fbpx

W omen in Ministry Sunday has historically fallen on the third Sunday in May for churches in the Reformed Church in America. This day can get lost in the shuffle of graduations, end of the year ministry celebrations, and the overall busyness of the month of May. This year, the celebration of this day is made even more complicated by the necessity of social distancing measures and the suspension of in-person worship gatherings in many places around the world. Even still, Women in Ministry Sunday is an opportunity to celebrate the way God has gifted and called women throughout history and in your own congregation.

Here’s a round-up of worship resources you can use to celebrate the ministry of women during a service, whether virtual or in-person. In addition to these worship resources, offered below, your church may be interested in the She Is Called Women of the Bible Study, now available online and as a PDF download.

This study digs deeper into the stories of women in Scripture and inspires us to celebrate both these biblical women and the women in our own lives and congregations who are answering God’s call to lead and serve—in whatever way that might be. From Mary and Elizabeth to Zipporah and Rizpah, this Bible study returns to the beautiful stories of Scripture in order to inspire men and women alike in their spiritual journeys. As your congregation or ministry setting seeks to celebrate Women in Ministry Sunday, this Bible study is a resource that could be used as a virtual Bible study, a guide for personal study, or even the springboard to a future sermon series.

Worship resources

Beyond the Bible study, there are many creative opportunities for celebrating Women in Ministry Sunday with your congregation. Included here are a few prayers, Scripture suggestions, song ideas, and other creative items to use as you plan your Women in Ministry Sunday service.

Virtual church ideas

Involve all the generations!  Invite a “senior saint” to share her story after worship, during coffee hour.  Ask the young women who are home from college to lead prayers and litanies, read scripture.  Invite children of young families to draw or write about the favorite women in their lives or in the Bible.  For some communities this will feel like a part two of Mother’s Day; there are so many creative possibilities for expanding this over two Sundays and expanding the circle of women being celebrated!

Illustrating ministry visually

As you plan to celebrate this day, consider the wide variety of forms that ministry can take. Some women serve in pastoral ministry or church leadership, others serve in ministries of feeding people or teaching and leading children, and still others have gifts of visitation or creative arts. There are many gifts, but one Spirit.

What visuals or worship elements illustrate those areas of ministry?

  • For the story of the woman at the well, place a bowl of water somewhere visible or highlight the baptismal font in some way.
  • For the lesson on Priscilla and Aquila, invite a team to share the way God has called them to use their gifts together.
  • Find pictures of women in your congregation’s history. Make a photo collage, bulletin board, or online photo gallery of these women and talk about the ways they served with faithfulness.
  • Invite people to share stories of women who inspired them in their faith.

Scripture readings

Use one or two of these passages of Scripture as a preaching text for the sermon or as readings during other parts of the worship service:

Genesis 2:18–23 (ezer kenegdo, “helper”)
Exodus 4:24–26 (Zipporah)
Judges 4–5 (Deborah)
2 Samuel 21:1–14 (Rizpah)
The Book of Esther (Esther and Vashti)
Joel 2:28–32 (Joel’s prophecy)
Luke 1:39–56 (Mary and Elizabeth)
Luke 8:43–48 (Woman with the issue of blood)
John 4:1–42 (Samaritan Woman at the Well)
Acts 2:1–21 (Pentecost)
Acts 18:1–4, 24–26 (Priscilla and Aquila)
Romans 12:3–8 (one body, many members)
Romans 16 (Phoebe)
1 Corinthians 12:4–31 (varieties of gifts, same Spirit)
Galatians 3:25–29 (“no longer male and female”)
1 Peter 4:8–11 (serve with whatever gifts you’ve received)

Song suggestions

Here are a few hymns to use in worship.

A hymn of joy today we raise
For ministries and gifts;
For all the ways you bid us join
Your cloud of witnesses.

Your faithful life, O Christ, inspires;
Your brokenness makes whole;
Your resurrection calls us forth
And opens long-closed doors.

For all the saints whose lives shine forth
As templates of your grace,
We give you thanks and pledge our lives
In gratitude to trace.

Our world cries out to hear your name;
The Church in mission risks,
As men and women join to serve
For such a time as this.

Liturgical elements

Call to worship

This call to worship is drawn from 1 Corinthians 12:4–6 (Common English Bible).

One: There are different spiritual gifts,
Many: but the same Spirit.
One: There are many of us,
Many: but the same Spirit who gives to us all.

One: There are different ministries,
Many: and the same Lord.
One: There are many places for us to serve,
Many: and the same Lord who calls to us all.

One: There are different activities,
Many: but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
One: There are many of us,
Many: and one God who calls and equips us for service.

Congregational prayer

This prayer, written by Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier, is intended as an outline to inspire a prayer that connects these biblical women with the unique needs of your worshiping community.

God of Eve, grant life …
      (prayers for things that need life, for example: struggling marriages, economy)
God of Zipporah, grant courage …
      (prayers for things that might require courage: speaking up, taking on a task)
God of Deborah, grant justice …
      (prayers for situations in need of justice: for the falsely accused, oppressed)
God of Rahab, grant protection …
      (prayers for those who need protection: domestic violence, vulnerable people)
God of Mary Magdalene, grant deliverance …
      (prayers for deliverance: from addiction, destructive thoughts)
God of the Samaritan Woman, grant refreshment …
      (prayers for things in need of refreshment: places with drought, where faith is brittle)
God of the Mother of Jesus, grant favor …
      (prayers asking for God’s favor: to do what seems impossible, to give birth to God’s promises)

By the Hand of Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Amen.

Oración Congregacional (por la Rev. Dra. Denise Kingdom Grier)

Esta oración pretende ser un bosquejo para inspirar una oración que conecte a estas mujeres bíblicas con las necesidades únicas de su comunidad de adoración.

Dios de Eva, concede vida…
(oraciones por cosas que necesitan vida, por ejemplo: matrimonios en dificultades, economía)

Dios de Séfora, concede ánimo…
(oraciones por cosas que pueden requerir ánimo: hablar, asumir una tarea)

Dios de Débora, concede justicia…
(oraciones por situaciones que necesitan justicia: por los acusados falsamente, oprimidos)

Dios de Rahab, concede protección…
(oraciones por quienes necesitan protección: violencia doméstica, personas vulnerables)

Dios de María Magdalena, concede la liberación…
(oraciones por liberación: de la adicción, pensamientos destructivos)

Dios de la mujer samaritana, concede renovación
(oraciones por cosas que necesitan renovación: lugares con sequía, donde la fe es frágil)

Dios de la Madre de Jesús, concede favor
(oraciones pidiendo el favor de Dios: hacer lo que parece imposible, dar a luz las promesas de Dios)

Por la mano del Espíritu, Ella que procede del Padre y del Hijo. Amén.

A litany to honor women

This litany is adapted by Rev. Liz Testa from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals and used with permission. It makes reference to women from the Reformed Church in America, both past and present. If your church is part of another denomination, you can substitute the names of women who have served in your tradition.

We walk in the company of the women who have gone before,
Mothers and sisters of the faith, both named and unnamed,
Testifying with ferocity and faith to the Spirit of Wisdom and Healing.

They are the judges, the prophets, the martyrs, the warriors, poets, lovers and Saints
Who are near to us in the shadow of awareness, in the crevices of memory,
in the landscape of our dreams.

We walk in the company of Deborah,
who judged the Israelites with authority and strength.

We walk in the company of Esther, who used her position as Queen
to ensure the welfare of her people.

We walk in the company of you whose names have been lost and silenced,
who kept and cradled the wisdom of the ages.
We walk in the company of the woman with the flow of blood,
who audaciously sought her healing and release.

We walk in the company of Mary Magdalene,
who wept at the empty tomb until the risen Christ appeared.

We walk in the company of Phoebe,
who led an early church in the empire of Rome.

We walk in the company of Perpetua of Carthage,
whose witness in the third century led to her martyrdom.

We walk in the company of Saint Christina the Astonishing,
who resisted death with persistence and wonder.

We walk in the company of Julian of Norwich,
who wed imagination and theology proclaiming “all shall be well.”

We walk in the company of Sojourner Truth, who stood against oppression,
righteously declaring “ain’t I a woman!” in 1852.

We walk in the company of the Argentine Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo,
who turned their grief to strength, standing together to remember
“the disappeared” children of war with a holy indignation.

We walk in the company of Alice Walker,
who named the lavender hue of womanish strength.

We walk in the company of Ida Scudder,
who saw the critical need for women’s health care in India, got trained as a doctor,
and transformed the system by building medical facilities and schools there.

We walk in the company of Joyce Stedge-Fowler,
who stayed true to God’s call, serving faithfully with determination and humor,
paving the way for women’s ordination in the Reformed Church in America.

We walk in the company of Denise Kingdom-Grier,
who is called to be a bridge in and across denominations, communities and the world,
and inspires and invites others to do the same.

We walk in the company of all Mothers and Sisters of the faith,
who teach us to resist evil with boldness,
to lead with wisdom and strength,
and to heal with compassion and love.

We walk in the company of one another.

In Jesus’s name we pray.
Amen.

A litany for women in ministry: past, present, and future

This litany, “Past, Present, and Future,” was written by Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier.

One: For she who went before,
Many: Blazing, praying, pushing, and shoving,
One: As we quenched, silenced, and diminished,
All: Lord, forgive us.

One: For she who stands before us now
Many: Preaching, proclaiming, reaching, and naming,
One: As we listen, receive, and embrace,
All: Lord, we thank you.

One: For she who will come
Many: Prophesying, leading, creating, and innovating,
One: As we long, anticipate, and hope,
All: Lord, make us ready.

All: May we ever look back and lament,
      look up with gratitude
      look forward with open hearts.

Pasado, Presente y Futuro: Una Letanía para  Mujeres en el Ministerio (por la Rev. Dra. Denise Kingdom Grier)

Una: Para ella que fue antes,
Muchas: Ardiente, Rezando, Impulsando y Empujando
Una: Mientras nos Apagamos, Silenciamos y Disminuimos
Todas: Señor, Perdónanos.

Una: Para la que está delante de nosotros ahora
Muchas: Predicando, Proclamando, Alcanzando y Nombrando
Una: Mientras Escuchamos, Recibimos y Aceptamos.
Todas: Señor, Te Agradecemos

Una: Para la que vendrá
Muchas: Profetizando, Liderando, Creando e Innovando
Una: Mientras Anhelamos, Anticipamos y Esperamos
Todas: Señor, Prepáranos.

Todas: Que podamos mirar atrás y lamentarnos,
Mirar hacia arriba con Gratitud
Mirar hacia adelante con Corazones Abiertos.

A litany in honor of women here and around the world

Stacey Cole Wilson wrote this litany, included in 21st Century Africana Worship Resources.

One: With holy reverence, we remember irreplaceable women, O God. We honor those who nurtured us and taught us to honor and love you, O God.
Many: May their example of Christian faith help transform us into your image.

One: We honor women who feed the hungry, clothe the unclothed, befriend the lonely, and comfort the comfortless. We bless them for unselfishly loving your people as you love us.
Many: May you continue to meet their needs as they minister to others.

One: We honor women grieving the loss of loved ones.
Many: May you, O God, continue to comfort them with your Word, spoken and blessed. May we learn to encourage them as they have encouraged us.

One: We honor women pregnant with your unborn sons and daughters, O God.
Many: May you shelter them and the children they bear under the shadow of your almighty presence.

One: We honor our sisters throughout the world who need your spiritual, economic, and physical healing.
Many: May you meet their needs, Holy One, according to your riches in glory, we pray.

One: We honor all the women who have gone before us, named and unnamed.
Many: We give you thanks, O God.

One: We bless those who wept for us, rejoiced with us, wiped our tears, prayed for us, and laughed with us.
Many: We give you thanks, O God.

One: We bless those who undauntedly sacrificed for us.
Many: We give you thanks, O God.

One: We honor all those who stand alongside and for these women. We bless those who encourage them to dream, who bring out the best in them, who help them bear their burdens, and who love them rightly, O God.
All: May you watch over and keep all your people, these women and all who love them, with your care, gracious God. Consecrate this day for your glory. In the name of the Triune God, the one who parents us and creates us, who redeems us, and empowers us forever. Amen.

Letanía en Honor a las Mujeres Aquí y Alrededor del Mundo (por Stacey Cole Wilson, un Recurso de Adoración Africana del Siglo XXI)

Una Voz: Con santa reverencia, recordamos a las mujeres irremplazables, Oh Dios. Honramos a quienes nos nutrieron y nos enseñaron a honrarte y amarte, Oh Dios.

Muchas Voces: Que su ejemplo de fe cristiana nos ayude a transformarnos a tu imagen.

Una Voz: Honramos a las mujeres que alimentan a los hambrientos, visten a los desnudos, se hacen amigos de los solitarios y consuelan a los desconsolados. Las bendecimos por amar desinteresadamente a tu gente como tú nos amas.

Muchas Voces: Que continúes satisfaciendo sus necesidades mientras ministran a otros.

Una Voz: Honramos a las mujeres que lloran la pérdida de sus seres queridos.

Muchas Voces: Que tú, Oh Dios, continúes consolándolas con tu Palabra, hablada y bendecida. Que podamos aprender a animarlas como ellas nos han animado.

Una voz: Honramos a las mujeres embarazadas con tus hijos e hijas no nacidos, oh Dios.

Muchas Voces: Que las protejas a ellas y a los niños que tienen bajo la sombra de tu Presencia todopoderosa.

Una Voz: Honramos a nuestras hermanas en todo el mundo que necesitan tu sanidad espiritual, económica y física.

Muchas Voces: Que satisfagas sus necesidades, Santo, de acuerdo a tus riquezas en gloria, oramos.

Una Voz: Honramos a todas las mujeres que nos precedieron, nombradas y sin nombre.

Muchas Voces: Te damos gracias, Oh Dios.

Una Voz: Bendecimos a quienes lloraron por nosotros, se regocijaron con nosotros, limpiaron nuestras lágrimas, oraron por nosotros y se rieron con nosotros.

Muchas Voces: Te damos gracias, Oh Dios.

Una Voz: Bendecimos a aquellas que valientemente se sacrificaron por nosotros.

Muchas Voces: Te damos gracias, Oh Dios.

Una Voz: Honramos a todas esas personas que están apoyando y por estas mujeres. Bendecimos a aquellas que las alientan a soñar, que sacan lo mejor de ellas, que las ayudan a soportar sus cargas y que las aman justamente, Oh Dios.

Todos: Que veles y guardes a toda tu gente, a estas mujeres y a todos los que las aman, con tu cuidado Dios misericordioso. Consagra este día para tu gloria. En el nombre del Dios Trino, el que nos engendra y nos crea, que nos redime y nos da poder por siempre. Amen.

Manifesto for women

Let Us Be Women Who Love,” written by Idelette McVicker, was originally published at www.shelovesmagazine.com.

Let us be women who love.

Let us be women willing to lay down our sword words, our sharp looks, our ignorant silence, and towering stance and fill the earth with extravagant love.
Let us be women who love. Let us be women who make room.
Let us be women who open our arms and invite others into an honest, spacious, glorious embrace.

Let us be women who carry each other.
Let us be women who give from what we have.
Let us be women who leap to do the difficult things, the unexpected things and the necessary things.
Let us be women who live for peace.
Let us be women who breathe hope.
Let us be women who create beauty.
Let us be women who love.

Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell.
Let us be a garden for tender souls.
Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God.
Let us be a womb of life to grow.
Let us be women who love.

Let us rise to the question of our time.
Let us speak to the injustices in our world.
Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation.
Let us shout down the walls that separate and divide.
Let us fill the earth with the fragrance of love.
Let us be women who love.

Let us listen for those who have been silenced.
Let us honor those who have been devalued.
Let us say, Enough! with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.
Let us not rest until every person is free and equal.
Let us be women who love.

Let us be women who are savvy, smart, and wise.
Let us be women who shine with the light of God in us.
Let us be women who take courage and sing the song in our hearts.
Let us be women who say yes to the beautiful, unique purpose seeded in our souls.
Let us be women who call out the song in another’s heart.
Let us be women who teach our children to do the same.
Let us be women who love.

Let us be women who love, in spite of fear.
Let us be women who love, in spite of our stories.
Let us be women who love loudly, beautifully, divinely.
Let us be women who love.

Charge

Use this charge, or benediction, at the end of a worship service.

God’s gifts and mercies have been lavished upon us with abundance.
These gifts and mercies have been taken up by many faithful people,
      and this day we celebrate the faithful women
      who have used their gifts and shared God’s mercies with us.
May we, inspired by God’s grace and the faithful women in our lives,
go forth from this place,
      ready to serve,
      ready to listen,
      ready to answer God’s call.

April Fiet

April Fiet is copastor of First Presbyterian Church of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. April is an integral part of the Reformed Church in America’s Women’s Transformation and Leadership ministry. She serves on the ministry’s guiding coalition, as a theological and social media consultant, and as the main editor of the Building God’s Church Together resources. She blogs at At the Table with April Fiet.