Women in Ministry

The women who are appointed and assigned to ministry in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference make an intentional effort to stay connected! We plan and gather for an annual winter retreat (see below) to learn from one another, support each other in our variety of settings, and enjoy the nature that surrounds our location.


Because we are deeply grateful to the women, lay and ordained, who have gone before us to make a way where there seemed no way or stood up amidst adversity or who simply worked hard to make the future better for us all, we vote each year to honor an individual or group and thank them. We call our honor the Ruth Award after the original lay woman who received the initial thank you in 1990, Ruth L. Steach. Only one man has so far received the award; this was presented in 1993 to Bishop Cal McConnell for his ministry to and for women of the PNW. This award occurs most years at the Conference’s annual conference gathering. At the time of the award, all women in ministry are invited to come forward as the year’s honoree(s) is announced. The group sings, “Standing Before Us,” as an additional expression of gratitude. Listed here are those honored over the past years; we cannot thank them enough for all that they have done and are doing:

Ruth Award Honorees

  • 1990 – Ruth L Steach, Eleanor Swaboda and Roberta Claire, along with a women’s chorus, presented the Women in Ministry Award to Ruth L Steach; she was presented with a hand-carved staff by Mary Ann Bigelow, lay woman of Olympia First.
  • 1992 – Dorothy Northcutt, Julia Price presented Dorothy with the award—a carved wooden staff made by Dale Johnson of Olympia First.
  • 1993 – Bishop McConnell, Flora Bowers made a presentation to the Bishop in recognition of his efforts on behalf of women in ministry.
  • 1994 – Marion Kline, Marion was honored for having served as mentor and guide to clergywomen of the PNW. She has been a pastor since 1945. In 1956 she was one of the first women admitted to Annual Conference full membership. She was presented with a carved wooden staff made by Dale Johnson of Olympia First.
  • 1996 – Velma McConnell, Judith Schultz presented Velma, as the fourth [sic] recipient of the Ruth Award, in recognition of her support of women in ministry. Velma received a carved wooden staff and an 8-page list of blessings from the women in ministry.
  • 1998 – Phyllis S Ferguson, Phyllis received the award in recognition of her inspiration, vision and leadership.
  • 1999 – Margarita Will, Kathlyn James and the many women in ministry of the Conference presented the Award to Margarita of Wallingford UMC, Seattle.
  • 2001 – Jane Hull Harvey, Karen Clausel presented the Award to Jane who addressed the conference, noting that she was refused ordination by the Methodist Church 50 years ago, and now is saddened to see the same process happening again to others. She was given a wooden dove carved by Dale Johnson of Olympia First.
  • 2002 – Nancy Adachi-Osawa, Joanne Carlson Brown and Jean Harvey Duncan introduced the Award, in the form of a carved wooden crozier (made by Dorothy Johnson’s husband, Dale), given for the first time to a clergywoman.
  • 2003 – Amory Peck, Leslie Ann Knight presented the Award to Amory because she “has exercised strong and consistent love for the church which welcomes her prayers, her presence, her gifts, and her service, but cannot affirm her core life orientation and her deepest human covenant.” She was given a carved plaque made by Dale Johnson of Olympia First.
  • 2004 – Flora Bowers, Bonnie Chandler Warren presented Flora with the award for her leadership as one of the PNW’s first District Superintendents
  • 2005 – Rebecca Ann Parker, “Tell the people the truth that you know, and don’t withhold from them your scholarship or your best insights, or soften your message because you think you need to make it more palatable or more understandable. Give the very best of your heart and mind to your people.”  Rebecca, clergywoman and head of the Starr King School for Ministry, quoted this advice from her grandmother Katherine Ernst. Rebecca was given a carved fleur-de-lis staff carved by Dale Johnson of Olympia First.
  • 2006 – United Methodist Women of the PNW Conference, Jan Bolerjack announced the decision to lift up and honor all the members of the UMW.  The award was presented to Virginia Searls and Suellen Crettol with the reading of a letter from Joyce O’Connor-Magee and the singing of the clergywomen of “Standing Before Us.”
  • 2007 – Adrienne Brizee Adrienne, from Wenatchee First, was presented the award for her compassionate and invaluable work toward social justice.
  • 2008 – Ann Wiltse, Ann, member of Rainier Beach UMC, received the award for her Victim’s Advocate ministry, working with churches where there has been clergy sexual misconduct.
  • 2009 – Sue Sherbrooke, Sharon Moe made the presentation to Sue for her commitment to the well-being and flourishing of women and families. She was currently President of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for United Methodist Communications, and a member of Wallingford UMC. She is gifted and skilled in organization and finance; has been visionary, creative, adventurous, compassionate, courageous, and just.
  • 2010 – Jan Cate, The clergywomen of our annual conference, in memory of Ruth Steach, selected Jan Cate as a lay woman of courage and inspiration who calls us to outrageous faithfulness. A woman whose name is rarely in the spotlight, unless it’s inside a courthouse after being arrested for civil disobedience. She was brought to the Annual Conference under false pretenses; unhappy to leave the corner of Bellevue Crate and Barrel, where she’s the mainstay of the peace witness of Women in Black. She is a longtime member of Bellevue First UMC, along with her husband Bill. Her activism was noted as far back as the 1960s when she began working to build low-income housing for single mothers. She joined Church Women United, beginning a lifetime of ecumenical, interracial Christian activism. Jan was one of the founding mothers of the Church of Mary Magdalene. Currently she is involved in Women in Black, a worldwide network of women witnessing against injustice, war, and other forms of violence.
  • 2011 – Faith Callahan, Faith was presented, via video, with the year’s Ruth Award for her many years of faithful ministry, both as a clergy spouse and lay woman avidly involved in local church ministry. A scholarship to a woman seeking education in ministry was presented in Faith’s honor.
  • 2012 – Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, the award was presented via video to the Bishop, who was elected to the episcopacy from this Annual Conference. She was recognized for her avid ministry with the disenfranchised, her leadership in the episcopacy, and her faithful witness as a strong clergywoman.
  • 2013 – Sunday School Teachers and Leaders of the PNW, Carolyn Peterson made the presentation in recognition of the many men and women of the PNW who weekly live out their faith in classrooms; all were invited to stand. A scholarship was awarded to two women in seminary.

Women in Ministry Retreat (2015 dates)

A Women in Ministry Retreat occurs in February of each year at Rainbow Lodge outside of North Bend, WA, in the shadow of Mt. Si. The gathering is from 7:00 p.m. on Sunday evening until lunch on Tuesday and is open to all women who are appointed or assigned in the PNW. Registration occurs primarily on Facebook but can also be accomplished via email. The leadership for the gathering in voluntary with the following year’s responsible parties being chosen at the gathering.

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