Pastors from New Zealand attended the South Pacific Division’s Women in Ministry Conference held on the Gold Coast on February 24 to 26, along with chaplains, departmental directors, senior church administrators, theology lecturers and theology students from other countries in the region. A full ten years since the last conference for women pastors, it was, according to event organiser and SPD Women’s Ministries and Women in Ministry leader Danijela Shubert, well overdue. The conference offered a vital opportunity to gather, connect and reflect on ministry.

Despite the diversity of work roles at the conference, female pastors still had the opportunity to interact with other pastors from the division.

“Meeting people for the first time, yet seeming to have known them for a very long time. And meeting friends from a long time ago, yet seeming only yesterday. What a wonderful blessing to connect again as colleagues in ministry,” said Pastor Marilyn Passione from Thames, Whitianga and Wahi churches.

Kerina-Lee Joy, who pastors in North Harbour, said: “As a second-year intern pastor in ministry, I was very humbled and blessed to attend the recent Women in Ministry Conference. I spent time learning and collaborating with a diversely-experienced group of highly-gifted women in Christ.”

Dr Kendra Haloviak Valentine was a crowd favourite. As Professor of New Testament Theology at H.M.S. Richard Divinity School, La Sierra University, her expert teaching and pastoral experience enriched participants, taking them deeper into the Word of God.

“The meetings were very relevant to our situations in ministry and encouraged us to stay strong in sometimes difficult situations,” said Pastor Passione.

“We are all thankful that we were able to attend this conference,” commented Pastor Kirsten Oster Lundqvist, who pastors in Wellington. “There is something very special when women pastors connect with each other. The language, stories and terminology changes from our regular pastors’ meetings. While connecting through our shared stories, much-needed mentoring dialogue organically occurs.”

North New Zealand Conference Women’s Ministry leader Lynelle Laws expressed that the conference was “just the hug that I needed. Sometimes you don’t know you need to be ‘held’, until you are. I was challenged to study God’s word deeply, with the eyes God has given me, and to share God’s heart with others.”

To launch the event, SPD president Glen Townsend, NZPUC president Tupai and TPUM president Maveni addressed attendees via video, expressing their support of women in ministry. Local conference presidents, as well as AUC president Jorge Larrondo Munoz spent a day with attendees. The messages of support were not lost on the women who felt valued and seen by leaders in the church.

According to organiser Mrs Schubert, the event was designed to send a clear message to women in ministry: you are valued, you are needed, you are important to God and this church. The presence of leaders validated this and video messages from women pastors in high leadership positions around the world left the women feeling fortified and encouraged.

Pastor Lee commented on the incredible witness, empathy and support shared by Dr Darius Jankiewicz and Dr Lyle Heise for the women. Along with many others, Pastor Lee left the conference praising God for the exciting times ahead for our church as we all work together for the saving cause of Christ and hoping that it will not take another ten years before we get to meet again.

Pr Kirsten Øster Lundqvist NNZC Communications and media officer