1st May 2014

A weekend programme crossing two locations, Luton and Leamington Spa, saw the launch of a Women's Ministries initiative conceived back in the summer of 2007. Aiming to nurture the holistic development of women, and complete with handbook and resources, the BUC Women of Virtue launch encompassed both a Day of Fellowship and a Sunday seminar.

2014-04-27_0127Founder and director Sharon Platt-McDonald laid the foundation for the programme in 2007 when she presented a PowerPoint presentation one Sabbath afternoon on the Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31. In that presentation she outlined 13 key principles from the life of the Proverbs 31 woman, depicting her attributes. When elected to serve as BUC Women's Ministries director in 2011 she says, "I spoke to God about my desire to produce a programme for women that would build them up in every aspect of their life. God showed me that I already had the tools to do so and referred me to the presentation I had been using over the years on the purposeful and productive life of the Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31."

However, Sharon realised that creating such a programme would be a huge task and began praying earnestly for God to show her someone she could work with in the delivery of such a programme. The result? Sandra Golding is now an associate director of the programme."

DSC07921With a 282 page Women of Virtue Programme manual and accompanying literature such as the Programme Brochure, Spiritual Journey Journal, Gratitude and Payer Dairy, Prayer Series, Financial Tips for Women and Theme Song bookmark, a suite of programme products were on display throughout both days.

On Sabbath, 26 April over 600 women attended the Day of Fellowship at Hightown Methodist church, Luton. It was a rich mixture of uplifting music, worship songs, powerful preaching, dynamic presentations, monologues, sketches and special items.

Commencing with a lively Sabbath School led by Thembie Mapingire, women were encouraged to take a comparative look at the Woman of Virtue and the Woman of Vice ‒ both portrayed in the book of Proverbs. Lessons were drawn from both lives.

DSC07950Guest speaker Dr Deborah Harris, a trainer and educational consultant from Atlanta, USA, presented a reflective and empowering sermon focused on 'It's a Matter of the Heart'. She also shared her personal passion that has developed into an organisation, 'Praying For Our Children'. That prefaced the UK chapter launch of 'Praying for our Children' on the Sabbath afternoon. A very moving exercise invited women to write their prayer request for their children and place it on prayer trees stationed at the front of the auditorium.

Vocal renditions from the Luton Women's Ministries Choir and Praise team together with music from the Luton Central Church Band provided a rich atmosphere for worship and celebration throughout the day. A flute duet by Hopieann Platt and Marie Garrison added to a feast of musical treats as did Velettia Davis' solo item 'Take me to the King'.

The dramatisation (with accompanying period props) of the scripture reading by Elleni-Jaye Anderson-Grey and Deborah St Cyr was a riveting portrayal of Proverbs 31:10-31 from both the King James Version and the Message Bible paraphrase.

Monologues on Bible women by Catherine Anthony Boldeau were equally inspiring and moving. One depicted the virtuous woman from her mother-in-law's eyes in a humorous portrayal of her character and the other a sombre and reflective piece on Abigail and her abusive husband speaking from the voice of the abused.

DSC07981A special moment was the unveiling of a commissioned sculpture of the Woman of Virtue, skilfully crafted by Andrea Rashford-Hewitt. This depicted women in various life stages as singles – Godly character, a mother, and an older woman who bore the weight of life's experience etched into her frame.

Equally poignant was the awards in appreciation of women who have made a significant continuation to their church and community. This included the Heather Haworth Award, the Julia Smith Award, the Dr Deborah Harris Award and the Woman of Virtue Award.

On Sunday a smaller but equally enthusiastic number of women gathered at the Woodland Grange Conference Centre, gaining an opportunity for attendees to hear an in-depth outline of the programme, with explanatory guidance for each chapter of the manual and the related seminars which will accompany it.

Attendees were again blessed with humorous but powerful presentations from Dr Harris entitled: 'Oh no, The 'women of virtue' display areaShe's Awake!' and 'You are not alone'. Time for reflection allowed for personal application of the messages. Equally enriching was the 'Talk Time' with Dr Harris led by team member Hyacinth Gayle. Questions were answered in an open and engaging manner.

A major highlight was the interactive exhibition which depicted the 13 elements of the programme. It gave women a chance to reflect on their lives as they answered questions using the exhibition workbook.

The Women of Virtue programme is designed to reach churches and communities across the British Isles both as an in-reach and outreach tool. It will equip, nurture and empower women to achieve their full potential through Christ.

Meet some women of virtue, including presenter, Dr Harris, in a brief video report of the event. Also, enjoy memories of the weekend by visiting the Adventist Church photo gallery.

[Sharon Platt-McDonald]

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