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Women Pastors and Chaplains Renew and Reconnect During NAD Retreat


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By Kimberly Luste Maran

In a Stop Hunger Now project at the NAD Women Pastors and Chaplains Retreat, 10,000 bagged meals are packed.
Photo by Pieter Damsteegt


The relaxed setting of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was the backdrop for the North American Division (NAD) Women Pastors and Chaplains Retreat held on Sept. 11-14, 2016. The event, themed “Renew,” offered the 160 attendees time to relax, reflect, and recommit through workshops, keynote presentations, and a special outreach activity. Those gathered were also able to pray, worship, and fellowship together.
“This event is the first of its kind,” says Brenda Billingy, an NAD Ministerial Association associate director and retreat coordinator. “We wanted to give the women time for spiritual renewal, but we wanted to do something that would also give them an opportunity to reach out to the community. Hence, we had the Stop Hunger Now Project, where we bagged 10,000 meals for the hungry.”
Esther Paul-Emile, pastor of the Montreal North and Laval, Quebec, Canada, churches, is grateful for the short break from her responsibilities. But she also says that serving the Lord and the community makes her happy. She appreciates the Stop Hunger Now Project where attendees, donning hairnets, weighed and bagged rice, beans, and other dry foods for a couple of hours one evening. She plans to “apply what I’m learning here to my work, and I will share it with the members and leaders — and also to apply it to the community.”
Billingy explains that the retreat also offered educational workshops. “One unique feature of this event is offering seminars that would give attendees the opportunity to get CLE [continuing learning education] credits. So we are multitasking — we’re resting but we’re also, at the same time, doing things that will give [us] that educational update.”

 Attendees to the 2016 NAD Women Pastors and Chaplains Retreat
 listen to a devotional presentation from chaplain Adrienne Townsend
 Benton on Sept. 13.

Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

Four general sessions afforded the female clergy time for prayer, extended song services, and devotional talks by Chris Oberg, senior pastor of La Sierra University Church in California; Rebecca Davis, pastor of the Washington-Thomson District in Georgia; Adrienne Townsend Benton, first U.S. Navy Seventh-day Adventist female chaplain; and Elizabeth Talbot, speaker/director for Jesus 101 media ministry. Bible stories provided the framework for each talk. And each session gave equal time to prayer and music.
“The music is phenomenal and is beautiful,” remarks Rochelle Webster, family pastor at the Redlands, California, church, who presented a workshop on constructive conflict. “I grew up with a cappella music and listening to people sing together. There’s something deeply holy about it.”
Webster also says she appreciates having the “opportunity to be among people who are dealing with similar challenges. It is valuable to have strong women, unapologetically strong, as leaders to learn from.”
Jocelyn Shaw, a Florida Hospital chaplain, feels blessed to learn from seasoned women in ministry “as they share their experiences.” And of importance, too, was “sitting down and having fellowship. It does something for the soul and that’s one thing, between the sessions and even during the sessions, I’ve been able to enjoy.”
In agreement is Patricia Nesbit, associate pastor of the Bradenton and Palmetto churches in Florida. She says that “Fellowship is key — it’s nice to be able to relate to people who understand your own circumstances.”
Another important result of the retreat for Nesbit, who pastors with her husband Joseph, is reconnecting. “A lot of people here I’ve known on my journey from before and through seminary, and when I was in training in ministry before that. [My] peers from the seminary, and then now my peers in Florida Conference — we’re getting to know each other better, just edifying each other. I’m here for renewal of purpose, a reminder of God’s leading, and just trusting Him for the future.”
Julie Vega, pastor of the Madison Campus Church in Tennessee, has attended several women pastors and chaplains retreats through the years. She’s thrilled to see increase in female clergy — and is glad to see them serving in ministry.
“It feels like a fulfillment of my dreams to see more acceptance, and more possibilities, open for these young women,” Vega says. “And I know there are still obstacles. But my advice is to keep on trusting the God who called you because good things will unfold from that.”
Talbot, the final speaker of the retreat, closed with these words of encouragement after sharing Miriam’s story from the Bible: “I know the end of the story, and you know what? Jesus wins! So you can’t forget that perspective — we already know He calls us leaders of gratitude, leaders of the new ‘Song of Redemption’ that very soon we will be singing. . . . Let’s start being leaders of gratitude now.”
— Click here to watch the NAD video report of the retreat. 

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