Power of honest conversation
When women have open, honest and vulnerable conversations, powerful transformation can occur.
That's the premise of a free event taking place tonight at Mount Zion AME Church.
Local faith community members Kristin Burt, Bonnie Claggett, Karen Williams-Smith, Melissa Burgess and Karen Bremar have all agreed to be a part of the panel.
“Red Table Talk” was the brainchild of Crystal Clay, who chaired Mt Zion's Women's Season committee last year and will serve as this evening's facilitator. “Modelled after the talk show Red Table, I wanted to create a forum for women to engage in real talk about real issues that could also be someone else's reality,” said Dr Clay, an executive coach.
Last year the topic was identity. “We understand that the way in which people see themselves impacts so many areas of their lives, including the decisions they make, Dr Clay said. “Oftentimes significant changes in circumstances, health, marital status, career etc can have a profound effect on an individual's identity.
“During the first Red Table conversation, the women at the table were open, honest and vulnerable. The women outside the table were inspired, encouraged and empowered. The response was overwhelming.
“In most cases when people share their story or struggle, they find they are not alone. It is always helpful to hear how someone else navigated a challenge. This year's real talk will be focused on the theme of doing things differently.
“The overall purpose is to engage in provocative discussion that will challenge women to think differently, step outside their comfort zone and do something new that will enhance their life.”
Women's Season is an annual event on every AME church's calendar. At Mt Zion, they use it to celebrate, encourage and strengthen their connection with “God, womanhood and sisterhood”, said the Rev Lashonna Smith.
“We do this by intentionally providing ministry opportunities, events and spaces that seek to meet the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs of women and girls. It culminates in our Women's Day celebration, which will be held this year on Sunday, October 13.”
The theme for the event, “Women Doing Differently”, is inspired by a passage of scripture in Genesis 29:35.
Ms Smith said: “To do differently is to be intentional about renewing and shifting our mindsets, focus, attitudes, behaviours and actions to align with who we are as followers of Jesus so that God can get the glory out of our lives. “Throughout Women's Season, the women of our church are challenged to be committed to the process of growth, transformation and renewal. It is our desire to see women and girls have a more meaningful and intentional relationship with God.”
Ms Claggett agreed to take part believing that it would be an opportunity “for meaningful self-reflection and greater spiritual growth”.
“I view this as a means to deepen my relationship with God and with the women of Mt Zion,” she said. “When I was first invited to take part, I said yes and then thought, ‘Uh oh! What have I done?!' I'm usually a person most comfortable working behind the scenes. However I agreed because being a participant will cause me to step out of my comfort zone, in a safe space, to share with other women on a similar journey of discovery.”
She and the other panellists will discuss what has brought or is bringing transformation in their lives.
“We want to encourage candid conversations to empower our guests to share their thoughts and comments as well,” Ms Claggett said. “I hope attendees will leave with a sense that other women share their experience and they're not alone. I hope women will feel uplifted, loved, and supported by each other and that they will be encouraged to more richly develop their relationship with God.
“I also want them to take home the understanding that change, or ‘doing differently', begins with an internal process of self-reflection, supported by learning more about who God says we are, not by an external examination of other people. Change occurs when an individual chooses/commits to doing something differently.
“A deeper relationship with God helps fuel or power the evolutionary process. It is our connection to God — the power source — that helps to refill the empty spaces that we often try to fill with ‘stuff', such as addictive vices and unhealthy relationships. It's not an easy journey but it is well worth it.”
Women's Season has so far included an all night prayer session and a series of Bible studies dealing with how to ‘do differently' when navigating negative or difficult situations.
On Friday, Mt Zion AME Church will focus on teenage girls, offering dialogue and activities to improve their self-worth and their relationship with God. On Wednesday, October 2, the church will hold a 7.30pm service, “Women in the Word” and on Sunday, October 6, a 10am service led by Mychel Jones aimed at girls. The Rev Arlise Carson will speak at 7.30pm on October 11 at the opening of a two-day women's conference; Thema Byrant-Davis will lead the church services on October 13, at 10am and 3.30pm.
• For more information call 238-0284