“Hear, O Daughter . . . Listen to Me” was the theme of the Bethany Association Conference held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, in August of this year to seek the Lord together and worship him.
The women came from fifteen different communities of the Sword of the Spirit throughout the world. Seventeen of the women were already committed to living single for the Lord, and were joined by six guests – women who are discerning their state of life. Only two lifelong committed sisters were not able to join the conference.
Bethany Association is an international association of women living single for the Lord in the Sword of the Spirit, women who have committed themselves to one another for mutual support. They meet internationally every two years.
Nurturing the life
Presentations included various meditations on the conference theme, “Hear, O Daughter…Listen to Me” (from Psalm 45), and with the meditations as encouragement the women spent time seeking the Lord together about how to nurture and strengthen their commitments to their call and ideal of life.
One presentation in particular – “Bethany Association: Past, Present and Future” – encouraged the sisters to look with gratitude at their past history and development, to continue to live their present calling with passion, zeal, and dedication, and to move into the future with hope and faith in the Lord’s words to them.
During the conference, the women also elected new officers. The first council’s six-year term had come to an end, and Sherry Snyder (Word of Life, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA) was elected as the second president of the association. Sherry and the new council, comprised of sisters representing each region of the Sword of the Spirit, were instated at the closing session of the conference. The out-going president, Jeanne Kun (Word of Life, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA), was honored for her years of significant service.
Spending time together
In addition to presentations and elections, the conference schedule allowed ample time to deepen sisterly relationships through sharing, fellowship, and recreation. As Marge Connelly (The People of God, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA) noted, “I love the sisters’ personal sharings and hearing their personal testimonies the most. I love getting to know my sisters and to see how the Lord is using them, how they’re dealing with difficulties, and how God is blessing each of us.”
Jhola Salazar (Ligaya ng Panginoon, Manila, Philippines), who made her lifelong commitment two years ago, added, “It’s important to see that I’m not alone in the vocation I’m pursuing, and it renews my commitment even more.”
Guests draw strength
The six women attending as guests who are discerning their state of life with serious interest in living single for the Lord drew strength from being at the conference.
“I believe God is doing something great and I feel blessed to be here,” said one. “The Lord has blessed me to see strong women of character who have battled illness and many other sorts of personal difficulties…and have persevered.”
Another young woman spoke of the contact she has had with Bethany Association sisters during her ongoing time of discernment: “Bethany is where I’ve grown, I’ve loved, and been loved in return….When things are hard and dark, Bethany has always been shining for people like me. The women are so happy and joyful. Lord, I just want to be that happy…and I pray to be as strong and as brave as these women.”
A key issue for the Bethany Association sisters has been making more spaces for women to come to see their lives, in their houses and in other ways. Sue Cummins (Word of Life, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA) explains, “A lot of the women I talk to cannot imagine living by themselves, and that’s something of an obstacle for them if they have a sense to live single for the Lord. For them to see different ways of how we share life together is an important part of how we can witness to them. But also to invite them in and share the life with us can help them define the way God has for them to live it.”
Sue added that the Bethany sisters wanted their homes to be a blessing not only to sisters interested in their call, but also as a place of refreshment and encouragement for both men and women – as Mary’s and Martha’s home in Bethany was for the Lord Jesus.
Care by the local community
The local Sword of the Spirit community in Pittsburgh, the People of God, generously served Bethany Association by providing hospitality, transportation to and from the retreat center, and other assistance, as well as some lovely gifts for the participants.
On the opening evening, the women were welcomed to Pittsburgh by the community’s presiding coordinator, Milo Milburn, and his wife, Joanne, who had arranged the on-site practical support for participants. More members of the community joined them for a dessert reception. Then, at the end of the conference, members of the People of God arranged for, and accompanied, the Bethany sisters to see the many sights in the Pittsburgh area.
“It was with gratitude,” noted Jeanne Kun, “that we said goodbye to one another, making our way to our various homes around the world, eager to tell people in our communities how good the Lord had been to us at the conference, how much we were encouraged to live a life for him.”
Excerpts from God’s prophetic word to the women of Bethany Association, given during the conference
All my will for you is love, says the Lord – my love for you and your love for me, about you being love at the very heart of the Sword of the Spirit….Humble yourselves before me and before your brothers and sisters in the Sword of the Spirit in order to do this. Just as the woman who expressed her love for me when she broke her alabaster jar, to love me so personally…. Fix your eyes and hearts on me. Encourage each other to fulfill this in your lives.
People you don’t expect will come from areas you don’t expect. People will come from nations all over the world. It’s a new time for the Church and communities to have women living single, and there’s a freedoms for Bethany to serve.
You women are great treasures to me, says the Lord, precious in my sight and I cherish you. I brought you together for my purpose and I’ve been doing great and deep things in each of you in these days together, and I will do still greater works in you and through you as Bethany Association in the days and in the months and years ahead.