How to Use This Issue (July/August 2016)

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As summer arrives I am finishing my first year as a teacher of middle and high school students. It has not been easy, and I have discovered I have a lot to learn. It is thanks to my connection to United Methodist Women that I took this career risk-knowing that I love learning, children and collaboration.

In our society, especially during the election season when it seems the loudest and most outrageous voices are the ones most frequently heard, how do we value collaboration? How do we cultivate the still, silent voices of consensus and community building? How do we keep our own identities when we collaborate? And what does collaboration mean for us as United Methodist Women members? Read this issue for examples of members of United Methodist Women sharing their true selves, collaborating and adding to the common good.

I was drawn to the idea of “To Share and to Receive” in which language coordinators shared their stories at the Voices event in Nashville earlier this year. Women developed strategies and challenges for inviting non-English speakers into a majority English speaking context. How and with whom do I collaborate? Do I invite only those who speak the same language or have the same socioeconomic background as myself? I know that by participating over the years in Mission u, I have become open to new language speakers, thus making new friends.

United Methodist Women members seek to understand one another across generational divides. For more on this kind of collaboration, look at Beryl Goldberg’s “Every Monday.” Like me, you may be moved by the story of Logan, 10, living out a legacy to his great-grandmother as he volunteers at the Every Monday Thrift Store in Burlington, Vermont. We teach our children through our examples. Just as my mother struggled for justice in her time, I, too, hope to model social justice for my daughters.

Summer is a great time to share our unique United Methodist Women stories with the local media. The women of United Methodist Women of Wesley United Methodist Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, along with their Muslim and Unitarian Universalist neighbors did just that with their multifaith educational event. Be inspired by their radical welcome in “For the Healing of Our Nation.”

In this election season, get involved in the democratic process by registering your neighbors to vote. Read Richard Lord’s article, “The Right to Vote,” and take a lesson from the Baltimore-Washington Conference United Methodist Women members, who see voter registration as a key component in combatting systemic racism.

Throughout this issue and all issues of response, look for and celebrate the ways United Methodist Women collaborate. For I believe the people who are most radical in our midst are not the ones on the fringes of our political parties and religions. The truly amazing and trailblazing women are the ones who include all at the table. It is what I am trying to do as a teacher. And I learned it from the women of United Methodist Women—hard-working, spirit-based, kindhearted and smart. They collaborate, cooperate and build consensus, invaluable skills that do not always come easily but are much needed in our individualistic society.

 

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From the President (July/August 2016)

Full of Possibilities

I can remember attending my first School of Christian Mission in Warrenburg, Missouri, hosted by Missouri West Conference United Methodist Women. I loved (and still love) learning and engaging with like-minded women whose purpose is to know God and experience freedom as whole persons. I thought after graduating college I would be done with college dorms—but they became a welcome School of Christian Mission (now Mission u) tradition.

What has always amazed me with United Methodist Women is the timing of our studies. We have a finger of the pulse of the world. Being able to bring clarity and insight to justice, advocacy and service issues that affect women, children and youth gives me hope. We keep our mission and vision in mind when we plan, knowing the unlimited possibilities that may grow from attending Mission u.

I love to hear in my travels what conferences are trying something new. Some have expanded the Mission u location from one central location to two locations so those who can’t travel far still have an opportunity to participate. Mission u has something for everyone, including pastors, who can obtain continuing education credits. We have several study leaders who are pastors.

Mission u not only allows for you to grow in mind, body and soul but offers a chance to share life experiences in a supportive environment. We are truly blessed by the study writers, leader’s guide writers and study leaders.

One of my greatest joys was being a regional school youth study leader. I sat in amazement at all the behind-the-scenes-training and preparation that takes place for a spiritual encounter with God from start to finish at Mission u. I was blessed to work with the Rev. Barbara Ross from West Ohio as we collaborated on youth study book on prayer.
I am thrilled about this year’s studies and am looking forward to reading, sharing and gaining new perspective on what God is calling us to do as United Methodist Women at this summer’s events. If you are unable to attend, consider sponsoring a first-timer or young adult to experience transformational education.

I know several people who get excited about Mission u, but no one more than my godson, and my mentor Edith Triplet has set an example of being in love with Mission u and showing that it is a family affair. Be bold like Brenda Sylvan from my church, who took me to my first School of Christian Mission in the late 1980s. I am challenging you to bring a friend, buy a study book, contribute to supplies or offer a gas card for travel. I am so blessed by the many years of being on the deans’ team and training event team and attending Mission u.

Treat yourself to a world of possibilities by attending Mission u. United Methodist Women is once again on the cutting edge of sharing insights and knowledge that will allow us to turn faith, hope and love into action on behalf of women, children and youth around the world today and for years to come.

YVETTE KIM RICHARDS
President
United Methodist Women

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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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