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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From the President (May 2016)

All for One and One for All

Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And God will honor anyone who serves me.
—John 12:26 (NLT)

Excitement is in the air as we begin the second week of the  General Conference of The United Methodist Church. United Methodist Women is at General Conference in Portland, Oregon. I am delighted to be a part of our delegation, participating in the pre-conference with women Central Conference delegates—it’s a pleasure and joy to be with powerful, God-loving women from around the world. I will also be there as the first alternate for the magnificent Missouri Conference delegation.

Packing for these two weeks has proven interesting. I took one large suitcase for clothes and my carry-on for all of the General Conference literature! I did not forget my warm wrap and comfortable shoes. I am excited for all the extra walking points I will get on my Fitbit.

More than 1,000 General Conference resolutions and petitions are in for deliberation, and we have been reading, highlighting, tabbing in our efforts to ensure women, children and youth are protected and supported. We will have difficult decisions to make.

It is important to live by the words of Micah 6:8: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” We are the vessels of God’s work here on earth. As I prepared for this General Conference I was in my last weeks of my first semester at United Theological Seminary working toward my master’s degree in Christian ministries. I will see if I can put into practice some of the teachings I’ve already learned to discern if we are really working on building God’s kin-dom or on personal agendas. I pray that the Holy Spirit will stay high and surrounding all of us for the two weeks we are together (and then after).

Mark on your calendars for Monday, May 16, at 3:53 (PDT) [Editor’s note: TODAY!] to watch the United Methodist Women 150th celebration report on the floor of General Conference. I am bursting with pride to honor the women who laid this awesome and amazing foundation for us to carry forth into the 21st century and beyond. I hope you will also tune into the commissioning of our deaconesses and home missioners that same Monday at 8 a.m. (PDT). We are truly blessed to be United Methodist Women members witnessing God’s blessings firsthand.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the making of finger labyrinths for General Conference, from sharing the information, purchasing fabric or sewing, as we accomplished our finger labyrinth goal back in March! We know they have been prayed over. Now say some extra prayers for travel mercies along with the two weeks we will be in Portland.

Thank you, awesome and amazing United Methodist Women members, as you turn faith, hope and love into action for women, children and youth around the world. Glory to God as we are prepared to Make It Happen!

YVETTE KIM RICHARDS
President
United Methodist Women

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From the Editor (May 2016)

response May16 front cover

As you read this, delegates from around the world are arriving or have already arrived in Portland, Oregon, for the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church. I will be there, reporting on the important conference and gathering stories for a special issue of response dedicated to the event. Other United Methodist Women colleagues will be there, as staff, visitors and voting delegates. Your prayers are needed and felt.

General Conference is the top policymaking body of The United Methodist Church, which meets once every four years. The conference can revise church law as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for churchwide programs. Our Church, with United Methodist Women an important part of it, is a great force for justice and love when we allow the Holy Spirit to move us and not dig in our heels. At some point in our lives we’ve all likely ignored a nudge from the Spirit, or outright fought it, but we’ve confessed ourselves people of faith, followers of Jesus, and have thus promised to believe in God’s abundance and
God’s trust. All are worthy in God’s eyes. We are capable of Beloved Community. I hope this issue reminds you of all we can accomplish when we put faith, hope and love into action—together.

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Bright Lights (April 2016)

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Community Joins Together to Help Hampton Elementary
United Methodist Women at Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, host book distribution at local elementary school.

PUMC United Methodist Women Host Retirement Forum
United Methodist Women at Plattsburgh United Methodist Church in Plattsburgh, New York, host a senior forum on retirement.

Man, Woman, Youth of the Year Named at Pilot Club Civic Night
United Methodist Women member Denine Richey in Enterprise, Alabama, named Woman of the Year by Enterprise Pilot Club’s annual Civic Night.

Church Event Reaches Its 50th Anniversary
United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in Fremont, Nebraska, celebrate “Simply Golden” Spring Salad Luncheon.

Community Efforts Help Send Kids to Y Camp
United Methodist Women at Davidson United Methodist Church in Cornelius, North Carolina, help send youth to summer YMCA camp.

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How to Use This Issue (April 2016)

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When my kids were little, one of our favorite story collections was Frog and Toad. In one story, Toad receives seeds from Frog and is surprised when they don’t immediately grow.
Frog tells Toad, “Leave them alone for a few days. Let the sun shine on them, let the rain fall on them. Soon your seeds will start to grow.”

But Toad exhausts himself, yelling at the seeds, commanding them “Grow!” Eventually so tired of exerting himself, he dozes off. And, while he sleeps, the seeds poke through the earth.

“And now you will have a nice garden too,” Frog says.

“It was very hard work,” Toad says.

Are we a little like Toad? Working hard? Exhausting ourselves by yelling and encouraging growth and then finding things grow without us, or even in spite of us?

In this month’s issue you’ll find many calls encouraging us to grow. The topic of climate justice fits nicely with the month of April, a time for planting.

As you use this issue, use humor, as we did in this month’s Bible study, “What Is the Good Life?” a skit written by me and the Rev. Kathleen Stone. Follow up on this skit by watching the webinar from National Seminar at www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/climate-justice. Encourage your circle or unit to follow the 13 Steps to Sustainability found on that webpage.

Don’t forget to order the 2016 mission study Climate Justice: A Call to Hope and Action to prepare for this summer’s Mission u.  This resource, like all United Methodist Women resources, is not just for teachers and students at our beloved summer mission schools: every member should read and talk about the timely mission studies.

Get mad and get involved. Use healthy anger to build a coalition, like Beryl Thurman does on Staten Island. Read about her challenges in “Toxins from A to Z.” Learn as well from our international sisters and support their advocacy to improve the conditions of children, families and workers in “Latin America’s Struggle for Environmental Justice” by Paul Jeffrey. This is an eye-opening and in-depth look at how some profit from racism and exploitation in the extractive industries.

Celebrate Crossroads Urban Center, one of our nearly 100 mission institutions, which forges coalitions across many faiths (or no faiths) to improve its Salt Lake City, Utah, neighborhood when you read “Help and Change” by Jim West.

As we set out to grow our gardens of hope, remember the legacy of your own mothers. When I was little, my mother would talk to her beautiful jungle of houseplants. She believed a kind word couldn’t hurt. (The television show Mythbusters even confirmed that talking to plants may improve their growth.) Just as the first Earth Day in 1970 led to U.S. policy changes, including the Environmental Protection Agency, perhaps our love for God’s creation will foster fruits of environmental justice.

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From the President (April 2016)

Let’s Do Our Part

And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”
John 6:12 (ESV)

One of my lines at Assembly 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky, was to say “Be Just. Be Green,” but I kept messing it up, so they gave it to program advisory group member Meghan Waddle. I was given the word “composting.” I decided to intentionally look for composting stations and recycling centers as I traveled to see if and how others are making environmental difference and change.

I am glad to say my local United Methodist Women uses only glassware for all meals. My local president, Carolyn Celestine, is also the Missouri Conference United Methodist Women Be Just. Be Green chairperson. I do a little happy dance when I pass by a recycling center and see people using it correctly.

I also pay attention to ways different cities handle transportation. A cab I took in San Francisco had a sticker in the window that said “clean air vehicle.” The car was a hybrid and ran so smoothly I could not hear the engine.

While in San Francisco I found a restaurant with a composting station, where food was served on a metal tray and the liner was made from recycled paper. There was a large bin with the signs explaining how to dispose of your leftovers and trash. Not only did they have a recycling station but also a water station with large glass container of water as self-service.

I am a work in progress of making sure to go the extra distance to throw used items in the correct bins. I know if we continue to talk about and show the awesome value and benefits from Be Just. Be Green we can save our world and make it a livable place for all.

I was recently fascinated by a story of using a soccer ball to create energy. Jessica O. Matthews founded Uncharted Play, a new tech company focused on creating motion-based, off-grid renewable energy. The company has created the Sockket, a soccer ball that harnesses energy from being used that can be used later. I am excited to see what other ideas or discoveries are in the minds of the future generation and how can we help.
This is what I want you to focus on: How you can help. Get active in climate justice advocacy in your units, church and community. Consider being an advocate with the Be Just. Be Green Team. You would be surprised at all the things you can do to make a difference!

Look for ways to include the United Methodist Women 13 Steps to Sustainability in our daily lives so it becomes habit: www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/environment. Join in a better and brighter future. United Methodist Women makes a difference, so let’s do our part together.

YVETTE KIM RICHARDS
President
United Methodist Women

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From the Editor (April 2016)

response Apr16 front cover

This issue of response focuses on climate justice and supplements the 2016 United Methodist Women mission study Climate Justice: A Call to Hope and Action edited by Pat Watkins. In the cold of winter you’ve likely heard someone joke, “Where’s global warming when you need it?” For many years United Methodist Women has focused on global warming and, more accurately, climate change. You and I know climate change is not a joke. Melting glaciers, sea rise, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are all things we’ve seen in our lifetime. We’ve experienced droughts, species extinction, changes in agricultural success. Both natural and human factors can cause these changes, but human activity, it’s now abundantly clear, has intensified any natural patterns of climate change by our overreliance on fossil fuels coupled with deforestation.

Climate justice focuses on the communities most affected by the effects of climate change. Climate change disproportionately impacts those least responsible for its progression, those already marginalized and discriminated against. Heat waves, floods, storms, pollution prove a greater risk to those without resources of safe homes, health care or access to other services. The caretaking of God’s creation does not just involve respecting the earth but ensuring the well-being of all earth’s inhabitants.

I hope this issue inspires and empowers you to learn more about climate justice and the individual and collective actions you can take to be a true caretaker of all of
God’s creation.

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