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The power of women gathered

by Jessica Olson Miller

I never knew the power of women gathered . . . until my first triennial. I never knew the beauty of women affirming and encouraging . . . until my first triennial. I never knew the possibility of women in ministry . . . until my first triennial.

I was 20 weeks pregnant with our first child and my husband had just lost his job. We would need to move from a community where we had deep roots, though we didn’t know to where. I was angry, scared and trying to trust.

Before our first pregnancy test was positive and before we received the nonrenewal letter, I had made plans to attend the 2005 Triennial Gathering in San Antonio, Texas, as a very grateful scholarship recipient.

Suddenly, with all the unknowns in life, the gathering theme “Act Boldly” seemed incredibly distant. But then, like coming in for a lovely cup of warm tea after a storm, I was steeped over the next four days in this community of the Women of the ELCA from around the world.

Four days of conversation, prayer, laughter, worship, praise, lament, challenge and invitation–to be women who act boldly on their faith. I was reminded this boldness can have many forms and all have been divinely created, grace-gifted and Spirit-filled.

I was reminded that Women of the ELCA may often be known locally for quilts and funeral dinners, but that it is also much broader than that. I was reminded that each woman in this church is a woman of the ELCA who has been called by God to share her gifts in a world that desperately needs each of us to act boldly every day.

I now have a sacred pilgrimage every three years to this holy triennial gathering. My soul needs that. God has called this community to gather and mobilize women to act boldly on their faith, and the triennial gathering does that in the most transformative ways. Ways that have blessed me, disturbed me, kept me up at night and given me deep peace, knowing I’m always in good company, as I continue to seek and discern, ”How, O God, are you calling me to act boldly today?”

Jessica Olson Miller is a triennial gathering promoter from Fargo, N.D. The video of Jessica was taken at the 2014 Triennial Gathering.