First and foremost, the ten ladies sponsored by student senate who attended the Q-women conference last semester would like to sincerely thank Student Senate for providing the opportunity to attend. The event provided time and space for talks on a variety of topics from well-known speakers.
The day, in all, brought 14 short discussions with 16 different speakers. From authors and scientists to stay at home mothers and freedom-riders, there was even diversity among the occupations of the speakers. The speakers gave many differing models of Christian men and women fulfilling their respective callings.
Unfortunately, the event was lacking economic and ethnic diversity among the speakers and conference attendees. While this in and of itself is not a problem, the conference lent itself to a single dominant perspective on every issue—the perspective of an upper middle-class white woman, or to borrow the colloquialism, the grown up version of a #whitegirl.
The day was broken up with short breaks during the conference for discussion. During the majority of the breaks, the attendees from Covenant consistently expressed a desire to be more intellectually challenged rather than simply be reminded of a topic that is already familiar.
The theme of the event was calling and image bearing, a theme any student who passes Christian Mind knows all too well. The speakers gave many good reminders and differing views on the topic. Yet it was a topic the women from Covenant were very well-versed in.
Rebekah Lyons, author of Freefall to Fly and co-founder of Q, started the conference by reminding the audience that God is the one who calls, and that calling is nothing more than an act of obedience.
Annie Downs, author of Let’s all be Brave, gave an interesting version of calling that was later referred to by a Covenant student as the “middle c calling.” She spoke of one calling with multiple expressions; “a thesis statement" as she called it. For example, a woman might have the thesis statement, “counseling and guiding through hard times,” and live it out in the “little c callings” of a friend, a licensed counsellor, and later a mentor to younger women in her church.
A “middle c calling” is bigger than the right now aspect of “little c calling” as it is the same throughout one’s life. But it is more personal that the “big C calling” as it is specific to every individual. Downs gave the reassuring reminder that, “you are never too old to start looking for your calling. But you are never too young to have already seen it expressed in multiple ways.”
Diedra Riggs, author of Every Little Thing, reminded the audience of the necessity of following your own calling over trying to follow that of someone else. “Too many people are asking, ‘who will be the next Martin Luther King?’ No! God already worked thought MLK. He doesn’t need another one. He wants you.” She said that anyone trying to be someone else is only leaving a hole, “They aren’t there and neither are you.”
Although the large majority of the speakers were women, there were a few men to give a different perspective. Jefferson Bethke, author of It’s Not What You Think, was asked to speak on the objectification of women. Rather, he chose to speak on the larger problem behind the objectification of women; the issue of commoditizing and devaluing other humans.
He reminded the audience that their identity and worth come from the fact that they bear the image of the living God. He continued to explain that, unfortunately, we have allowed that image to be removed. Bethke spoke of humans being turned into bridges for reaching a goal rather than being valued as the image bearers that they are. He says, “Any time the end goal is anything more than a relationship, you have objectified the person.”
We must move from the culture of Pharaoh—where a person's value comes from what they can produce, where they come from—and into the culture of YHWH—where we rest in the value God so desired to give us.
“Awareness is good. Relationships are key,” said Heather Avis, writer for the Underdog Advocate, as she spoke on the struggle for those with special needs to be seen and treated as image bearers. As is the mother of two children with Down's Syndrome, Avis was passionate about the body of Christ stepping in to learn from and help families with special needs. She stressed that all people are fearfully and wonderfully made, even those society might deem as less than worthy.
Donna Freitas, author of Sex and the Soul, spoke on social media and the difficulties it brings to image bearing. She showed a study in which 79 percent of the participants agreed with the statement, “my name is a brand and I need to cultivate it carefully.” Social media teaches the importance of the image you create for yourself rather than the image of the one who created you. Often this changes image into a burden heavy to carry.
Jessica Honegger, founder and CEO of Noon-day Collection, said, “put down image burdening and embrace image bearing.” Too often, she addressed, our image becomes a burden as we strive to present the idealized version of ourselves. We live in an image driven culture; images can catalyze and inspire but they can also burden us and lead to comparison and perfectionism. Honegger reminded the women to enjoy bearing the image of their God as they were, rather than striving to be perfect. The freedom from being image burdened comes when we know and embrace our image bearer identity.
Amber Haines, author of Wild in the Hollow, followed the theme of knowing who we are and embracing the image go God, even in the broken parts of our stories, “do not be ashamed of the broken parts of your story. Rather, use them as the avenue to helping meet others in their brokenness.” She told the story of her darkest low in life and how God met her there with love and redemption, “in brokenness, he meets us.”
Myquillyn Smith, author of The Nesting Place, stressed the importance of making our home a safe place to be broken, “Home is a place where you will be accepted with your imperfections. Home is rich in community, joy, and contentment. Home is rest in the mists of the undone.” Home ought to be a place you can come into and be yourself then go out of and and love the world.
These speakers offered many wise insights on women in the church and the world. Overall the event was beneficial to all who went. Moral of the story, when senate offers to send students to conferences for free, be in the first ten to reply.