Dinner, dessert and fellowship, it turned out, were only appetizers at the Friends of BNG Annual Fund Dinner Thursday night in Dallas, Texas.
The main course was a storytelling session by a diverse group of Baptist women. Their humorous, painful and poignant narratives illumined struggles to push boundaries, seek justice and freely serve in the ways God has called them.
A compassion theme also was woven into the event – held as usual during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual General Assembly – through a fashion show complete with runway models wearing clothing designed by refugees. Approximately 250 attended the dinner.
The evening continued BNG’s practice of hosting “Conversations that Matter” during the dinners designed to raise awareness of the organization’s mission and support its Annual Fund.
One of the participants said the gathering had succeeded in creating a conversation that matters.
“To be given a stage with other remarkably talented women, that was personally a cathartic moment,” said Christen Green Kinard, co-owner of Threads by Nomad and one of the six women who shared their stories.
The other five speakers were Erica Whitaker, the senior pastor at Buechel Park Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky; Kyndall Rae Rothaus, senior pastor at Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, Texas; Laura Cadena, a member of Iglesia Bill Harrod Memorial Baptist Church in Dallas; Alyssa Aldape, associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; and Darnysha Nard, pastoral resident at First Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.
They spoke in different styles. Some employed a lot of humor, some just a little. All their stories communicated the difficulties of being taken seriously as women in religious and secular settings.
Whitaker got things going with a colorful account of experiencing a wardrobe malfunction at a mosque on Good Friday this year.
It was, she explained, “a holy hipster Christian crusade” gone wrong, teaching her that “you don’t wear skinny jeans to the mosque.”
But she learned something else: that the attitudes toward women preached at that Islamic center that day were strikingly similar to what she has encountered in conservative churches.
“I am no stranger to patriarchy,” Whitaker said.
One of Kinard’s empowerment-inducing moments came in 2015 a market in Dakar, Senegal, where she had lived as the child of CBF missionaries Butch and Nell Green. Kinard explained that she had returned to purchase fabric for business purposes when it occurred to her that commerce could have a higher purpose.
“What if I create something beautiful that had a positive impact?”
Out of that idea came Threads By Nomad, which sells original clothing designed by refugees using fabrics from around the world.
Rothaus’ story came from a day in ministry when she experienced emotionally jarring encounters with men, including sexual harassment.
“This has me feeling . . . irrationally afraid,” she recalled.
She also felt some confusion due to her being in a leadership position.
“This is not supposed to happen to me anymore,” Rothaus remembered thinking.
With tears in her eyes, Cadena shared about the consistent negative stereotyping of Hispanics that drove her away from CBF.
Her journey led her eventually to work for a Dallas City councilman who works for equality and justice for his constituents.
“I finally found my church in District 6,” she said.
Adalpe humorously relayed how she had to juggle returning a product to a disagreeable retail store clerk soon after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
It wasn’t easy and left her feeling like “a sad zombie” walking the streets of D.C.
Nard shared a day when another woman made a joke depicting women as helpless.
“I hate those jokes,” she said.
It got worse when the woman suggested Nard smile more.
“I will not smile more to appease you,” she said.
After the program, Whitaker said the event was a unique opportunity for women in ministry.
“I don’t know of anywhere a space like this has been created for women in my profession,” she said of the BNG dinner.
The fashion show that opened the event included 11 models wearing clothing made by Threads By Nomad. It featured designs and fabrics from nations like India, Guatemala, Togo and Iraq.
Kinard told the audience that the business, which she runs with her mother, Nell Green, provides opportunities for micro-enterprise entrepreneurs around the world to sell their clothing and designs.
She told BNG later that the show also was meant to demonstrate how the products people buy can also serve a greater good.
“My hope is they understand that they can purchase with a purpose,” Kinard said.