What ‘women’s conference’ is all about

A personal reflection

March 20, 2018 | Viewpoints
Laura Wiebe, Special to Canadian Mennonite
The ‘Blues Sistas’ from Foothills Mennonite Church in Calgary lip sync to ‘Do You Love Me?’ by the Blues Brothers during the talent show at this year’s MC Alberta women’s retreat. Pictured from left to right: LaVerna Elliot, Jenny Hiebert, Linda Bohnet, and Charlotte Mikalson. (Photo by Helena Ball)

Recently I was asked what is so special about the Mennonite Church Alberta women’s retreat.

I remember, as a kid, my mom leaving us in my father’s care in order to go to “women’s conference.” We had a big family, and for my mom to take time away from the conference was something unheard of.

Now many years later, I can only be grateful that the continuing opportunity for women to come together in a spiritual and social venue has stood the test of time. It is still a valuable and worthy event!

I started coming to the retreat only four years ago. I didn’t really know what to expect and, never having been to one before, wasn’t even sure it was something I should take time away from the home front to do. A couple of ladies from my church were involved in the music portion of the weekend and encouraged me to come along. What I found that weekend was something I had not had in my life for a long time. And people I knew told me that they saw a side to me at the retreat they had never seen before.

It is a place to be:

• Free from the daily responsibilities as a mother. It took some planning and some letting go, to make arrangements for the family.
• Free to be served instead of serving. Meals are provided, and a soft bed with sheets I wouldn’t have to launder.
• Free to laugh without fear of appearing silly. Silliness is embraced.
• Free to enjoy the part of me that loves learning, with four sessions in three days.
• Free to be vulnerable with sisters in Christ, by opening up and getting real with each other.  

It was the closest thing to what I remembered dorm life at Bible school to be.

I was reunited with a number of ladies I hadn’t seen for years, and introduced to many new and wonderful other ladies. Over the years, I’ve begun to enter into a unique relationship with many of these ladies whom I only see once or twice a year, and we just pick up where we left off. There is something about being together for these three days with common goals that is just so bonding. Even though we come from many different backgrounds, and are of different ages, it just feels so natural and right.

I come away each time feeling a little more comfortable in my own skin, and empowered to make life meaningful and purposeful. I’m often invigorated to continue the field of study the guest speaker has introduced.

I encourage anyone to experience whatever it is that God is bringing to you. If you need laughter, you will find much to laugh about, and an easy crowd to tell your jokes to. If you need to feel God’s love through a sister, there will be someone there who has walked a road similar to you and will feel your pain. If you need to be taken care of, you will not have to cook a meal or clean a toilet. If you need quiet and introspection, you will find a time and place. If you need a creative outlet, there’s opportunity provided. If you need spiritual depth, you will not come away empty. If you need fellowship, it will be there in abundance.  

While my mom never shared what went on at “women’s conference,” I’m sure she had many of the same experiences. There really is something special that only happens at our retreat. I encourage you to find out what that something special is for you.

Laura Wiebe attends Trinity Mennonite Church in Calgary. She is serving her second year on the MC Alberta retreat committee.

The ‘Blues Sistas’ from Foothills Mennonite Church in Calgary lip sync to ‘Do You Love Me?’ by the Blues Brothers during the talent show at this year’s MC Alberta women’s retreat. Pictured from left to right: LaVerna Elliot, Jenny Hiebert, Linda Bohnet, and Charlotte Mikalson. (Photo by Helena Ball)

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