Amid the busyness of midterms, women of Goshen College were given the opportunity to take a step back and reflect. Around 20 GC women participated in a spiritual development workshop called Sister Care which was held at College Mennonite Church this past weekend.

The workshop ran from 7-9 on Friday, October 9, and 9-3 on Saturday, October 10. Throughout the workshop, food was provided by many local churches. Much of the weekend was spent discussing Christian faith and women’s issues, particularly self-care and compassionate listening.

Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and women’s and gender studies, who helped bring the program to the college, was “excited to have more women and new women attend, including first-years. I think it shows people’s interest in finding a community of support for spiritual growth.”

Birky would also love to see follow up conversations happen in the future.

Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener, the two women who started this program 9 years ago, have worked at adapting it to the college level.

“They loved working with the college students and care deeply about the issues that they face,” said Birky. “But they’ve decided that because there continues to be a lot of demand from Mennonite churches around the world, they want to keep meeting the needs of older women in the church.”

As a result, they have recommended that the new director of Mennonite Women USA, Marlene Bogard, take on new leadership of Sister Care for college students. The new sessions included new prayer rituals and relaxation, focusing on ways of relieving the stress before a week of midterms.

This was the pilot event for the newly developed program, and Bogard felt “the college Sister Care weekend was successful.”

“We were blessed with interactions with 20 young women who were eager to reflect on their own lives and the challenges they face as young adults,” said Bogard. “The presentations on stress and life direction were extremely practical, and the opening session on being made in the image of God was deemed life-affirming and inspirational.”

Ellen Conrad, a junior, participated in the pilot discussion group 2 years ago to help form the curriculum for Sister Care. She also attended all of the past weekend’s events.

“I enjoyed that they talked about a variety of topics that addressed us as not just women, but also as college students who are going through lots of changes,” said Conrad. “I wish there was a way for a larger group of women to be there the whole time together. It was rough having people come in and out.”

This was Marlene’s first time leading, “and she did a great job,” said Conrad. “I can tell she’s passionate about Sister Care and connecting to college students and that she will continue the legacy that Rhoda left.”

In the future, Bogard will be giving Sister Care at Bethel College (Kansas) and Hesston College.

“My hopes for the future of this program,” concluded Bogard, “would be that as we get feedback from college women, we will be able to craft an event that continues to offer opportunities for input and conversation around important personal issues with a spiritual formation twist.”