Bright Lights (December 2016)

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At Age 80, She Sings Hymns to Seniors and Spreads Joy With Her Dog, Pickles
United Methodist Women member Judy Gross and her therapy dog visit residents at a local assisted living center every week through a ministry program with Memorial United Methodist Church in Clovis, California.

A ‘Santa Operation’: United Methodist Women Bring Christmas to Neighborhood Services Organization
United Methodist Women members from across Oklahoma help United Methodist Women-supported Neighborhood Services Organization help bring Christmas to families served by the national mission institution.

Voices of Conscience: Jo Wainright, Retired Teacher, Still Loves School
Jo Wainright, president of United Methodist Women at Harbor United Methodist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, continues to volunteer at local elementary school.

Bank of Cheer Brings a Christmas Boost to 200 Families
Multiple United Methodist Women groups help Christmas arrive early for around 200 Eastern Shore of Virginia families with Bank of Cheer outreach.

United Methodist Women’s Christmas Tea Offers Sweet Treats and Sounds
United Methodist Women at Fort Morgan United Methodist Church in Fort Morgan, Colorado, host Christmas Tea.

How Bazaar!
United Methodist Women at Harrisburg First United Methodist Church in Harrisburg, Illinois, host 81st annual holiday bazaar.

Angel Tree Donations Needed. Poteau First United Methodist Women Help
United Methodist Women at Poteau First United Methodist Church in Poteau, Oklahoma, help LeFlore County Youth Services reach its outreach goals.

The Gift of Warmth: Volunteers From Local Church Make Blankets for Entire Elementary School
United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in Temple, Texas, make blankets for elementary school students.

Cookie, Candy Walk a Tasty Holiday Tradition
United Methodist Women at Memorial United Methodist Church in Farmington, Missouri, host annual cookie and candy walk.

FUMC Alternative Gift Fair Benefits Local, Global Mission
United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in Stephenville, Texas, host luncheon at alternative gift fair.

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How to Use This Issue (December 2016)

I like to observe how advertisers attempt to reach us as consumers, particularly during the run-up to the Christmas holiday season when television commercials, radio spots and store circulars are especially persistent. No longer are we being sold simply on the merits of a product; we’re now being offered a “brand experience”in exchange for our loyalty.

Marketers also like to lump us into categories that they’ve created—soccer moms, blue collar, urban, conservative, college educated (or not)—for the purpose of defining our character and values. Distilling our lifestyle habits into niche groups may work for selling goods and services, but it never speaks to all that we are or our potential. For that, we have our faith.

Every issue of response is a testament to all that we are and what we are capable of when we come together in the name of God, and this one is no exception.

It’s a fact that in the Bible women aren’t present to the extent that men are. Most who are mentioned are nameless and their contributions in general are underrepresented. But as our opener “Learn: When Woman Lead” on page 7, and subsequent article “Wise, Faithful, Courageous and Resourceful” on pages 8 to 11 remind us woman were present, serving as leaders, serving children and youth and faithfully serving God regardless of recognition or validation. May we always be inspired by their selfless example to continue putting hope, faith and love into action to our fullest potential.

Whether you’re a Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Gen-Xer or Millennial, Mission u is a space where all coexist and learn from each other while growing in Christ. In “Mission u Lifts Past, Present and Future” on page 16, Tamica Smith-Jeuitt recounts one such Mission u where the oldest member in attendance was 94, and the youngest was 13. Read what they and others got out of their spirited weekend. How do you cultivate intergenerational interaction your unit or church?

In an address to religious leaders at last July’s International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, assistant secretary-general of the United Nations Luiz Loures gave a stark warning about who the current AIDS epidemic is affecting disproportionally: “the ones you faith leaders care most about, the ones left behind and the last and least in your society.” In “Faith Meets Aids ” on pages 18 to 25, Paul Jeffrey reports on that very gathering and the ways that various church leaders in are addressing the stigmatized communities of this disease. December 1 is World AIDS Day. Visit AIDS.gov for ideas on how you, your church or conference can take action to raise AIDS awareness.

Our Reading Program helps members stay abreast of the religious and social issues and causes we care about. For what we’ll be reading next year, check out “The 20117 United Methodist Women Reading Program,” on pages 26 to 33.

It never hurts to have an admirer, especially one who’s followed us as an organization over many, many years. In “God’s Mighty Force for Good” on page 36-39, 97-year-old retired bishop John Wesley Hardt of Dallas reflects his history with our organization and how he never misses an opportunity to talk speak highly of us.

Since its launch in 2006, Ubuntu Journeys have given United Methodist Women members the opportunity to travel abroad to meet and serve alongside sisters in mission around the world. In “Building Community on the Border,” pages 40 to 41, United Methodist volunteer Kevin Schaner writes about the most recent journey to various points along the U.S.-Mexican border where she and seven United Methodist Women members worked alongside missionaries who offer food and comfort to refugees and immigrants.

And finally, as we think of the story of Mary giving birth to Jesus, “Act: Maternal and Child Health” on page 44 outlines 12 ways that United Methodist Women members can help mothers and children thrive. Have a happy and safe holiday.

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From the President (December 2016)

The Blessed Angels Sing

“It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the earth, to touch their harps of gold. “Peace on the earth, goodwill to men from heavens all gracious King!” the world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.”

One of my favorite Christmas carols was written during a time of strife and turmoil in the author’s life, Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876). The United States and the world were in a period of conflict, change and unease. With all the news we hear every day about the strife and turmoil around the world, I find comfort in the words of the angels. It is the message of the angels that told of Christ’s birth.

December is a busy time for most people. I am finishing up my year at work and planning for the next year. There are holiday parties, time shared with friends and family. It can be overwhelming when we think about the lesser, the outcast—so we don’t. We continue on with our hectic schedules and just try to get to Christmas. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is important to me at Christmas because it recognizes the world is not perfect, that we are troubled people and still God sent God’s son. The angels aren’t singing to the wealthy and happy—they are reminding us that there is hope.

And still their heavenly music floats, o’er all the weary world; above its sad and lowly plains, they bend on hovering wing. And ever o’er its Babel sounds, the blessed angels sing. I hear in this song a reminder to slow down, to look around and listen to the sounds of Christmas. We hear in the angel’s song that Christ is born. My hope is restored at Christmas, the promise of a savior, of a chance to start anew. The imagery of the night Christ was born, the message of the angels are reminders of the importance of faith, hope and love in action. The shepherds who first heard the angels’ news did not keep Christ’s coming to themselves; they told the world.

There are many voices constantly in our ears. This month, response features the United Methodist Women Reading Program. Books open us to new perspectives, to lives completely different from our own, held together by a common thread: hope and faith in Christ. As we prepare for the coming of the Christ, prepare for new experiences just by opening a book. Through the business of the season, take many moments to slow down and read something new, pass a book on to a friend or share a story at your local meeting.

This holiday season, I encourage you to hear the voices of the season. Re-listen to your favorite carol and learn about the times in which it was written. Hear your favorite sounds with a different perspective. Read the stories of the women and children in the program to expand your own vision of the world and what Christ brings to your life. Share the good news that Christ is born.

Merry Christmas, dear sisters in Christ. May the light of the world shine in your heart and in your life. 

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From the Editor (December 2016)

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This December issue of response once again features the United Methodist Women Reading Program list. Within it you’ll find books to help you grow spiritually, develop as leaders, nurture community, commit to action and transform yourselves through education. Don’t be surprised if you’re, well, surprised by some of the books included. This year’s list features such diverse offerings as a comic book on wage theft to a theological exploration of our deadly gun culture to a discussion of Genesis by a United Methodist active in the denomination’s small, conservative reactionary groups.

United Methodist Women welcomes all, as the church should welcome all. We are stronger not with one voice that dictates but with multiple voices that inform, hold us accountable and include different contexts, experiences and understandings. The beloved community is not prescriptive. The body of Christ is made up of many parts. What that body must do together is make the world a place in which all thrive, especially the marginalized, whom Jesus loved, dignified and trusted. When God’s love is our guide, even differences are an asset. Diversity is a gift from God that we should not squander, especially in God’s name. United Methodist Women lives into this. For this and many reasons I am proud to be a member of United Methodist Women organized to make our church and world better for women, children and youth.

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How to Use This Issue (November 2016)

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So Much Trouble in the World” is the title of a song by reggae great Bob Marley. Lately, it has been playing in my head a lot. That’s because every time I hear a tragic news report and think, “What else could possibly happen?” inevitably something worse occurs.

Bomb attacks, like mass shootings, are something we contend with. Unethical practices by the heads of banking and pharmaceutical companies put the financial and physical well-being of many at risk. The police killings of unarmed black men across the country have become a regular occurrence. Rampant xenophobia is making the plight of migrants and refugees particularly precarious. And the list goes on, leaving me feeling a bit overwhelmed and anxious.

So much trouble in the world can easily be considered a lament on the state of things, but it can also be a call to action. Acknowledge the problems, and then address them—but don’t go it alone. Form community. This issue of response is a reminder of what can be accomplished when we work together as God’s community.

In the Bible study “Love As God Loves: Building the Beloved Community,” Carol Barton recounts the plight of migrants and refugees devalued based on circumstances out of their control. She reminds us that as followers of Christ that we cannot adhere to negative stereotypes—we must love others as we love God. Thanksgiving is a time when we think of those less fortunate, donating to food pantries and volunteering to serve community dinners. What other ways can you bring God’s love to those in need?

The young women of Limitless are learning about the power of God’s community. In “Young United Methodist Women Stay Strong in Christ,” Limitless members and mentors from South Carolina share what they get out of being a part of the dynamic organization and their hopes for its future. Another group of young United Methodist Women are becoming environmental activists as members of the New Generation Climate Justice Pilot Program 2016. Read “New Generations for Climate Justice” to find out what they are learning and how they are connecting with others.

United Methodist Women is part of the global community of women working on behalf of women. This past September United Methodist Women participated in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, an annual meeting to promote women’s rights and empowerment and gender equality. Anissa New-Walker shares her experience at this powerful summit in “Empowering Women.”

Finally, in “Care on the Margins” Nile Sprague reports on the very necessary health services International Child Care is providing for children and women in Haiti. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and is still recovering from the devastating earthquake of 2010 and more recently Hurricane Matthew, with a death toll still counting at the time of this writing. As we keep our mission and missionaries in our prayers, let us be especially mindful of the hardships that Haiti continues to endure.

This Thanksgiving, as we gather with family and friends and give thanks for our blessings large and small, let’s think about the enduring ways in which we can continue to put faith, hope and love into action.

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Right relationships 

As Native American Heritage Month closes and Advent begins, learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery with the documentary “The Doctrine of Discovery: In the Name of Christ.”

This 43-minute film features the history of the Doctrine of Discovery and its basis in Christian theology and scripture, what it means to the live the doctrine and how we work to undo it. 

In the documentary you’ll hear again from Sarah Augustine, contributor of the article “The Ongoing Harm of the Doctrine of Discovery” from the October issue. 

Take time to build right relationships as we prepare for the birth of the Prince of Peace.

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From the President (November 2016)

Face to Our Faith

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
—Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

It is a month of thanksgiving, in many ways, for many reasons. This month, as we prepare for our U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving, and as United Methodist Women members for the World Thank Offering, remember all you have to be thankful for. I encourage you to remember God’s abundance in your life and share it.

I have to cross two sets of railroad tracks to go from my house to downtown Indianapolis for work. One morning I was stopped by a train. I put the car into park and counted my blessings waiting for the train to pass. Each and every United Methodist Women member was included in that list. I may not know you by name, but we share a faith and a call to mission, and for that I am thankful. I use the railroad tracks every day to become more intentional in my giving thanks to God.

I received a call from a college friend the other day. We hadn’t really talked much over the past two years. We follow each other on Facebook and will “like” each other’s posts, but this friend reached out to talk and reconnect. She is truly a blessing. Make these calls, make these connections.

This month, celebrate the joys of your life and share them with others. Use this time of thanksgiving to reach out to old friends, family and neighbors.

The World Thank Offering is an opportunity for individuals to respond to God’s abundance and grace with spontaneous gifts of gratitude. The funds collected are used in the total program of mission carried on through United Methodist Women’s national office in the United States and around the world. The World Thank Offering gives a face to our faith. It is hope and love in action.

Take this month to put your faith, hope and love into action with others. Share with the people you celebrate about the glory of God in your life. Let your gifts of gratitude multiply by including others, through your local unit or your church. Embrace others in your giving and show the impact that every gift makes for mission around the United States and around the world.

SHANNON PRIDDY
President
United Methodist Women

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