The Newbold Sisterhood celebrated its 10th anniversary on Sabbath 14 November 2020, by leading a special online service at Newbold church based in Berkshire. The Newbold Sisterhood is the Women's Ministries department of Newbold church and reaches the women in the church as well as the wider community. This service was an opportunity to remember what the Sisterhood has achieved over the years and how it is looking to the future holding on to God in times changed. Focusing on the theme of 'What's in your hand?', Newbold Sisterhood's leader and Newbold church elder, Eileen Becejac, preached a moving sermon, encouraging everyone to use what's in their hand even in this time of the pandemic.
"When I felt God was calling me to hold a women's event, all I had was time on my hands and I must admit, I thought it would just be a one-off event. In fact, I was too scared to call it an event, I called it a gathering," Eileen said.
Ten years ago, along with a small group of women, Eileen started the 'Our Story Our Song' conference which has now become the annual Sisterhood conference attended by 150-200 women from all over the UK. This was also the beginning of The Newbold Sisterhood − it was the birth of a place which encourages women in the church to lean in, connect and flourish within their community and beyond.
The Our Story Our Song conference is a safe place where women share stories without feeling judged and have in turn been able to inspire other women. Due to the lockdown, this year's conference could not take place. Instead the Sisterhood had this special programme as part of the Newbold church online Sabbath worship and it saw many Sisterhood members taking part.
Earlier that day, the programme began with a Zoom Sabbath School lesson led by Johannie Gungadoo. The Sisterhood holds Sabbath School twice a month − the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month. The rest of the Sabbath programme was broadcast via the Newbold church website and social media platforms, Facebook and YouTube.
A photo collage of the fond memories of the previous nine years of Our Story Our Song conferences gently led the viewers into the programme. Led by 18-year-old Elisabeth Bally, the worship service also captured tributes of Sisterhood members from near and far. All the way from Cornwall, Jena (one of the speakers at the very first conference in November 2011) and her husband Steven Hulbert, who have been part of the worship team for every Our Story Our Song conference shared a song 'The Blessing' − a pronouncement of God's blessings on everyone especially in this time of the pandemic. This song complemented all the hymns sang by the worship team which lifted high the name and power of God and the friendship we have in His Son Jesus.
This was followed by an amazing video tribute of many women sharing their favourite memories of Sisterhood events and what the Sisterhood means to them. It was heart-warming to see many Sisterhood members who now live in other countries and still feel that they are part of The Newbold Sisterhood such as Duduzile Makgathu in South Africa, Gabrielle Zemlich and Lara Dimitriou in Australia, and former Newbold church minister, Pastor Kirsten Øster-Lundqvist in New Zealand. Pastor Kirsten is known to have planted the original seed of the Sisterhood many years ago.
The resounding words that stood out from the rest of the women in the tribute video were − love, belonging, non-judgemental, support, chosen, support system, welcoming, meaningful friendships, amazing place, meeting people from all over the world, authenticity, nurturing, cared, acceptance, celebrated, cherished, singing, dancing, creativity, laughs, giggles, delicious food, sharing joy, socialising, playing games, meaningful talks, being understood, sharing stories, encouraged, uplifting, praying together, worship, leaning on God, surrendering to God, beauty, endurance, safe space, good spirit and sense of humour.
University student Gabriella Silvestre-Lloyd shared that, "It has always been nice to see older women supporting each other."
Former Newbold College lecturer, Barbara Abrahamian said, "The power of sharing our stories allows us to name issues; seek forgiveness; look for solutions; added support and encouragement."
Evident through the service, the Newbold Sisterhood has been a place where women have brought what has been in their hands, and the little they have brought has multiplied and grown and as a result has made the Sisterhood a place where women feel supported and encouraged.
Drawing from the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7 who only had one jar of oil left and experienced the miracle of God multiply the little that she had; Eileen urged everyone to consider using what is in their hands.
Eileen also celebrated and commended women from the Sisterhood who are currently reaching out to others through their ministries, social media platforms and professional expertise. The service ended with thanksgiving as Eileen thanked all the people that have made each event a success and the people who had worked so hard to make this online programme a success.
Throughout the service, Eileen extended an invitation to everyone who desires to join the Sisterhood. Eileen said, "you can join by simply being a woman of between the ages of 15 to 100 who wants to lean in, connect, and flourish," she said.