by Jill Pearson, Sylvia Thorn, & Denise King
Thursday morning Women’s Bible Studies have been the backbone of Calvary Women’s Ministries since 1985. Let me help you with the math…37 years! I (Jill) have been attending for 25 of those years, which is exactly half my life. I get a little misty-eyed thinking about all the ways these precious women have cared for and mentored me week after week, how God has spoken to me through communal study, and how friendships have blossomed through the ritual act of gathering around a simple table with an ancient book.
Let’s hear from Sylvia Thorn about the genesis of the group:
Caryl and I began attending Calvary shortly after moving to Rochester in 1983. I recall attending several women’s Bible studies meeting in homes. Then I recall being invited to meet with Carol Harker, Glenna Makosky, and Ellen Youngers to plan a Bible Study with a new format, Coffee and Friends, which would meet weekly on Thursday morning at the church. I remember simply gathering around the coffee pot and some treats as we visited for a short while, then headed to separate rooms near the former kitchen for our prayer and study time. As attendance increased, more teacher/leaders were added, and we soon had a more formal/varied opening together before going to our rooms. I remember a “love gift” feature we looked forward to each month! All the while, encouraging women to build each other up in their walk with the Lord through the study of God’s Word, and caring and praying for one another. What a privilege it was for me to lead a study for so many years, and share life with so many wonderful women who love the Lord. -Sylvia Thorn
What began as Coffee & Friends eventually evolved into Renovaré, which apparently is hard for people to say. Here’s some pronunciation help: reh·nuh·vaa·ray. Say it 10 times and you’ll have it down! It’s Latin for “renew” or “restore,” and the leaders felt it was a fitting name as we were “renovating” the group several years ago.
Denise King has been another familiar face on Thursday mornings, often sharing her beautiful harmonies during opening worship. Here are some of her thoughts:
Jill asked me to write about my involvement with Renovaré. I was working at Mayo when we had Scott and I was able to go down to part-time after he was born. I remember being so excited that I would finally be able to attend Coffee & Friends. I had heard so many great things about it. It was a wonderful outlet for me. It was a place where I could be myself and also get the support and understanding of peers and mentors. It was an opportunity to study God’s word together and encourage each other. It was a safe place to share your struggles and joys without being judged. I realized I wasn’t the only one going through hard times.
From the very beginning the main priority has been studying the bible. There have always been options for those who want a minimal time commitment to very in depth studies. Another constant over the years has been praying within your group. Knowing that everything would be kept confidential allowed us to be very vulnerable when sharing prayer requests and praises. It also allows you to grow closer as a group as you see answers to prayer throughout the year. Another aspect that I have always enjoyed is the fellowship time with everyone and the opportunity to worship together. Hearing women lift their voices in praise is wonderful to hear.
Another thing that I have always appreciated about Renovaré is its multigenerational nature. All generations bring their own wisdom and perspectives and together we grow in our love and knowledge of God and His word. A verse that I like that talks about this is Hebrews 10:24-25. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” One thing that I feel strongly about and would encourage everyone is to just come. On the days that things are going well and you have your lesson finished, come. But mostly on the days that are rough and you don’t have your lesson finished, and you don’t have it all together, and you feel defeated, come. Those are the days that you may need the encouragement and prayers of your fellow believers. I look forward to another year of Renovaré and hope to see you there! –Denise King
Speaking of a new year, Renovaré has just kicked off and is always ready to welcome newcomers. Stephanie Conkright and Ingrid Ansell (you’ll recognize them by their giant smiles and lovely English accents) are the coordinators, but it takes a posse of volunteer study leaders, musicians, and kitchen helpers to infuse each Thursday with learning, connection, refreshment, and worship. If you are interested in joining, check out the study options HERE.
Let me close by getting a bit more personal. In 25 years of marriage, parenting, and trying to live out my faith, I have been tempted to dabble in sin, I’ve walked through extremely painful times as a mother, I’ve let anger against others simmer, and had countless other small and large trials that have led me to doubt my faith and harden my heart. Each week, I bring all of this messiness to the table on Thursday mornings. I don’t necessarily vocalize each thing, but just the act of bending my head in prayer and study with women who have walked the valleys and are always ready with a hug and a tissue for the tears, brings me back to center. The atmosphere at Renovaré pulls back the veil and right-sizes the burden. God moves. Hope is renewed.