Bright Lights (July 2016)

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Sierra Leone News : UMC Women Break Silence on Violation of the Rights of Women and Girls
United Methodist Women members in Sierra Leone take a stand for women’s rights.

Blodgett Announces Candidacy
Local United Methodist Women president Cari Blodgett  to run for the Illinois House of Representatives for District 91.

Parade Marshal Dedicated to the Community’s Youth
United Methodist Women member Mary Baker serves as Fourth of July parade marshal in Columbus, Wisconsin.

Telling Our Story Through Recipes
Cookbook Island Born and Bred compiled by the Harkers Island United Methodist Women in Harkers Island, North Carolina, also shares the history and legacy of the community.

United Methodist Women Serves Up an American Tradition
United Methodist Women in Pawhusak, Oklahoma, serve apple pie during the town’s Fourth of July celebration.

Tomorrow Center Thanks Volunteers
Tomorrow Center in Edison, Ohio, thank the United Methodist Women at Edison United Methodist Church for their support and volunteering.

Church Member Spotlight: Colin and Vicki Howerton
United Methodist Women member Vicki Howerton and her husband Colin are honored by First United Methodist Church in Madison, Florida.

Pacific Northwest United Methodist Women Collect 262 Quilts for Those in Need
The United Methodist Women of the Pacific Northwest Conference collect quilts at annual conference to be distributed to different ministries in the conference’s six districts.

Mercer Homecoming to Feature Something for Everyone
United Methodist Women in Mercer, Missouri, host country store at Mercer Homecoming in Mercer, Missouri.

Harambee Youth Conference Draws More Than 180 to Claflin
United Methodist Women award scholarships at Harambee Youth Conference hosted by Black Methodists for Church Renewal at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

South Jersey Praise Fest Set for Saturday
United Methodist Women at Central United Methodist Church in Linwood, New Jersey, host bake sale at church’s South Jersey Praise Fest.

Columbus Methodist to Hold Annual Peach Festival
United Methodist Women at Columbus United Methodist Church in Columbus, North Carolina, host peach festival fundraiser for mission.

Fundraising Race Set for Saturday in Tishomingo
Stevy’s Run to help support the school supply drive organized by United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

Some Women in Morrow County Lack Permanent Home
United Methodist Women at Trinity United Methodist Church in Mount Gilead, Ohio, host community lunch and forum on local homelessness.

Methodist Church Celebrates Preschool Director Retirement
Community honors retirement of United Methodist Women member and longtime preschool director Diane Blanton Bargeron. She and the United Methodist Women at Tifton First United Methodist Church in Tifton, Georgia, founded the much-needed preschool.

Zion United Methodist Women
United Methodist Women at Zion United Methodist Church in Hiawatha, Kansas, use Prayer Calendar and response magazine at their meeting and enjoy brunch and a Bible study.

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How to Use This Issue (July/August 2017)

Bethlehem Center

A teacher rocks a baby in one of the early childhood development programs at Bethlehem Center, a United Methodist Women-supported national mission institution in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Jim West)

A recent segment of CBS Sunday Morning featured Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and cofounder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, speaking about a cause dear to her: assisting women. Gates had to sell her husband on her new focus. “He thought women’s issues … were ‘soft’ issues,” she said. “Now, it’s a priority for him.”

United Methodist Women members know that women’s issues are not “soft” issues. They deserve serious attention. We know that empowering women has positive ripple effects that benefit families and communities. We must continue to enlighten the world.

Jesus lived a life of service and encouraged those around him to do the same. In “Therefore Go With the Winds That Carry,” on pages 8-12, Regional Missionary Elmira Sellu points out how the directive “go” appears throughout Jesus’ ministry. Going forth to improve the lives of the disadvantaged is what United Methodist Women is about, and we must continue to “leave our comfort zones and go out to make a difference in this hurting world.” Think about how you as an individual, unit or conference have made a difference, then think of ways to go further in mission. What would it require?

Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence report that nearly 20 people are physically abused by a partner every minute in the United States. Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are victimized most. “Providing Shelter in Vermont,” on pages 18-22, tells how Vermont District United Methodist Women, through Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter, are providing a haven to women and children. Some safe houses accept gently used women’s and children’s clothes, bed sheets and towels. Identify one in your area or a national mission institution and arrange for your group or church to make donations or volunteer in ways the organization needs.

The rate of gentrification in cities across the country is displacing low-income residents and hindering access to resources. Such is the case in Charlotte, North Carolina, where United Methodist Women-supported Bethlehem Center has been a resource since 1940. “Support for a Changing Community,” on pages 24-29, tells how the center continues vital work in the face of change. The current presidential administration’s plan to cut $10.6 billion from the education budget means the end of a host of programs that serve students in need. How can we help children succeed academically? Encourage your group members to learn about educational disparities in your area and brainstorm some ways to address it, from homework help to school supply drives to advocating for funding for education programs.

The Maasai of Kenya have maintained 400-year-old culture, but industrialization is now disrupting their way of life. “A Foundation of Hope for Maasai Women,” on pages 30 to 36, describes how one foundation is training the women with skills to give them more agency within their society.

In “Our One Great Big Beautiful Biblical God” on pages 38 to 39, the Rev. Leigh Goodrich offers an interesting perspective on our language for God. Expanding it, she says, can be a liberating step in our spiritual journey. Give it a try!

reponse will resume in September. Until then have a happy, safe summer.

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Message From The President (July/August 2017)

What Do You Choose?

You have a choice. You can choose to be busy. You can choose to make time. You choose. Life is choices. Life is priorities. We are inundated with choices every day. So, what do you choose? What is important to you? Where does your faith guide you?

I choose to follow Christ and an all-loving God. I remember being a young adult, living on my own for the first time after college and going church shopping. I found my faith growing with a forgiving God who knows I will make mistakes. I am human and seek to be like Jesus Christ, accepting the grace that he gave with his life. As United Methodists, we believe human beings need to be in relationship with God and with one another. All humans can be in a relationship with God.

United Methodist Women members are laywomen (and clergy, ex officio) of The United Methodist Church and partners committed to growing as disciples of Jesus Christ in community with other women and advocating on behalf of women, children and youth around the world. We as United Methodist Women, both individually and as members of the community of faith, strive to grow spiritually. We learn and are open to others in order be faithful to our calling to God’s mission in the world.

We have choices to make in the life of The United Methodist Church. We are a part of the church and part of the larger community. Just as in our own local churches, a united church can hold diverse viewpoints without causing harm to people. Unity does not mean ignoring our disagreements, but it cannot mean silence for those hurt by the church.

You bring understandings from your ongoing effort to live as Christians in the complexities of a secular world. During this time of discernment within our global church, let us utilize our theological guidelines of scripture, tradition, experience and reason. As we pray for guidance for our church leaders, let us pray with the faith, hope and love for one another.

United Methodist Women, we are action. Once our hearts are opened to the suffering of God’s children, we do not turn away. Our church is working hard to find a way forward. Through prayer and conversation, with an open heart and mind, let us be open to new ways of being the church.

United Methodist Women are faith, hope and love in action. Be intentional with your faith, your hope, your love and your action. Choose your faith and watch it grow. Pray with God and be in relationship with others. The world needs women organized for mission.

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Bright Lights (June 2017)

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HAND IT ON: Beverly Hammond on Behalf of Women Making a Difference
United Methodist Women member Beverly Hammond in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, recognized for her service to the community.

United Methodist Women Make Donation
United Methodist Women at First United Methodist of Three Rivers, Michigan, offer donation to local food pantry.

Girl Scouts of Troop 1707 Earn Bronze Awards
United Methodist Women in Franklin, Virginia, support local Girl Scout troop.

Elensky Named Grampian’s “Citizen of the Year”
United Methodist Women member Elaine Elensky named Citizen of the Year in Grampian, Pennsylvania.

Annual Luncheon and Fashion Show Fundraiser
The United Methodist Women of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Ocean City, New Jersey, host luncheon and fashion show to raise funds for mission.

Church Ladies Share Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Recipes
United Methodist Women at Arcadia United Methodist Church in Arcadia, South Carolina, share recipes from new cookbook.

Thomas Honored on 100th Birthday
Bertha Thomas, United Methodist Women member Whitaker’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, honored on her 100th birthday.

Help Sought for School Supplies for Emporians
United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in Emporia, Kansas, support school supply drive for local schools.

Methodist Women Announce Bunco Bash
United Methodist Women at Community United Methodist Church in Fairfield, California, host game night fundraiser for mission.

Grace United Methodist Church Names Scholarship Winners
United Methodist Women at Grace United Methodist Church in North August, Georgia, award scholarships to 12 students.

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From the Editor (July/August 2017)

I was baptized United Methodist and baptized my son United Methodist. I was married in a United Methodist church and went to a college with United Methodist ties. From Sunday school to youth group to youth leader to annual conference delegate to volunteer camp counselor to member of my conference’s young adult ministry, communications commission and board of ordained ministry—The United Methodist Church has been a big part of my life. Now I am blessed to work for one of its agencies and to share the work of its women organized for mission, a job opening I was alerted to by a new friend in—you guessed it—a United Methodist church I’d begun attending after moving to New York City. I love this Church. I care deeply about its future.

I have a feeling this church is important to many of you, too. Keep the church in your heart and prayers by joining the church in Praying Our Way Forward, offering prayers for guidance as a bishops’ commission comes up with some ideas for how our church can avoid schism in the face of seemingly insurmountable differences. I’m not asking you to pray for the discontented to remain silent. I am asking you to pray for us to follow Christ’s model of love and bravery as we come together, united, to be the Church for the transformation of the world.

I am white, married, college-educated, a U.S. citizen, earn a living wage and live in a state that believes in funding social programs and supporting women’s health. I live with privilege others don’t. But even I still need this church. And the world needs us to be God’s church.

One of our denomination’s greatest strengths is its worldwide connection and even its diversity of opinion (when shared out of love). These are things worth praying and fighting for. Learn more at UMC.org/who-we-are/commission-on-a-way-forward and UMCPrays.org. The church needs your faith, hope and love in action.

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How To Use This Issue (June 2017)

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Sheelove Ferdinand, 23, plugs cables into a computer during computer hardware class at ODEMIHF in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo © Nile Sprague.

Living in New York, I am constantly reminded of the plight of the poor because they are all around me. I encounter panhandlers most days, and two men’s shelters are less than a mile from my home. I’ve seen men and women, both young and old, camped out on busy streets holding handmade signs asking for help. One night as I waited for a subway train, the doors of a train going in the opposite direction opened and revealed several homeless people riding aimlessly to escape winter’s chill.

Current budget proposals at the federal government level eliminate or reduce support of many social programs that assist the vulnerable. As women of faith, we must continue to advocate for the vulnerable and work to destroy the myths and falsehood that demonize “the other.” But for the grace of God go any of us, no matter how secure we presently feel. The work we do remains very necessary, as the articles you’re about to read attest.

In this issue we continue to explore the spiritual growth study Living As a Covenant Community. “Covenant Living With God and Community,” on pages 8 to 12, looks at the role of deaconesses and home missioners. Use the study questions at the end to contemplate what you feel called to do to put faith, hope and love into action.
Pastor and professor Henri Nouwen considered flexibility a virtue. “It means moving a little with the winds of the time while remaining solidly anchored in the ground,” he wrote. Bethlehem Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, puts that virtue into practice, as Jessica Brodie reports in “A Solid Foundation” on pages 19 to 23.

For “Empowering Women Through Technology” on pages 27 to 34, photojournalist Nile Sprague traveled to the Dominican Republic and met young women who are gaining valuable computer training through a nonprofit organization that supports Haitian immigrants. With computers and smartphones so commonplace, it’s easy to assume that everyone is connected. But a Pew Research Center study reports people of lower income are being left behind in a digitally dependent world. Make the digital divide a meeting topic in your group.

United Methodist Women has historical roots in the Red Bird region of Kentucky. Today, the Red Bird Missionary Conference very actively serves nine counties in the region and preserves their legacy by getting youth involved in their activities. Is this something you could do as well? Read about them in “United Methodist Women in the Red Bird Missionary Conference” on pages 36 to 37.

The case of Freddie Gray, a young man who died of injuries suffered in police custody, exposed the stark racial and socioeconomic contrasts that exist in Baltimore. But “Charm City” began to erode long before his death. Decades of urban flight coupled with the loss of thousands of jobs when its steel plant closed in 2003 have contributed to the city’s high rate of poverty. “Manna House,” on pages 38 to 41, tells the story of a Baltimore institution that’s been feeding the community since the 1970s and now offers additional resources to help improve their lives. Encourage members of your unit or church to volunteer at a soup kitchen, pantry or national mission institution throughout the year.

 

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Message From the President (June 2017)

Learning to Transform Lives

We are called to live together. As Christians we are meant to live with one another. Our faith calls us to build community in Christ, not by standing alone but by working alongside those we serve. Editor Tara Barnes writes in this month’s LEARN intro, “We can’t avoid discomfort. It’s what Jesus calls us to, for on the other side is deeper knowledge, understanding and love. In the discomfort is community. In the discomfort is God.” And in the LIVE intro, “Being part of United Methodist Women means the opportunity to change the world and yourself for the better through spiritual growth, leadership development, transformative education and service and advocacy.”

We are called as Christians to learn and transform in our faith. Utilize the resources available to you. This is why Mission u exists. As we enter the summer months, Mission u events are happening around the country. Thinking back to my first Mission u and the many since, I see transformation happening in the lives of the women attending. For me, Mission u is learning that the world is bigger than your own backyard. It is not enough to just learn and understand—Mission u empowers and implores us to take what we learn and share it with others. Mission u works provides the tools necessary to take the lessons back to your local unit or district. How many of us were nervous the first time we used Mission u for a local program? This supportive community will not judge you but instead help you develop your leadership skills so that the next time you are less nervous to stand up and present.

United Methodist Women knows education is important. Just reading the mission studies can be transformative. United Methodist Women also offers the resources to dig deeper into priority issues and partnerships through our Reading Program. There is a reason one of our first missionaries was a teacher—to empower women through education. Today, many of our grants and international mission partnerships support education for women, because when you educate one woman, you educate a village.

As a woman of faith, how do you grow? I know I need to learn and try new things. I need to identify difference and celebrate it through community in Christ. I know I need the fellowship of community, because I believe Jesus did not want us to work alone. It is community that keeps United Methodist Women moving forward. It is the purpose of community that has moved United Methodist Women through 150 years.
Psalm 46:5 says, “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day” (NIV). I love this Bible verse for many reasons. I find it comforting, because this verse does not say she is on her own or that she is alone. God gives us the strength to build community, to educate and transform our faith. God gives me United Methodist Women and the tools to succeed. This year, as you register and plan for Mission u, think about how you will use the tools God is giving you. I stand beside you as you grow and transform in your faith. I am your community.

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