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Celebrating 5 Decades!

Celebrating five decades of women’s ordination as elders, deacons, and ministers of Word and sacrament

This jubilee celebration in the Reformed Church in America honors the joys and challenges of those who paved the way, embraces and encourages the gifts and leadership of women today, and draws the circle wider for the next generations of women in ministry. You are invited and encouraged to join the celebration and engage this milestone in your own community! There are many worship resources for celebrating women in ministry available—Scripture passages, songs, litanies, and more—as well as the following highlights.

Special thanks to the people and groups who helped create and shape this celebration: women’s transformation and leadership, the Commission for Women, the Commission on History, 2023 General Synod president Rev. Dwayne Jackson, 2024 General Synod president Rev. Judy Nelson, and a “significant anniversaries” team (members of women’s transformation and leadership and the Commission for Women who also steered the marking of the fifth anniversary of the RCA’s We Are Speaking statement).

Women’s Stories Day 2023

The celebration kicked off with the seventh annual women’s stories day in March, hosted by the Reformed Church Center (of New Brunswick Theological Seminary) and RCA women’s transformation and leadership. This year’s topic was “These Are Ministries, Too!” focusing on the ordination of women as elders and deacons. RCA theology, liturgy, and order tell us that deacons and elders are every bit as much ministers, with different functions and amenabilities, but callings and ordinations just as valid as those in the third office of minister of Word and sacrament.

NBTS Presidential Service Award Given to RCA Women

“The [New Brunswick Theological Seminary] Presidential Service Award is given annually to a devoted individual who has engaged in acts of service benefiting others. This service can be provided to the sacred or secular domains, but must include critical thinking, just acting, and faithful leadership.

“The Presidential Service Award recipients manifest in words, deeds, and support of New Brunswick Theological Seminary its growth and sustainability. This award recognizes our sincere appreciation to those committed to NBTS’ mission to train leaders who think critically, act justly and lead faithfully.”

At the seminary’s inaugural gala in May 2023, the women of the Reformed Church in America were honored to receive this presidential service award.

View Gala Program

General Synod 2023 celebration

At General Synod 2023, five decades of women in ordained leadership were celebrated during a special dinner, Sunday evening plenary, and the continued sharing of women’s stories. The leadership and gifts of RCA women were woven throughout this General Synod meeting.

Watch the Sunday evening celebration plenary session.

The liturgical elements used in the plenary are available here, along with other worship resources for celebrating women in ministry.

  • Call to worship, drawn from 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
  • Opening Hymn – “God of the Women” (tune: “Be Thou My Vision”)
  • Closing Hymn – “For Such a Time as This” (words by Carol M. Bechtel, to the tune of “Amazing Grace”)

Listen to stories of God at work through RCA women in ordained ministry.

These videos were all shared during the Sunday evening plenary session at General Synod 2023.

History of Women in the RCA

Countless women—and men—have helped shape the Reformed Church in America into what it is today: a church that accepts and celebrates all of the gifts of women. Women’s involvement in church activities began as early as 1800 and continues in vibrant ministry today.

A Legacy of Leadership

“RCA Women: A Legacy of Leadership” offers a sampling of the strong, faith-filled, trailblazing women in leadership throughout the history of the RCA. We honor and celebrate all RCA women’s stories, told and yet untold, across the United States and Canada and well beyond.

These inspiring stories, with all their joys and challenges, are part of our past, present, and future legacy as God’s beloved daughters who have and will continue to make significant, transformative contributions in the church and in the world. We stand alongside our many ecumenical sisters who also have powerful stories of living into their unique, God-given gifts and callings.

Resources for further study

For more information or to share the stories of RCA women in your context, please contact Rev. Liz Testa, director of women’s transformation and leadership, at Ltesta@rca.org.
The mission of RCA women’s transformation and leadership is to help the RCA fully include the gifts, influence, and leadership in all areas of the church and beyond, and to equip faith communities to welcome those gifts and create healthy ministry environments where men and women can serve freely and fully, together. Learn more about this ministry.