Alumna’s first-of-its-kind conference challenges women to claim roles as church and community leaders
An Avondale alumna’s first-of-its-kind conference challenged women to not only identify but claim their roles as leaders in church and in community.
The first Sycamore Lane Women’s Leadership Conference created a “safe” space to explore the strengths and weaknesses of women in leadership, to share advice on how to work with male colleagues and to learn strategies for building resilience, finding balance, navigating the dangers of leadership and reaching goals.
Speakers and guests focused on what organiser Kylie Cullinan calls the “forward space”—solutions, vision, “our calling.” But they did not ignore the problems—a Lament Bar created a space for participants to share the challenging experiences of being a woman in leadership. The conference, called Lead Like The Queen and held over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend (June 10-12), ended with a leadership toolbox session and an interactive session exploring the question, “What is my leadership manifesto?”.
“I’ve journeyed with many women in leadership, women who bring a strong sense of direction to their roles, who are focused, but also women who struggle with confidence, who limit the power of their voice, who are reticent to identify as leaders,” says Cullinan, a Graduate Diploma in Theology graduate in 2000 who is now Director and Leadership Coach at Sycamore Lane. “So, I organised the conference to help women stand, speak and embrace their uniqueness as women in leadership with confidence.”
Michaela Truscott has plans to enter pastoral ministry—she is completing a Bachelor of Ministry and Theology at Avondale College of Higher Education. “I’m a timid person, so stepping out and leading makes me nervous,” she says. Lead Like The Queen helped her address these feelings, and it equipped her to deal constructively with them. “Now I’m not as afraid to just preach God’s Word in the way He’s calling me to.”
Truscott’s classmate, Aniele Deojee, found the focus on the “forward space” encouraging. “Rather than whingeing, we’ve been positive and proactive, learning how to be good leaders despite the obstacles in our way.”
Said another participant: “My dislike for women’s conferences burns like tabasco sauce in the eye. But I need them. I grow so much. I learn so much.”
Lead Like The Queen brought together participants—academics, administrators, artists, educators, health professionals, homemakers, ministers, students and retirees—from across the South Pacific. Facebook Live recordings by Associate Degree in Theological Studies student Tarenne Greenwood broadened the conference’s reach while cloud-based video conferencing reduced its costs—three of the California, USA-based presenters spoke and answered questions live via Zoom.
These “eguests” included: Dr Sandra Roberts, President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in southeastern California—the first woman elected to the role in any of the church’s conferences; Dr Kendra Haloviak Valentine from the HMS Richards Divinity School at La Sierra University; and Pr Chris Oberg from La Sierra University Church, the first woman to serve as senior pastor of an Adventist university church. In an interactive nod, the three provided 10 possible presentation topics from which participants choose three.
Kezie Apps, the National and the New South Wales Rugby League women’s Player of the Year for 2016, general practitioner Sara Townend and Anglicare’s Anne Ponsonby also spoke.
Avondale President Professor Ray Roennfeldt presented two plenary sessions before travelling to Unity 2017, a three-day conference in London exploring unity in diversity within the Adventist Church. The paper he will present tomorrow (Saturday, June 17): “Justice and Equality: Is God Interested?”.
Sycamore Lane presented Lead Like The Queen, held at Australian National University’s University House in Canberra, in partnership with Women in Ministry. Women in Ministry supports initiatives that build the skills, opportunities and networks for Adventist women in pastoral ministry.
In an exchange of ideas about the needs and the opportunities of Adventist women in pastoral ministry, Drs Steve Currow, Ministerial Association Secretary for the church in the South Pacific, and Lyell Heise, one of the trustees for Women in Ministry, met with the ministers and the students on the Sunday evening of the conference. While highlighting challenges faced by women in ministry across the South Pacific, the exchange also signalled the church’s intention to increase its support for women in ministry.
Dr Lyell Heise