Recently more than a dozen students and other members of Howard Payne University engaged in the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry conference.

The annual conference rotates locations between Logsdon Seminary in Abilene and Truett Seminary in Waco. This year’s location was at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon Seminary and took place on Feb. 10-11.

The event’s theme changes yearly as well, with this year’s theme being ‘Realizing Hope’.

“We joined around 200 women and men from across the state,” said Dr. Melody Maxwell, Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at HPU. “We gathered to encourage one another, learn from female ministers and discuss the topic of women in ministry. We participated in plenary sessions and attended breakout conferences on topics such as ‘Navigating the Call Process’ and ‘Hearing Women’s Voices in the Bible.’ We also had the opportunity to hear panel discussions and participate in a meal with others called to specific types of ministry, including youth ministry, pastoral ministry, missions, and so forth.”

The trip wasn’t the first for Dr. Maxwell or Howard Payne students by any means. It’s something that the school has done over the years and plans to do for many more to come.

“It is always an encouragement to interact with dozens of female ministers from across Texas and to discuss together the joys and challenges of serving in this capacity,” said Maxwell. “Howard Payne University has taken groups of students to this conference for the past several years and we plan to continue our involvement with this important network in the future.”

While it wasn’t the first conference visit for Dr. Maxwell and Howard Payne, it was the first visit for many of the students, who all are quick to point out just how important events like this are.

“I got a lot of encouragement from the conference,” said Howard Payne freshman Jaci Harrett, who is a Christian Education major from Lubbock. “The trip entailed a lot of learning about women in ministry and meeting lots of women in ministry. We met women from all over Texas and other parts of the U.S. that are serving in the church. We met people like Cheryl Kimble, the pastor at Highland Park Baptist Church in Austin, Pam Durso, the executive director of the national Baptist Women in Ministry, and Cathy Smith, an alumna of HPU. The resources we received and the things we learned were invaluable.”

Another fellow student, sophomore Cecily McIlwain, a Cross-Cultural Studies major from Dayton, felt the same way.

“The topics discussed were wonderful but I think the most meaningful moments were the one on one conversations with students and other women serving in ministry. My heart was full of encouragement and hope. Even with our differences, there was a sense of solidarity in Christ when we were together. It was a great representation of what being the Body of Christ looks like,” she said.

Howard Payne University’s Director of Baptist Student Ministry, Keith Platte, also attended the event. Although he comes from a somewhat different background than those of the two students, he too had the same sentiments.

“As a minister and as a father of a girl I know that ‘calling’ is a very powerful thing on someone’s life,” Platte said. “It is very encouraging to see churches standing behind women who experience this call to serve in ministry. I hope more and more churches and institutions grow to an understanding that God is at work among women in leadership as well as men.”

For more information on the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry conference, along with how you can help support the organization, visit txbwim.org.