The Lord works in mysterious ways - not sure why He so often surprises me, I should be used to it by my age but I never am!  

Last summer I began to pray and think and plan about a new

phase of ministry that I felt the Lord was putting on my heart:

to enable small communities of ordained women/women in

full time Christian ministry to support one another regularly.

I sent out invites for this April to some 40 USA women clergy;

and I think 2 or maybe 3 responded.


So I thought maybe the timing was not right .. or I had misheard

the Lord … or there was no perceived need after all.


And then, just this past 10 days, I have had messages from

5 or 6 saying when is it, can we come, are you full up yet.


I guess the Lord knows what we need and when we need it!!


So, we are indeed going ahead, and the details are below.




Please let me know if you can as soon as possible

so that I can go ahead and make all the arrangements. I am

SO excited to think that we may soon be able to support one

another in this way and deepen and strengthen our ministries.


Numbers are limited to just 8 so you do need to get back to me

ASAP if you want to book. It would be such a privilege to have

you as part of a small group who want to be in Spirit-filled prayer

for one another and be mentored as women clergy in leadership.


May I ask you to be in prayer with me to seek the Lord's

guidance as to whether this is for you.





We want to form small communities of about 8 women.

Each community will meet together twice a year,

for 48 hours, under my leadership and chaplaincy.


We will have time to get to know one another, support

one another in prayer, and have “Round-table time” when

we can discuss things where we need help, and to learn

from one another.


And then, in the months in between meeting together,

the prayer and support will continue via phone, Skype etc,

so that there really is a network of support and community

with others who understand. But mostly, we want to pray

for one another, and have unhurried time to do this.

Some of the issues which have already been mentioned are: 

-    isolation:

  • working for wonderful but male Rectors
  • not geographically near to other women clergy
  • unable to pray through or talk about some issues with a male Rector

-   criticism

  • after preaching out one’s heart, the comments are often along the lines of “Did you know your jacket clashed

with the color of the carpet in church?” (for those who don’t wear robes!)   or “Your bracelet caught the lights and glittered and put me off”

  • after administering communion: “I don’t like to take communion from hands with chipped nail varnish!”
  • the old issues of women in leadership, male headship, ordination of women
  • disbelief that a woman could be called into the ordained ministry, and questioning of the calling

-   stress

  • unable to take time off without feeling we are letting people down if not available for 24 hours!
  • Trying to be pastor, wife AND mother – pulled between church and family
  • feeling guilty about spending money on haircuts or new shoes or whatever
  • Wanting to get away for a few days of retreat and time with other women but not knowing where to go or with whom.


The first group is SOON!.  We will arrive during the

evening on Sunday April 29, in time for supper;

and we will depart late afternoon on Tuesday May 1. 


The Retreat will be on the beautiful barrier island of

Seabrook, just south of Charleston, South Carolina.

We will stay in a quiet, private home on the lagoon,

near the glorious beach (there will be time for walking

on the beach, watching the dolphins & pelicans …)



Accommodation will be 2 people per room (separate beds!)

each room has a private bathroom.  All meals are provided, unlimited tea and coffee, wine with evening meals.

For details see http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p178296

and yes, it's our home!  


The cost for this Retreat is $165.  All you need to bring is yourself, a toothbrush and a Bible!! (is that very British humour?? All linens are provided)

Booking is via email, and payment will be

invoiced using the secure Paypal online so you can pay

either with credit card or e-check very easily.


LIMITED to just 8 so please book very soon


If you'd like to find about a bit more about me, check

out my website and blog:





“I LOVE your idea and sense of calling.  As someone who benefits from knowing you and learning from you as a friend and mentor, I know firsthand how needed this is and how it is currently lacking.  So, for you to have a sense of coming into this ‘void’ is wonderful."

"The practical ideas you set out are great.  I especially like the idea of a retreat and phone calls. Community is so important.  And feeling connected to women one feels like one relates to is equally important (as we both know).  And I know my Rector and his wife will be supportive since this is one of the #1 things he keeps encouraging me to seek out — women mentors! “

Bishop Todd Hunter, The Anglican Mission:-

“Penelope is one of the finest priests I know—not “female” priest, but just “priest”. God has seen fit to combine in her high character, deep piety and a broad gift-mix. This combination makes her a wonderful guide and retreat leader for both current leaders and those who feel called to ministry. I sincerely commend Penelope and her work.”

Susan Alexander Yates, author and speaker:-

“If you are looking for a speaker who is both biblically solid and personally relevant, you have a treat in store with Penelope Swithinbank. She makes the scriptures come alive while at the same time she speaks to the real needs of women today. Her style, which is classy and elegant, appeals to thoughtful women who long for substance.”     


The decking and the hammock overlooking our lagoon - space for retreat and quiet!