Mary L. Phillips
Certain days have traditionally called for celebration among wom¬en’s groups—Valentine’s Day, M other’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The retreat is a fairly recent idea. The format for the larger gathering (chapter 6) can be followed at any of these functions. By being innovative in approach, you can interject new life into your celebration of these customs.
Valentine’s Day can be a lonely day for single people. The Sweetheart Banquet can be viewed as an exclusive event, by the person who doesn’t have a sweetheart. Because everyone in the family of God is given a sweet heart, we decided that everyone should be included in this salute to love.
We call the event a Love Feast. The senior citizens, fathers with their wives and daughters, the ones and threes, along with the couples, join together in celebration of the love of God to and through His children. It is a dressy, well-decorated sit-down dinner. Someone is chosen to be honored with hearts and flowers. One year it was a couple going into the ministry. Another time it was several persons going on extended trips. Recently, it was couples married 50 years or more, and individuals who were age 80 or over. We gave away 5 bouquets!
A beautiful conclusion to such a feast is the sharing of communion at each table. “We love Him because He first loved us” is an affirmation of love that fills a lonely heart with rejoicing when it is accompanied by the ensuing commandment, “That he who loveth God love his brother also” (I John 4:19, 21).
Mother-Daughter Banquets can be an awful hassle! The trouble stems from the fact that the mothers have to do all the work to honor the mothers. While scrubbing the last pots after one killer banquet, our harried committee decided that we would follow one of two options in the future: eliminate the work or eliminate the banquet. It was such a sentimental favorite that none of us wanted to do away with it, so we came up with what can be reasonably called a labor-free banquet.
About the food—it’s all potluck! Whatever you bring goes on one of three tables marked Main Dish, Salad, or Dessert. Huge pots of coffee and punch are made before time. Everything is self-serve. The dishes and utensils are all disposable, or if the treasury is down, each guest can bring her own.
About the service—it’s also potluck! And here the real genius behind our care-free banquet emerges. Each table is assigned a hostess. The night before she sets and decorates her table any way her heart (or pocketbook) directs. At the banquet, she presides over the needs of her table (gets the coffee and punch, keeps the conversation active). When the dinner is over, she does all the cleanup for her area. She is free to engage anyone else to help her.
Slipshod? Maybe. Interesting? Of course. Visualize lace and silver next to a paper picnic cloth. Fun for all? Absolutely! No pooped committee already dreading next year, and no fussy setting to intimidate our younger guests or worry our older ones.
An additional note. We used to quibble over who had mothers or daughters to bring, and who could or could not come because they did not have one or the other. Our smart committee had a solution. They called it a Daughters’ Potluck, and now every woman feels free to be present to honor Mothers!
This is a family time, and many churches make an effort to include with the church families all the people who will be alone. However, there are some other ways to let everyone share a Thanksgiving dinner.
In one church, the Wednesday evening service before Thanksgiv¬ing begins with a turkey dinner. It is followed by an appropriate program of thanks. The leftovers are given to those who will not attend a family gathering the next day.
In another church, persons without families serve their own dinner in the church fellowship hall. The turkeys are donated and the rest is potluck. An open invitation is given to anyone, in or out of the church, with or without a food contribution. Games, music, and happy conversation fill the day.
During this season one begins to feel as if another party will be the last dietary straw. We wanted our women’s party to have three qualities. It should be
· a meaningful time
· a relaxing time
· a nonfattening time, if possible.
Each year we approach our party with the idea that we are honoring Jesus’ birth, and so we give gifts in His name. One year we supplied clothing and jewelry to teenage girls in a detention home. Another time, an offering was sent to a young pastor’s family for their Christmas shopping. The possibilities are endless.
Another much appreciated tradition which we have developed is the “cookie shower.” Each lady brings one dozen of her favorite cookies. A selection is placed in a brightly wrapped box with a card sending love from the women of the church. The pastors or lay persons who do visitation take these boxes on their calls during the holidays. They are cautioned to check with the nurse or dietitian when they deliver them to persons in hospitals or nursing homes. Several ladies bring sugar-free cookies for those who cannot eat the regular ones, and the boxes are marked accordingly.
For party refreshments, a few plates of cookies and candies are made for those who are svelte among us, but the rest of the table is loaded with low-calorie vegetables and dips.
The new year should not be spent reducing from calories acquired at a Women’s Ministries party!
The emphasis of our Christmas program is to give the ladies a moment of peace during a month of intense activity. For our program, we have three ladies share testimonies of praise. We sing carols and spend time in prayer. It has become an evening of physical and spiritual refreshment.
General retreats are becoming a standard part of Christian ministries. They are held for married couples, families, youth, singles, men alone, and women alone. The program can range from a do-it-yourself, loosely structured occasion to a highly organized event featuring a famous speaker.
It is cheaper to go the campground route, providing your own bedding and meals. This, however, is not a change in routine for women, and some of us prefer to stretch our budgets to go to a place with maid and restaurant services.
Throughout the country there are centers designed for retreats. If one is not near, first-class resort hotels welcome this kind of group business in off-season times and are often very generous in their arrangements. It is excellent public relations for them and they are keeping the rooms occupied. Good dates for such accommodations are just before school is out in spring and shortly after school begins in the fall.
To get the best prices, it is usually necessary to sleep two in a bed. Some women dislike this and often can pay extra for a bed alone. If this disrupts the bookkeeping too much, we suggest that women who prefer to sleep alone bring sleeping bags.
An inexpensive rate can be arranged for a package plan that includes dinner and lodging for one night, and a brunch or buffet lunch the next day. The larger the group, the better the individual price—in most cases. We ask if the ladies can arrive early the first day and stay late the second day, to allow them extra time to enjoy the pools and tennis courts. They still check in and out of their rooms at the required times.
I have attended retreats where the scheduling was so tight 1 left in total exhaustion.
“You mean we are having only two services?” one veteran retreat goer exclaimed when she saw the relaxed schedule of our outing.
“Yes,” I answered feeling somewhat guilty. “I think our ladies need to rest and enjoy one another.” But I began to look for signs that the plan wasn’t violating God’s will for those two days.
Late that night I heard two young mothers in the next room giggling and eating snacks as they watched the late show. Across the court, two girls who work at demanding jobs were on the balcony watching the moon illuminate the surf below.
Early in the morning 1 rose to comb the beach and commune with the Lord. I had left the room as quietly as I could, so as not to wake my roommate, a night shift nurse who was getting to sleep the whole night through. The beach was spotted with other women enjoying the early hours of God’s creation. On a high rock a woman who had just experienced severe testing was reading her Bible in the first light of day.
“Not me!” said Marge when I told her about the early morning visitors to the beach. “I made a pot of coffee, crawled back into bed, and read until it was time to get dressed. I get my husband off at 5:30 every morning and this was my chance to stay in bed.”
I believe we miss numerous opportunities to strengthen the people of God because we commonly define ministry as preaching or teaching in a structured setting. These women went home refreshed physically and emotionally, with their spirits lifted to accomplish whatever God’s plan for them required.
The above article, “Special Events” was written by Mary L. Phillips. The article was excerpted from chapter 8 in Phillips’ book, Reaching Women.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”