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‘Preach Sister Preach Conference 2011’

  • Written by Dr. Sybill C. Mitchell

When Minister Marlene Harrison fled the ravages of Katrina years ago, she had no idea that moving to Memphis would spawn a movement among church women. When Minister Marlene Harrison fled the ravages of Katrina years ago, she had no idea that moving to Memphis would spawn a movement among church women.

 Dr. Rosalyn Nichols brought congregants to their feet with her sermon and mantra, “Is there anything too wonderful for God?” She delivered keynote messages on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. (Photos by Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

 After all the work sessions and classes, there was plenty of time for fellowship and photos with conference keynote speaker, Dr. Rosalyn Nichols, pastor of Freedom’s Chapel (left). Minister Denesha Robinson, center, presented several workshops during the weekend conference. Conference facilitator, the Rev. Marlene Harrison, organized the event.

“Preach Sister Preach Conference 2011” marked its third year this past weekend at Fullview Baptist Church in Bartlett. Scores of local women joined a delegation of women from New Orleans and the Gulf area for sessions on sermon preparation, delivery and identifying personal gifts and talents for effective ministry.

A Friday evening meet-and-greet preceded breakout teaching sessions with conference participants. Saturday morning began with light refreshments, breakout workshops, and a brief time of fellowship. Both Friday and Saturday culminated in services featuring a keynote sermon by Dr. Rosalyn Nichols, pastor of Freedom’s Chapel.

“We left New Orleans before the hurricane, my husband and our two daughters. That’s how we ended up in Memphis,” said Harrison. “After the levies broke, we realized our home was gone, and the city would take years to rebuild. That’s when we decided to make a permanent move and start all over in Memphis.”

Total loss of all they owned marked a new beginning.

“That life we knew back in New Orleans was gone forever,” said Juwan Harrison, who was on hand to help his wife set-up and facilitate conference activities. “It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because our whole perspective changed. We both acknowledged a call to ministry and stepped out on faith. Marlene and I have never looked back.”

The National Alliance of Women in Ministry

“No Woman Should Be Left Behind.” That is the creed of the National Alliance of Women in Ministry (NAOWIM), an organization the Rev. Harrison founded to assist women pursuing some form of ministry.

“We are committed to the training and development of talents and skills women will need to be effective ministers,” said Harrison. “I am blessed with a pastor who supports and encourages women in ministry. Many don’t have that same system of support in their home churches.”

The organization was also established here in Memphis – once the Harrisons began pursuing their own call to ministry.

“We not only want to train and educate women in ministry, but we also provide a platform and a venue for them to exercise and hone their abilities as preachers and teachers through retreats, workshops and revivals.

“Every woman is welcome, no matter what her church or denomination. As long as she believes in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we want to see her highest potential in ministry. I want to see this organization live out it’s creed in every possible way. Truly, no woman involved in kingdom-building should be left behind.”

A question which needs no answer

Dr. Rosalyn Nichols, pastor of Freedom’s Chapel, knows something about rising from the ashes of devastation. She was stunned with grief back in 1998 when a childhood best friend was murdered by an ex-boyfriend. The tragedy not only changed her life forever, but espoused new direction and enhanced ministry to women in violent relationships.

“‘A More Excellent Way’ was founded to help women stand against relational violence,” said Dr. Nichols. “It’s hard to believe, but there are many teen girls who feel that they are loved because they are being jumped on and beat up. They have seen these kinds of relationships growing up. This has got to end.”

Nichols also planted Freedom’s Chapel during this same period. She built the congregation into a thriving church body robust with children and young people.

Her keynote sermon posed a question: “Is there anything too wonderful for God?”

The message focused on the angelic visitation when Abraham and Sarah were promised a son. Sarah was old and past child-bearing, barren up to that point. Abraham was old – very old – before the days of Viagra.

Sarah hears this promise and laughs at the very thought. The angel confronts Sarah for laughing, posing the question, “Is there anything too hard for God?” Dr. Nichols chose what she felt was a more fitting translation for a women’s ministry conference: “Is there anything too wonderful for God?”

It was clear from the happy throng of women leaving the sanctuary that the answer to the question is a resounding, resonant “No.”

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