From November 12-14, more than 60 clergywomen from across the Iowa Annual Conference gathered at First United Methodist Church in Ames for the Iowa Clergywomen’s Convocation. “It’s the time for us to get together, to worship together, to hear some of the great preachers that we have in Iowa, have some fun breakout sessions,” said one of the event’s organizers, Rev. Dr. Sarah Rohret as it was getting ready to kick off. “It’s just a time to gather together and hang out and have fun.”
When she first entered the clergy 20 years ago, there were Iowa Women in Ministry retreats every fall and spring, which she remembers fondly for their fellowship and the great stories told by other clergywomen. “It was a time to support and encourage each other. And we started some traditions like we have a song ‘Dancing Sarah’s Circle’ and things like that. It had been a very big part of Iowa clergywomen, up until probably about 10 years ago.”
Click here to see an album of photos from the Clergywomen's Convocation.
Click here to listen to the conversation with Rev. Sarah Rohret
The idea for this new convocation started less than a year and a half ago. “I think there were seven or eight of us clergywomen who were at the Global Clergywomen Gathering with Bishop Laurie in Houston,” explained Rev. Dr. Rohret. “We were at the dinner table together, and Bishop Laurie went around the table and asked us if we had ever had a clergywomen’s retreat.”
When they explained that the retreats had gone by the wayside, Bishop Laurie said, “‘Well if anyone wants to do that, I would support it and encourage it and I’ll help you out wherever I can.’” That’s when Rev. Dr. Rohret looked at Rev. Julie Poore, and said, “‘Julie, you want to help me with this? Let’s do it.’ She said, ‘Yep, I’ll help you.’ And so she and I have been working on this for about a year and four months now, and here it finally is.”
Click here to see Bishop Laurie's sermon, "The Annunciation: Celebrating our Call," from the opening night of the Convocation.
Click here to read Bishop Laurie's sermon
Sadly, Rev. Poore passed away just days before the convocation was set to begin. “It’s going to be very bittersweet not having her here. We dedicated the retreat to her,” said Rev. Dr. Rohret, who became a bit choked up discussing “Dancing Sarah’s Circle,” as it was a song that Julie, in particular, loved and has continued to be a staple when women clergy gather at the Iowa Annual Conference. “We would always end with that song, and it was just always a beautiful moment of community and unity.”
The Iowa Clergywomen’s Convocation began on November 12 with an opening celebration featuring Bishop Laurie Haller. Rev. LaTonya Calderon, Rev. Lilian Gallo Seagren, and Rev. Anna Blaedel also preached during the event. Along with time scheduled for worship and breakout sessions, there were a number of roundtable discussions on important topics like how women in ministry can support each other, women of color in ministry, and social justice ministries being led by Iowa women.
“I think clergywomen have particular struggles that they’ve faced because they’re women. We face more discrimination, we face more burn-out,” said Rev. Dr. Rohret. “I really wanted to kind of reflect the global gathering of clergywomen that we saw, because there was a lot of discussion of liberation and freedom and social justice there. We wanted to bring that to Iowa and say who’s doing this in Iowa? How do we make it more local?”
She also suggested that social justice resonates with the Advent and the Magnificat, which were key themes at the gathering. “It’s hard not to see that when you’re talking about Mary’s great sermon of how she sees God bringing up the poor.”
This gathering offered an opportunity to bring Iowa clergywomen from every part of the state, of a diverse set of ages and ethnicities and backgrounds, together to share and learn from each other. It may be a new beginning for a cherished tradition. “Hopefully this will get it back together for us,” said Rev. Dr. Rohret.