I love your blog The scent of water, it is absolutely beautiful and it would be so lovely to get it published as I know it would be so comforting and helpful to many. I went to a funeral yesterday of my friend's father and was able to send the family your writing and they have already found it so holding and comforting. I love that you are real about what it actually feels like and the questions we have and the fragile feel of being human but the hope that we are loved and held and can flourish again when it looks impossible. So encouraging and less lonely. Thank you for your vulnerability and willingness to share and the way your words are like fine drawings on the page so that they are light in their great depth.
Your new book A Scent of Water, even before its conclusion, is already a great resource for us. You write so openly and generously about the ongoing agony of grief with those extraordinary, rare and unexpected, moments of peace and freedom. I find myself wondering about the cost and sacrifice for you as the author - as you dig deep to express the heartfelt inexpressible - and find a psalm or other verse for us to hold. But I know also that you have a God given gift for this sharing. Your writing is touching and will touch many people.
Irene Hamilton, a Spiritual Director and grandmother.
Just a short note to thank you for the message yesterday. It was quite certainly the best sermon on Stewardship I have ever heard.
Quentin Jackson, Communications Officer, Church of Our Saviour, Johns Island
We loved having you with us – you ‘fit’ us very well, if you know what I mean! We’ve had lots of great positive feedback and stories on Sunday of what God had been doing – all were inspired to spend more time with the Lord. One commented that it was great to not only have the buzz of being at a day like that but then also to have practical things to take away and do day-to-day. You spoke brilliantly – very clear, great structure which I always appreciate!, very easy to relate to and connect with your material. You have a lovely relaxed manner too...... it was great to have lots of practical stuff to mix things up and practise all the different ways of praying together and alone. It made the day go incredibly quickly and didn’t feel at all like hard work!
Clare Harwood, Christchurch Woking. Pastor & Women's Day Organiser
As we say in America, you "hit one out of the park." What a wonderful sermon! You and the Lord did a magnificant job. You are definitely a steel magnolia with a beautiful soul.
Dr. Arthur Booth
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.
Bishop Todd Hunter, The Anglican Church in North America
Dear Penelope, Attached is a copy of the text of my heartfelt thanks. You are too humble to understand what an enormous impact you have had on this congregation and me in particular. From the first time I met you, at the Alpha Holy Spirit Saturday at Church of Our Saviour, you have subtly encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and let God do His will through me. I did and I have been really growing in the Lord ever since, and I know this experience has been replicated through out the congregation. So in contrast to what you said, none of the words were unmerited, I could have given many more accolades, but I did not want to steal your heavenly blessings.
Dennis Hampton, Senior Warden, COOS, SC
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.
Susan Alexander Yates, author and speaker
I don't know if you have any idea what a warm place you have in my heart and in the hearts of our women at Gateway. You kick started a little revival in them and they are truly on a path that is growing them and changing them and making them useful servants to our Lord. You made them look at things differently. I learned then that you were definintely "God sent" and that I can trust your leading. I don't know that I ever thanked you properly for taking the entire thing under control and making it such a wonderful event. Our small groups were a disaster. You turned them into a very meaningful experience. Your experience and training are evident, but it was the way you looked at us and sized us up and prayed about us and then did just the right things for us that was so exceptional. God was clearly involved in every bit of it.
You may remember that last year we were working on reading the Bible in a year. Well, true to form, we're behind schedule, and it looks like it's a 2 year project, but the questions they are asking and the lightbulbs that are going off in the women is so pretty to watch. And they pray at the drop of a hat now, unashamed, not self conscious. We had none of that before you came. It's a combination of things and ultimately from God Himself, but I really believe you came in to our first retreat, took a look and sized up our poor motley crew and set us on the right path. The second year was icing on the cake, and you would be pleased to know the good effect you've had on all of us. The fact that you are so tuned in to what the Lord is telling you is what makes you so successful at what you do. You think on your feet and are always connected to where God leads you.
I'm sorry for whoever does our retreat this year...she will never be Penelope!
Again, my deepest thanks. Thank you Penelope, and thank you for your beautiful spirit, for the thoughts you post everyday that make this world a better place.
Linda McCosker, Retreat Leader PA USA
We miss you, but the Lord has been watching over us and we have been blessed with both you and another excellent interim clergy during "the search". You, however, got us over the really difficult time and we will always thank God for your presence.
Ginny Orban – COOS Vestry member, SC, USA
Penelope speaks with humor and candor, allowing her points to hit home in a direct but down to earth way. She puts women at ease, speaking from her own experience as a business woman, mother and clergys wife, as well as being an ordained priest herself. She never fails to challenge her listeners to new levels of understanding. Most importantly, Penelope has a heart for God which is reflected by her thought provoking and Biblically-sound insights. Penelope never fails to send her listeners away with some new challenge or inspiration.
Kris Packard & Gwynn Chandler, Co-Chairs of The Falls Church Womens Retreat
Rev. Penelope Swithinbank is one of the best female clergy speakers I have had the pleasure of hearing. Listening to Penelope is the verbal equivalent of getting a relaxing massage that addresses the knots in ones muscles - tough message in gentle rhetoric and always inspiring.
Christina Bolton, former President of Capitol Strategies, and Co-Chair of the Professional Women's Program, The Falls Church, Virginia, USA
Penelope really does have a heart for women. Her wealth of experience as a mother, pastor's wife, business woman and friend, combined with a refreshing honesty about her own journey- the joys, struggles, failures, fears and celebrations of being a woman - make her ministry an inspiration to all. Her ministry is built on a love of God, a passion and deep understanding of His Word and a desire to see women released into greater freedom and depth of maturity. My life has been profoundly influenced by the insight and support of Penelope-her loving encouragement to fix my eyes on Jesus and give Him my whole life and heart.
Wendy Brown, former Deputy Head of an inner city school; ordained in the Church of England
In a time and culture where it may often be difficult for women to find clarity, admonishment, grace, and freedom, Penelopes leadership and teaching exemplify and foster such discoveries. As a scholar, a wife, a mother, a businesswoman, a pilgrim and a priest, Penelope brings a wealth and depth of experience that is relevant and helpful to many throughout various stages in life. With thoughtful consideration of the scriptures and a calm yet truthful demeanor, she mingles personal stories, humor, and grace and helps us to grow in our understanding of Gods deep love for us. Whether through her writings, workshops or talks, others and I have been challenged and encouraged to realize our worth in Gods eyes and the depth of our need for Him.
Dr Anjeanette Roberts, Associate Professor ofMicrobiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Penelope is someone who has experienced many of the complexities of being a woman - a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, rector's wife, now a minister herself and all the way through a daughter of God. She understands all that these things churn up on the inside of us and her teaching is not simply theory, but heartfelt and life earned wisdom. Penelope has a real gift of bridging the gap between how we as women experience the world and how God has intended us as women to experience it.
Sarah Miller, former Head of Youth Ministries, St Helens, Nottingham, UK, now a Rector's wife herself