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Women’s Conference Reflections

May 3, 2023

The buzz of conversation in the halls of Compass Point Bible Church in Burlington, Ont., on Apr. 29 was loud and cheerful-sounding. For the first time since 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the biennial Global Coffee Break Inspirational Women’s Conference was held in person, and 700 women gathered to enjoy the fellowship, teaching, and worship.

This year I decided to attend as a “private citizen” rather than as a reporter, just to soak in the full experience without gathering photos or comments from participants. Here are a few thoughts about the day, from that perspective:

When we arrived, we were met with tables of coffee and a spread of delicious baked goods by caterer Desserts by Michelle, including old favorites such as brownies, chocolate-chip cookies, and muffins of all sorts, along with lemon-raisin cookies and and other new delights, creating an atmosphere of fellowship appropriate to a conference hosted by Global Coffee Break. Resonate Global Mission cosponsored the event, and they were represented, along with other ministry and mission organizations, at tables where conference attendees could casually converse with representatives and ministry partners.

A pop-up shop of fair-trade items invited participants to browse a selection of scarves, bags, carvings, earrings, and decor, supporting artisans around the world.

As you can imagine, the few men at the conference – worship team members, logistics volunteers, ministry reps – were vastly outnumbered, so, just for the day, all but a few restrooms in the building were designated as women’s restrooms, which caused some laughter.

At 9 a.m. the buzz moved from the hallways into the sanctuary, where participants filled the pews completely. Brooke Nicholls opened in worship, leading us to raise our voices in song so heartfelt that one of the speakers commented on it. Marian Lensink, who has hosted and helped plan the conference for 18 years, led in a time of devotions for a final time as host, having invited new leadership to take on the role for the next conference.

Keynote speaker Jessica DiSabatino, a pastor of Journey Church in Calgary, Alta., led morning and afternoon sessions, weaving together stories, statistics, and reflections. The theme of this year’s conference was “I Belong, Completely and Forever. In Christ, We Belong. Romans 12:5” DiSabatino spoke about loneliness and its impact on both individuals and society, and explored ways to invite community and belonging. She also reminded us that in Christ we do belong, which is good to remember when we feel isolated. Spoken-word artist Dagmar Morgan-Sinclair shared some of her poetry and a few stories, drawing hearty applause and some appreciative finger-snapping.

Near the stage, two women provided sign-language interpretation for attendees who use American Sign Language to communicate.

Returning this year as a unique piece of the conference was a fitness component. Seeing it in the schedule brought questions as we shared coffee during the first break, since a packed sanctuary didn’t seem to leave a lot of room for calisthenics. Fitness instructor Heather Maat showed us what was possible, though, leading everyone in the pews in basic steps with upbeat music and a sort of “Simon Says” game to break up the long stretches of sitting that generally happen during a conference.

Women attending this conference came from much of southern Ontario, so while we ate our hearty boxed lunches, many found friends they had not seen in a while. One participant sat with a small group of strangers, and the women in the group soon discovered that among them were three persons with the same name, though with three slightly different spellings. Others caught up with friends from university, past conferences, or other connections.

A prayer room, open during breaktimes throughout the conference, invited women to pray with a volunteer or on their own. Attendees could also drop written requests into a prayer-request box, and throughout the day volunteers offered prayer for those requests.

This was the third Inspirational Women’s Conference I have attended in person, and I always enjoy it and leave inspired. The day offers a space of togetherness, a time of learning and worshiping with hundreds of women, a break from routine, and a bit of a lift to carry into the next week.