October/November 2013 - Vol. 70
Participants at the 2013 Bethany Association Conference at Angels’ Hills Retreat Center, Philippines
“I Am My Beloved’s and He Is Mine”

An Update from Members of the Bethany Association 
of Women Living Single for the Lord in the Sword of the Spirit

Fifteen women from the Sword of the Spirit communities throughout the world gathered at Angels’ Hills Retreat Center in Tagaytay City, Philippines, from August 14 through August 18, 2013, for the Fifth International Bethany Association Conference. We were warmly hosted by Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord) community (Manila, Philippines) whose members served us generously in many ways during the days of the conference.

This was the first time since the establishment of the Bethany Association in 2009 that the women with lifelong commitments to live single for the Lord were gathered together for the bi-annual conference without special guests and young women in discernment. This was a welcome opportunity for the committed sisters to strengthen the relationships and bonds of friendship among us all that have been growing and deepening over the past years despite the rare occasions we are able to be together because of the thousands of miles that lie between us. There was a profound openness in our sharing about the joys and blessings we have experienced in our personal lives as well as sorrows, wounds, and challenges that we face. The four committed sisters who were not able to attend were continually in our thoughts and prayers.

Belen Paredes (front), Mags Tierney (back left), and 
Sherry Snyder (back right) in festive Filipina attire

Bethany Association Council member Sherry Snyder  (Word of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan) was impressed that “God is intent on us being united in loving one another as sisters because of the work he wants to do, inviting others throughout the Sword of the Spirit to join us in this way of life.” Belen Paredes (Ligaya) described Bethany members being woven into a beautiful tapestry of colored threads, “our lives intertwined by the Creator to be a witness and a shield for a life of total self-giving to the Lord.” Bethany Association Council President Jeanne Kun (Word of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan) shared a vision of a silver chain—each one of us a link—stretching across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, from continent to continent, country to country.

Conference sessions included several inspirational meditations as springboards for times of personal and communal prayer—among them a superb and insightful reflection on contemplating the love of God by Jesuit priest Fr. Herb Schneider, one of the “founding” coordinators of Ligaya. The schedule also included teachings about our way of life as put forth in our Bethany Association Charter and discussions about how to advance the purposes, hopes, and goals of the association, as well as ample opportunities for sharing with one another about what the Lord has been doing in each of our personal lives. Our traditional celebration of the Lord’s Day culminated in an evening of Filipina dancing as the sisters donned colorful Filipina dress. 

Jhola Salazar (center) celebrates her lifelong commitment 
with Bethany Association sisters

“I Am His”—Living Singleheartedly for the lord
A highlight of this year’s conference was the lifelong commitment of Jhola Salazar, the youngest member of the Bethany Association, made during the Ligaya’s general gathering with over a thousand community members witnessing this marvelous declaration of singlehearted love for the Lord. Jhola spoke of her lifelong commitment in this way: “At the heart of my calling to live single for the Lord is God’s abundant grace to increase my love for him, my trust in his mysterious designs, and the deepening of my identity not just as his daughter, but as his Beloved—as someone he wants to be espoused to for life. Through the various events and circumstances of my life, the Lord made it clear that the vocation to live single for the Lord is not about me, it is about his love for me. God did not call me because I am the best, but because God’s grace will be enough for me.”

Jhola ended her sharing with her favorite quote from Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus, whose words remind her of the joy of sacrificing all for the Lord: “Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? . . . No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! . . . Today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ—and you will find true life. Amen.”

During the Ligaya community gathering Mags Tierney (Charis Community, Belfast, Northern Ireland) also shared a moving testimony about how she personally responded to God’s invitation to her to live single for the Lord. “The richness, the delight, and the joy that it is for us who have been called to live single for the Lord is so overwhelming to me,” Mags added, “that I feel a burden to make sure that our younger members have that chance to say, ‘Lord, do you want me, too?’ ” Her vibrant witness and example moved all the Ligaya members—young and old alike, married couples as well as children and single adults—to want to live out a more wholehearted offering of their own state of life, and is already inspiring young women to consider this way of life. 

God’s Word to Bethany Association

My beloved daughters, I want you to receive the power of my Holy Spirit with joy. Forget your problems, your concerns, your duties—forget about yourselves. I want to set you free with the power of my Spirit so that you can shine all around the world. I want to bring the fire of my Holy Spirit to your communities. I want you to show my love to others in a joyful way. I have set you apart for me: you are mine and I am yours.

Hold fast to me, says the Lord, and hold fast to one another. I am at work in each of you individually in intimate and profound ways, to draw you more deeply into my heart and to clothe you in the holiness befitting of being my bride. And in these days [at the conference], I have been at work knitting you together, uniting you more closely tone another so that you can draw strength, encouragement and wisdom and even sustenance from one another. But hold fast to me and hold fast to the Bethany Association so that you may be a light and a comfort, a hope and protection to one another in the days and in the years to come.

Fruits of the Conference
In the past conferences of the Bethany Association, the Lord laid the groundwork for the firm establishment of the association. This year with the conference theme “I am my Beloved’s, and he is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3), the Lord spoke personally to us about his deep love for each one of us as his bride. He also united us more closely to one another, knitting us together as we enjoyed rich times of sharing and fellowship. We also laid effective plans for how we can better support and communicate with one another over the distance that separates us. 

While we sisters are very grateful for the support we experience in our local communities for our commitment and way of life, Bethany Association has become a real “family” and “home” for each of us. And the Lord also showed us how we are a “place of refuge,” a “resting place” for many in the Sword of the Spirit, a place for more women to come.

God is indeed calling us to love boldly and preparing us to welcome women who will join us in living single for the Lord in the future—more “links” added to the silver chain joining us together in Sword of the Sprit communities around the world. 

Description of Bethany Association

We are women who have heard God call us personally to live a life set apart for him and his kingdom. We live out our response to God’s call through a commitment to intentional singleness living “single for the Lord” alongside married couples, families, and single people, as active members of The Sword of the Spirit, an international, ecumenical, charismatic “community of communities.” 

To learn more about Bethany Association visit their website at: http://bethany.swordofthespirit.net/

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