AWL Committee Members in January 2019 (left to right):
Brenda Dickerson, Carolyn R. Forrest, Debra Brill, Ann Roda, Tamyra Horst, Natalia Lopez-Thismon and Celeste Ryan Blyden
What started with a lunch for 15 women gathered in a conference room at the NAD Year-end Meetings in October 2017, has blossomed into a global community of nearly 300 women leaders.
On September 13, 2018, the North American Division (NAD) Administrative Committee voted to adopt and endorse the Adventist Women Leaders (AWL) initiative and appointed a committee (pictured).
“AWL is a community where we can connect, tell our stories, learn from others’ experiences and find inspiration in our shared journeys,” said Debra Brill, NAD vice president for Ministries at that time, and who chaired the committee from its inception until her retirement in 2019.
In early 2020, her successor Bonita Shields accepted the role as chair and is working to carry forward the mission to connect, empower and facilitate growth for women in leadership.
The committee’s goal is to create and foster a nurturing and supportive community for women whoserve in leadership capacities for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and in other organizations. Women who serve as C-suite administrators, board chairs, presidents, vice presidents, directors, associate and assistant directors, superintendents, and leaders of Adventist churches and ministries are invited to join the community. They will find a group that acknowledges the gifts God has given to each woman, offers leadership development, and fosters a culture of inclusivity and opportunities for growth.
Celeste Ryan Blyden, vice president for Strategic Communication and Public Relations for the Columbia Union Conference, spearheaded the initiative to create the AWL community and serves as its secretary and director. “We have a message for women in leadership,” she says: “We see you, we acknowledge your call and accomplishments, we rejoice in how God is working through you, we are here for you, and we are praying for you.”
Blyden saw a need for a leadership community among women based on her own experience. She reached out to Brill; Tamyra Horst, who serves the Pennsylvania Conference as communication director, as well as Women’s, Family and Prayer Ministries director; and Ann Roda, vice president of Mission Integration and Spiritual Care for Maryland-based Adventist HealthCare, to form the community’s organizing committee in 2017.
As a resource network, AWL offers an email newsletter, podcast with an Instagram feed, Facebook page and book club, and live and virtual events. Through each of these platforms, they profile and highlight women leaders, provide spiritual encouragement and prayer, share lessons learned and foster professional development and growth.
To learn more or contact AWL, click here.