In lieu of an originally scheduled weekend retreat at Caraway Conference Center and Camp, North Carolina Baptist women gathered online Oct. 24 for an abbreviated virtual retreat. Participants from other states also joined to hear from speakers on what it means to worship and pray “in the secret,” as Jesus teaches in Matthew 6.
The 2020 Women’s Retreat was postponed to March 2021 because of concerns related to COVID-19. Saturday morning’s online event, “In the Secret: At-Home Together,” featured breakout sessions, testimonies and a message, and previewed the theme for next spring’s in-person event.
Missie Branch, assistant dean of students to women and director of graduate life at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is slated to be the speaker in March. Branch spoke Saturday about the protection that comes from being committed to “the secret place” as described in Matthew 6 and Psalm 91.
In Matthew 6, Jesus juxtaposes right actions with wrong intentions, specifically in regard to giving, praying and fasting, Branch said.
Prayer “is our spiritual remodeling and renovation,” she said. “Jesus is all about us recognizing that our righteousness has nothing to do with any of our achievements but is entirely related to our proximity with Him.”
Jesus cares about flaunting righteous activities “because He knows that your transformed secret life will radically transform your public life. Jesus knows that when we radically transform our secret life, our attitudes, our actions, our work, our relationships, our emotions will all be transformed as well.”
Betsy Bolick, college minister at Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone, N.C., encouraged women to share what they learn “in the secret places and spaces of our hearts.”
“If He has met you in your wilderness, you should shout to the world in their wilderness. The words that God speaks to us in the secret are meant to be shared with the world. … What we love, we talk about. What we love, we share,” Bolick said.
Panelist Harriet Page, member of Green Pines Baptist Church in Knightdale, N.C., spoke about the discipline of fasting. It is a reminder that Christians are not sustained primarily by food but by the Word of God, she said.
“If we’re fasting from something, we should exchange it with feasting – feasting on God’s Word.”
Tabatha Frost, member of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, cautioned participants against building temporary kingdoms out of careers and identities. Frost reminded them instead to consider how God takes care of creation and “tells us that we are worth more than those, and so we’re to remember that God knows what our needs are. He has taken care of us … our responsibility is to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness because these things are never going to fade.”
“Under His leadership, we can invest our God-given desire to build and create … by doing that to further His Kingdom instead of our own,” she said.
The online gathering featured testimonies from Kailyn Eskridge, team leader assistant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s strategic focus team, Ashley Allen, senior consultant for the Embrace Women’s Ministry, and others. The testimonies and panels were previews of breakout sessions planned for next March.
The 2021 Women’s Retreat is scheduled for March 26-27 at Caraway Conference Center and Camp. Registration opens Nov. 2.