From the Editor (July/August 2016)

 

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Up until this issue was ready to go to print, I had another column ready, one encouraging you to remember Matthew 25:35-40, to vote and to ensure that others aren’t denied the right to vote. I still encourage this.

But then 49 people were murdered in Orlando.

When I heard the news my heart broke. I was sad for those who died, for those who survived, for those who lost friends and family, for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community targeted. What saddened me most, though, was that the news did not surprise me.

I learned of the tragedy while visiting my sister, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina. I watched news reports on a mass shooting from the same city that almost exactly a year before lost nine people targeted because of their race. Killed in church, a place they considered safe. The LGBT Latino, Latina, Latinx community in Pulse Nightclub believed they were in a safe space too—one of their few safe spaces in a world in which even (and especially) the church rejects them.

In a society offering easy access to easily deadly weapons we can’t be surprised when mass shootings occur. In a society that justifies discrimination and breeds hate for communities considered “other,” we can’t be surprised when hate for self and others turns to violence. And we can’t write it off as an individual act by an individual person that occurred in a vacuum.

What we can do is pray. Prayer is not an empty gesture when it leads to action, insight, healing. We can listen to targeted voices—and believe them. We can continue to work to transform the context of hate. We can continue to advocate for sensible gun regulation that reduces access to high-capacity assault weapons. We can continue to be women organized for mission, organized for peace.

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Bright Lights (June 2016)

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58th Annual Mother-Daughter Banquet Held
United Methodist Women at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson, Ohio, host a mother-daughter banquet with more than 100 in attendance.

Tradition Meets Contemporary Needs
President of United Methodist Women supported Pfeiffer University in North Carolina praises the school’s United Methodist connection.

Fine Dining for First United, St. Paul
United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church and at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Frankfurt, Kentucky, celebrate United Methodist Women’s legacy at combined dinner.

“Valiant Woman” Leads in Faith, New American Communities
United Methodist Women member in Fargo, North Dakota, receives Church Women United’s Valiant Woman award.

St. John’s United Methodist Women Mother/Daughter Banquet and Graduate Awards
United Methodist Women at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Parsons, West Virginia, host mother-daughter banquet and graduation celebration.

Red, White & Blue Revue Features Local Musicians
United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, serve root beer floats at church music festival.

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How to Use This Issue (June 2016)

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“If memory serves,” we say. Yes—memory serves. And to keep memories alive, we tell stories. When we gather in our circles we tell stories.

One of my daughters, when asked to describe herself, called herself “gritty.” I love this. United Methodist Women members, too, are gritty and resilient. We have tales of adventure and empathy. We talk about how we have overcome great odds and continued to fight injustice.

Memories remind us of how far we have come and how far we have to go. United Methodist Women has a long history of activism—from welcoming immigrants to civil rights activism to climate justice advocacy. Remember who you are, ask tough questions and keep looking forward. Memory and grit are themes in this issue of response.

We start with Glory Dharmaraj’s “Go and Tell,” which asks a fundamental question: “Who tells the story?” The sad truth is that women, half the population, are not represented equally in mainstream media. United Methodist Women has a history of monitoring news media and holding our newsmakers accountable. Ms. Dharmaraj calls on us to continue to be “agents of change,” not simply passive recipients of news, especially in a presidential election year.

How do we keep remembering people who are forgotten? What stories do we tell about the marginalized? Are they stories of victimhood or tales of mutual love? Check out “Prison Ministry in Pennsylvania” by Richard Lord. The women incarcerated in the Muncy maximum security prison collect money for flood victims and make quilts for people who are homeless. As United Methodist Women members, we know how good it feels to give. We know we must humanize and not demonize. It is no surprise that the Muncy chaplain calls United Methodist Women members “faithful.” This is who we are. That is the story people tell about us.

Read Paul Jeffrey’s in “Memory and Democracy in Latin America” and remember lost family members. Faithful mothers of the “disappeared” in Latin America remind us of our own losses. Let these memories spur us to action. Heed Gabriela Liguori’s remarks: “It is our memory that helps us as a society not fall into the same errors as before. We want to have an active memory, a memory that serves the present moment, that supports human rights.”

Remember the rights of the unheard in society, especially the children who face great odds. Like others forgotten by society, we are inspired by these resilient children and the adults who care for them. In “A Place to Call Home,” Betty Backstrom introduces us to the hardworking and loving adults of the United Methodist Women-supported MacDonell Children’s Services in Houma, Louisiana. On this month’s cover and in the article we meet Amber Cangelosi, business office manager at MacDonell, who says, simply, “Corporate American is driven by money, and here our goal is to help children.”

Like the MacDonell home, United Methodist Women does not write people off. Tell these stories of women and children whom others have forgotten but we remember. Send us Bright Lights stories. Pray for United Methodist Women’s continuing work. Continue to be gritty. And let your memory serve.

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From the President (June 2016)

Let’s Choose Wisely

Sometimes I pinch myself to see if my wonderful experience as the national president of United Methodist Women is real. I am beyond amazed at the wonderful work we are doing for women, children and youth around the world. We celebrated our upcoming 150th anniversary last month at General Conference. Every United Methodist Women member should be very proud of the work we do every single day.

As women called by God we can’t allow anything or anyone to hold us back. Don’t fret over naysayers. Remember that what God has for you is for you, and continue to support your sisters in their mission passions even if different from your own. So much can be accomplished through support, uplifting and encouraging one another; we can be so powerful for God’s mission for us. We need to encourage ourselves in order to be able to inspire, motivate and encourage others.

Let’s put in the effort to ensure our organization will be around for another 150 years150 years of doing the “unreasonable” work of speaking up, standing up and taking up for women, children and youth. When you are asked to serve at the local, district, conference or jurisdiction United Methodist Women or United Methodist Church, you know that there are sisters out there cheering you on. We sometime forget that Jesus rose again and that asking for forgiveness goes a long way in our own healing so that our focus can be on the work we are called to do.

Being able to visit the jurisdictional meetings, General Conference, annual meetings, United Methodist Women Sundays and national mission institutions has made it clear to me that our passion, dedication and commitment is spilling over to others. I see the increase in the number of women engaging in new and exciting ways with our areas of focus. We are aligning ourselves with our passionate and compassionate hearts to do God’s work.

I get excited knowing that I will get to visit with some of you in the coming months at Mission u events, where the studies this year will inspire many questions, discussions and debates. Ladies, let’s pour our hearts into studying and understanding how we can help our denomination heal from unkindness and division.

I challenge you to send a card of support and encouragement to your bishop, pastors, lay leader and United Methodist Women conference president showing that United Methodist Women is a supportive community beyond measure. I am so proud to share I am a United Methodist Women member. One of my favorite cheers is, “Everywhere I go, people want to know, who we are, so I tell them: We are United Methodist Women, the mighty, mighty United Methodist Women!”

Let’s choose wisely as the life of women, children and youth depend on our giving, our being faithful and our courage and spirit to do God’s will. Thank you for being bold and edgy to transform the world. I stand with you and beside you in this journey to Make It Happen!

YVETTE KIM RICHARDS
President
United Methodist Women

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From the Editor (June 2016)

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As this issue hits your mailboxes and e-readers, United Methodist Women jurisdictional gatherings have taken or are about to take place. Every four years members from the Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central and Western Jurisdictions gather to celebrate the work of the past and coming years and to elect national leadership to the United Methodist Women Board of Directors.

These quadrennial gatherings occur the same year as the United Methodist General Conference, which concluded in May. I write this, however, before General Conference has taken place, before our global church has come together to set policy, budgets, and declare who we are as Jesus’ disciples in the world. Like the disciples before us, we struggle to discern just what it means to be disciples. I am praying daily for hearts open to the Holy Spirit and souls ready to follow where the Spirit leads. There is still poverty, oppression, violence, hunger, injustice, hate, loneliness and disregard in our world. The Church clearly has work to do, a status quo to change.

Whatever has been decided at General Conference, someone has been or is still hurting, someone has lost hope, someone has lost faith. Our prayers cannot end. Our radical love cannot cease. Your faith, hope, love in action is still needed.

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Bright Lights (May 2016)

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Comfort Food: Fort Morgan United Methodist Women Hold Annual Salad Luncheon
United Methodist Women at Fort Morgan United Methodist Church in Fort Morgan, Colorado, bring the community together over a meal that raises funds for mission.

Methodist Women Host Shower for Hope Pregnancy
United Methodist Women at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Ocean City, Maryland, host baby shower for local pregnancy center.

Annual Women for Women Conference: Joy in the Journey
United Methodist Women at Trinity United Methodist Church in Kimball, Nebraska, host Women for Women Conference.

“Movers and Shakers” Among Women of Faith Honored at Ceremony
United Methodist Women local president honored as woman of faith in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Addiction, Recovery Training Offered to Churches
Western District United Methodist Women of the West Virginia Conference co-host training on addiction and recovery in Huntington, West Virginia.

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How to Use This Issue (May 2016)

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The other morning, one of my 16-year-old twin daughters walked into my bedroom as I was getting dressed. She cringed when she saw my half-dressed body and made a “blech” noise.

“Hey, that’s not very nice,” I said. “I have a great body.”

I said that. But honestly, I don’t always believe it. I want to speak the truth about my body, my God-given sexuality and my struggles to have womanly pride. The truth is, as a 50-something-year-old, I find all of these topics extremely difficult to discuss. However, I learned at a recent parenting workshop on sexuality that we have three options when discussing these difficult issues: lie, say nothing or be honest.

Fortunately for me and for you, this issue of response encourages option number three: honesty. We can be honest in our discussions on body pride. With this year’s spiritual growth study, The Bible and Human Sexuality, United Methodist Women shines a light on, what are for me, challenging and relevant topics, creating a safe and healthy space for sharing our beliefs, values and unique personal stories.

Let’s get real. Read Deaconess Amanda Mountain’s personal story, “In the Image of God,” which addresses dress codes, body shaming and victim blaming. You may remember an event from your own childhood or adolescence an act done to you that was not your fault, an act that left you ashamed or disempowered. Perhaps the curse of the “good girl syndrome” kept you from speaking up or seeking healing.

This resonates for me, as I was a girl who believed it was more important to go along with boys’ desires than confront their entitlement or find my own. There are times I still refuse to seek help or call out injustice when I certainly need to do so. I take heart and courage from the women mentioned in Paul Jeffrey’s “The Treasure of a Good Foundation.” The idea of a circle of support, which includes allies, resonated for me. We depend on one another.

After you get real and get inspired, it’s time to get ideas. Use M. Garlinda Burton’s Bible study, “The Word of God,” to guide you and your United Methodist Women circle into profound discussion and workshop activities on topics of sexuality and intimacy. Take heart from Ms. Burton’s words and begin by “asserting that sexuality is a part of who we are as God’s creation and that sexual behavior is natural—even good for us—in the right context.”

As you talk about love and intimacy, do not be seduced by Hollywood movies with scripts that say the only route to happiness is through romantic love. Life holds many joys, including volunteerism. Yes, get happy. Tupou Seini Kelemeni writes about her happiness journey in “Finding Happiness in God.” She finds happiness in her beloved grandchildren.

I suppose my children, even my daughter who shudders when she comes upon me half-dressed, is part of my recipe for happiness too.

Because I want to leave my daughters with a legacy of body pride and frank sexual discussions, I will share this issue of response with them. I invite you, too, to share this issue with a daughter or granddaughter or friend. I believe we will all have much to talk about. Consider using the article by Stephanie Greiner, “You Are That Temple,” to compose an affirmation to close your discussion. I choose this: I make decisions about my body and my sexuality based on what I want—not only on what someone else wants.

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