By Rev. Audrey Sudberry-McDonald*
The lobby was teeming with excitement and expectancy as women, young and mature, arrived at Celebration United Methodist Church (North Coast District) on Saturday, November 15 for its first annual Women of Faith Conference.
This year’s theme, “Faith, Family and Fortitude: Pathways to Success,” incorporated Proverbs 31:10-31 and Philippians 4:10-13 as its guiding scripture verses.
“The purpose of the event is for young people – young women, especially – to see for themselves that failure is not an option when one combines faith in God with support of family, biological and otherwise, and fortitude, which is personal drive,” the Rev. Dogba Bass said. “The presenters, women from very humble beginnings, have careers that prove that point. I wanted young people to interact with the presenters and be inspired by them.”
To accomplish his purpose and dream, Bass brought together these five accomplished women whose faith was nurtured in the former Werner UMC and East Glenville UMC, which is now Celebration UMC.
- Maggie Jackson of Cleveland is the former chair of the Department of Social Work at Cleveland State University, and is a board member of Africa University.
- Joretha Johnson of Wake Forest, NC, is a retired associate director of Procter & Gamble, and the founder of The HERO Institute Foundation.
- Gena C. Lovett of Cleveland is the global chief diversity officer at Alcoa Inc.
- Belinda Miles, Ph.D. of Cleveland is provost and executive vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at Cuyahoga Community College.
- Stephanie Neal-Johnson, Esq. of Milton, MA, is the undersecretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
The workshops instructed participants on styles of leadership; honesty, values and ethics; being disciplined and striving for excellence in academics and work; the importance of financial health; investing time and care in older and younger generations; being intentional about living a balanced life; the importance of time apart with God; and deepening your spirituality.
Attendees expressed their appreciation for having been provided with valuable resources, guidance and wisdom that they can incorporate and use in their own lives. In response to the question, “what steps do you intend to take based on what you’ve heard today?” participants said:
“I will become a better person by doing what God tells me to do and be as a positive woman.”
“I plan to slow down, focus on me and proceed to help others.”
“I will believe in myself, I can do more than I thought I could if I have faith.”
Despite busy schedules, the combination of prayer, planning, tenacity, congregational support, and the gracious willingness of the selected women made the dream of this conference a reality.
*Rev. Audrey Sudberry-McDonald is a retired East Ohio clergy who attends Celebration UMC.