Grief Turned to Gratitude
Annual women’s conference demonstrates the value of fellowship
“There was too much grief.”
Tricia Gambaro came to this conclusion as she wondered whether to attend the 2015 Crossroads Women’s Conference. Her mother, Betty, had been on the founding committee of the annual conference, which is hosted by the Synod of the Mid-Atlantics, and served on the planning committee for many years thereafter. In fact, Betty had attended all but four of the 30 retreats, often involving her daughters in the planning. Gambaro followed in her mother’s footsteps, joining the planning committee to help put together the two days of fellowship and worship for women seeking spiritual renewal.
But after Betty’s death in 2014, the thought of attending Crossroads without her was too much for Gambaro.
“Although we had so many wonderful memories, [my sister and I] decided that it would just be too difficult to attend,” says Gambaro.
It was then that God stepped in. Gambaro describes what happened next:
A few weeks before the conference the event chair, Claudette Reid, called me. Claudette said that she was at a Synod event where she had heard about how we use art in worship at my home church (Franklin Reformed Church in Nutley, New Jersey), and asked if I would consider bringing an art in worship experience to Crossroads. I thanked her for the invitation and explained that my sister and I had decided it would just be too difficult this year. Apparently God had other plans, and by the end of the phone call I had been moved to agree not only to attend, but to lead an art experience!
I was very apprehensive on the way down to the retreat center, not wanting to be a little puddle of tears all weekend. But that didn’t happen. By the end of the retreat God was able to turn my grief into gratitude. I was grateful for the way that my mom had been able to share her faith, her gift of hospitality, and her love for God’s people through the Crossroads retreat. I was grateful for the fellowship of all the women at the retreat and I was grateful for the opportunity to share art in worship. I was grateful to remember that God is faithful, and grateful that God changed my grief into gratitude!
Gambaro’s story is exactly why a conference of this nature is important for a woman’s spiritual journey, says Reid, the Crossroads planning committee chairperson and RCA facilitator of global engagement.
“There’s always an element of God’s timing and there’s elements in each conference that touch a person’s heart,” she says. “I have no idea what that may be—we put together a gathering that we pray will be meaningful—but in the design and flavor of how the conference is set up, being biblically based and rooted in the Word, that impact happens.”
Each year, the Crossroads conference is set up around a central topic, with speakers, workshops, and worship times drawing inspiration from that theme. Reid says the attendees range in age and backgrounds, which makes the community that much richer.
“I think it is important for people to come together at a conference like this because ‘the Church’ is not just the local congregation,” says Gambaro. “God has given us each other to work with—we need to gather, worship, learn, pray, and share with each other. I am so grateful for the people I have met through Crossroads—every one of them has had an impact on my growth as a Christian.”
Reid agrees: “There’s something in women that says, ‘We need to get together.’ It’s fellowship that you’re not able to accomplish by yourself. And God’s Word takes on a different energy when you are gathered with others.”