended the 2018 Southern Union CONNECTions Women’s Convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee, September 6-9, which was packed with prayer, praise, community outreach, seminars, uplifting sermons, and opportunities to connect with God and other women.
Walking into the convention hall, the stage was lit with colorful moving lights, and praise music was playing softly. And, instead of the typical setup of chairs facing the stage, the huge room was filled with round tables and chairs, so that each woman could interact with those seated at her table.
“We wanted to call women back to the vital connections that support their spiritual walk: God, friends, and service to others,” said Shirley Scott, women’s ministries director at the Southern Union Conference in Norcross, Georgia. “We realize that women often find themselves so busy with life that their connection with God and the people who really matter in life sometimes suffer. Inspiring them through seminars, speakers, panel discussions, community service mixed with praise and worship, and preaching of the Word helped to facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit in igniting a desire to continue to connect.”
CONNECTion with God
One of the primary ways to connect with God is through prayer. “Prayer is the connection that makes all things possible,” added Scott.
One of the things that Scott made a priority was to provide a quiet, sacred place for women to pray during the convention.
The prayer room was a small room across from the large ballroom that provided “a sanctuary where women could come aside to spend time in His presence, experience His peace, and feel His love as they pour out their hearts to God,” said Scott.
The prayer room was a blessing to many women.
“One of our speakers, Loreal McGinnis, told of how she had been seeking God’s peace throughout the weekend, and was still unsettled in her spirit, when the thought of the prayer room came to mind,” recalled Scott. “She went in and discovered women praying on their knees, and laying prostrate before the Lord. One of the ladies grabbed her hand and prayed for her, and the peace she sought came.”
As the photographer for the event, I also went in the prayer room to capture images of it. But, I also wanted to tell God, “thank you,” for answering a prayer I had prayed 10 years earlier.
In 2008, I attended the same quinquennial Women’s Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. On the last day of the event, I went to photograph the prayer room. And, as I moved around the room, looking at the Bible promises on the wall and prayer request boxes surrounded with candles, pens, and paper, I began to feel my own heaviness well up inside of me.
Having just experienced my third miscarriage, disappointment had left me with little desire to pray. But, I couldn’t leave the room without making my request known. “God, please bless me with a baby,” I wrote on the paper and tucked it deep inside the prayer request box.
Now, 10 years later, I returned to the prayer room as a grateful mother of three miracle children to write my answered prayer on the wall of praise! God had heard my prayer!
CONNECTions with Others
Friday, hundreds of women participated in God in Shoes and W.I.N.G.S. (Women in God’s Service), which allowed them to connect through community outreach and service. From cooking meals to cuddling abandoned babies to organizing resources for schools, the women spread out through Chattanooga to connect with those in need.
On Saturday night, the women were able to have some fun connecting with each other. Karen Tilstra and her team from the Florida Hospital Innovation Lab presented, “Embracing Creativity with Magic Saucer,” where women had fun using teamwork to draw them out of their comfort zone, and make beautiful artwork and great memories.
In one of the final presentations on Sunday morning, Beth Anderson gave a moving sermon filled with practical tips on how to connect with others.
- Be friendly. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
- Rejoice in successes and support in sorrow. Be the kind of friend who uplifts and encourages — who completes, not competes.
- Relate intentionally. Look for others who are lonely, and be the bridge that Jesus can come across.
- Develop a relationship with Jesus. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you,” John 15:12.
As the event came to a close, a beautiful flash mob was performed as various soloists in the audience rose to their feet, singing words to the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” Each of the singers, along with the women’s ministries leaders for the convention, joined hands and led the congregation into an exuberant praise while singing the chorus. Many women were in tears as they raised their hands and voices in harmony. The connection to God and to each other was tangible.
“Our hope and prayer is that each woman would go home and ignite a fire in the women whom they serve and fellowship with, and continue to connect others to the Kingdom of God,” said Shirley Scott.
is a freelance writer and photographer from Huntsville, Alabama.
Southern Union | November 2018