Does it really make any difference who leads worship? I was surprised to discover how much it does.
August was declared Women's Month at my church, Primera Iglesia Bautista en Desamparados. That month was chosen because Costa Rica celebrates Mother's Day on August 15 (an important national holiday). I didn't think this would be any big deal, since women play a significant role in every ministry of the church, without any particular distinction between men and women. But I was amazed by the level of energy and enthusiasm that was generated in the congregation and and by my own sense of joyous homecoming.
The theme for the month was: A daring step, based on the text Hebrews 4:16: â€œLet us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness. . . â€œ The four worship services honored women from the Bible, from Costa Rican history, and from our own congregation who had taken a daring step of faith.
Many women participated who had never before led worship or preached a sermon or sung in front of a group. The sermons were inspiring, clearly reflecting careful preparation and prayer. One was introduced with a moving â€œtestimonyâ€ from the woman with the flow of blood (Mark 5:24-34). Another used a power point presentation. One gave an altar call that brought half the congregation forward. This last Sunday, the women even took over from the music group, and did a spectacular job with singing, piano, flute, guitar, and drums.
Two women from the church were honored: Angelita, in her 70â€™s, was converted as an adult, and has an active ministry in the prisons. She began at the womenâ€™s prison, but expanded into the menâ€™s, leading Bible studies, doing counseling, visiting families, traveling by bus, even at night, untiringly. Rosi and her husband founded a highly respected rehab center for drug addicts (after she had lived through the nightmare of his addiction, and then his conversion and recovery).
Last Saturday, the women planned an intergenerational event that included women and girls from ages 3 to 75. They had hilarious activities, culminating in a fashion show: each group dressed up the oldest and the youngest in identical tissue-paper outfits for a parade. By the end of the afternoon, the children, youth, adults, and seniors were working as a team and had broken through the generational differences.
This weekend a large group of the women are traveling four hours north to be with the women of our mission church, a poor rural community of largely Nicaraguan immigrants. We have worked with them for a number of years, and have seen a generation of youth graduate from high school with scholarships from our congregation. We get together at the annual womenâ€™s retreat, but this is the first all-women gathering at their church. It will be a wonderful time.