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Women Leaders of New England



 In 1980, at Geneva Point, during the Annual Meeting of the New England Women’s Presidents, a committee was formed for the purpose of establishing a U.C.C. Regional Women’s Event in New England. Carol Seaman from CT, Barbara Bowman from MA, Laura Bailey and Rosalyn Baston from ME, Elinor Burroughs from NH or VT, and Sally Bradley from RI served on that exploratory committee. These women gathered with several others in MA to brainstorm and develop the concept of NEW ENGLAND WOMEN’S CELEBRATIONS.

Mid-March, mid-Lent was chosen as the time for Celebrations because of the historical reference to Mothering Sunday which was a time when the strict observances of Lent were relaxed for a day so church folks could return to their Mother Church or their roots. The purpose of celebrations was to reach the women in the pews, to involve them in learning about and sharing their Faith beyond the local church and the Conference setting. These Founding Mothers had a dream and incredible Faith. They were drawn to Lydia, the weaver of purple cloth. From there it was decided that the gathering would have a special color, purple, and many of the traditions that were used at subsequent Celebrations come from the early researching and deliberations of these representatives from each of our 6 states. WEAVING THE FABRIC OF OUR FAITH was the first CELEBRATION  theme.

They had no funds, so each state put up some seed money to get them started. They had no idea how many women would come, but they had nearly 1100 show up. And they had money left over, hence the tradition of sending off the excess to a good cause. At the first CELEBRATION in 1982, many women volunteered to do all sorts of work that none of them ever imagined they could do before.

Rosalyn Baston from ME was coordinator and she traveled to all the N.E. Conferences to publicize that first event. Rosalyn was the mother of volunteers!

In 1986 for CELEBRATION II registration remained at $25.00 making the weekend away very affordable for most women. MOVED BY FAITH—WHERE DO WE GROW FROM HERE was the theme and the color was green! The Steering Committee’s hopes for these early events were for OPENNESS, ACCEPTANCE, SEEKING TRANSFORMATION and SERVICE.

For CELEBRATION III, other sites beyond Portland, ME were investigated, with the findings that more central facilities were too costly and didn’t afford the luxury of having a Hospitality Room filled with our own food from each state. WELLSPRINGS OF WOMEN---LIVING, LOVING, LAUGHING, blue for the color and registration raised to $40.00 marked this event’s history. The Chaplaincy Program was started at this time, Job Descriptions were explored, and an Honorarium Policy was developed.

WOMEN ABLAZE WITH THE SPIRIT with red, orange, and yellow colors framed 1994’s CELEBRATION IV, event. Morning Watch and Evening Prayer were initiated during this period. The Steering Committee felt strongly that certain policies had evolved over the years of planning 4 regional events and they began to write them down, not to hinder growth, but to encourage progress without need to reinvent the wheel for each event.

In 1998 at CELEBRATION V we were into GIFTS OF THE BREAD and the color was gold for the wheat and bread. Once again a team of very talented volunteers worked extremely hard to produce a wonderful event with 1200 women attending. The offering that year went to U.C.C. World Hunger and was a whapping $6,700.00.

That brings us to CELEBRATION VI in March of 2002 when the event was moved to Burlington, VT. For many of us, it was no farther than Portland, even though it seemed farther. It was no colder, even though we thought it would be. Our theme was VINE OF LIFE- BRANCHES OF THE SPIRIT and for the first time we had no special color. Women missed that.

CELEBRATION VII, CELEBRATE MICAH’S CALL…to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God… was held in Burlington Vermont from March 17–19, 2006. Rev. Rona Kinsley led our worship, Diane Spires led us in song and over 900 participated in this event, including 4 members from the Collegium of the United Church of Christ from Cleveland.

The Steering Committee members have changed over the years, but each new group of volunteers tries to respect the work of those who have shaped this every 4 year event since the early 1980’s, maintaining a high standard and the aim of involving the women in the pews in a different, exciting experience; one of learning, fellowship, and praise, in the name of our Creator and the risen Christ!




CELEBRATION IX was returned to Portland Maine, March 28–30, 2014


CELEBRATION X was held in Portland Maine, March xx–xx, 2018 

CELEBRATION XI Manchester NH, March 17–19, 2023