Bright Lights (February 2015)

Covered in Chocolat’
United Methodist Women at Destin United Methodist Church in Destin, Florida, host 12 annual Chocolat’ Fare.

Annual ‘Monkey Love’ Drive in Shelton Nets 1,800 Monkeys for Children
United Methodist Women in Connecticut crochet monkeys to help support successful local stuffed monkey drive.

Kloz 4 Kidz Helps Families in Marysville
United Methodist Women in Marysville, Washington, host Kloz 4 Kids thrift store offering clothing and shoes to underserved children in the community.

Litchfield United Methodist Church Dedicates Rainbow Banner 
United Methodist Women at Litchfield United Methodist Church in Litchfield, Connecticut, made a rainbow banner honoring  the congregation’s “commitment to the belief that all people are children of God, regardless of gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, faith history, economic status, education, sexual orientation, nationality, physical or mental ability or personal history.”

Breaking Free of Poverty: Over 100 People Have Completed Wilkes Circles of Care Program
United Methodist Women members in North Carolina contribute to community anti-poverty program.

Cape Coral United Methodist Church to Feature Retreat, World Day of Prayer Service
United Methodist Women at Cape Coral United Methodist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, host women’s retreat “How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by God.”

Beta Sigma Phi Sweethearts
Local United Methodist Women president in Anderson County, Texas, honors local United Methodist Women president Audrey Tatum at its Sweetheart Tea.

Seasonal Treats Keep Church Alive
Women at First United Methodist Church in Shickshinny, Pennsylvania, make chocolate eggs for successful church fundraiser.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Use This Issue (February 2015)

This issue goes to print not long after two grand juries chose not to send police officers Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo to trial for killing unarmed black men. Protesters across the country continue to rally not just in memory of Michael Brown and Eric Garner but for the worth of all black lives, calling for a national dialogue on the overpolicing and disproportionate incarceration rates of communities of color in the United States.

Yet instead of dialogue it seems we as a country have collectively decided to “pick sides,” making the argument about “police versus protesters.” After New York City police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were murdered by a deranged criminal from Baltimore, Maryland, in late December, New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch blamed the tragic killings on the mayor and protesters. This is both untrue and unhelpful. Believing police practices can be better is not the same as believing all police officers are bad.

February is Black History Month. United Methodist Women has a long history of standing up for racial justice both in the church and greater society. Demanding a world in which racial justice exists is not an “us versus them” battle but a heartfelt, faith-filled cry for a world in which all can thrive, and none at the expense of others. God loves white police officers in uniform and black men in hoodies equally.

Lent begins this year on Wednesday Feb. 15. The Rev. Sharon L. Vandegrift’s Bible study, “The Strength to Say Yes—or No” talks about temptation and focusing on our inner spiritual lives. This study is a good place to start this month, because the temptations it addresses go beyond chocolate—to greed, indifference, a belief that those different from us are inferior. Examine some of these temptations in a personal journal or with your United Methodist Women group. This Lent, what harmful individual and group practices can you work to stop? What positive practices can you begin? I pray your United Methodist Women group is a safe, supportive place to practice bravery.

As always, this issue is full of stories of how United Methodist Women members are making life better for women, children and youth around the world, but this Black History Month, this time of painful racial tension in the United States, perhaps the stories to spend some extra time with are “A Journey of Repentance” by The Rev. Glen Chebon Kernell  and “Freedom Schools Reach Out and Up” by M. Garlinda Burton. The first discusses the work of The United Methodist Church to acknowledge its historic and ongoing mistreatment of indigenous peoples, and the second shares the work of Freedom Schools, a six-week summer education program sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund for low-income public school children. Does your church or United Methodist Women group sponsor a Freedom School? Can you? Pair this issue with Reading Program books Dear White America and The New Jim Crow, to help understand the systems in place in our country that benefit some and hurt others, the systems that we will continue to work together to change.

Subscribe to response.

Posted in Black History Month, How to Use This Issue, Racial justice | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

From the President (February 2015)

February might be the shortest month of the year, but it’s filled with meaningful historical observances and opportunities for mission action. I can think of three ways of celebrating this month as United Methodist Women works for justice.

First, this issue of response arrives as United Methodist Women’s Super Bowl “Lets Huddle” campaign is in full gear. Use this opportunity to make your community more aware of human trafficking, how to recognize it and how to report it.

Our “Let’s Huddle” campaign reminds me of another woman in U.S. history who likewise used her heartbeat to make a way for those who needed a voice: Sojourner Truth. I can only imagine what Sojourner Truth was thinking when she gave her famous “Ain’t I a Woman” speech in which she proclaimed that she mattered, and as a child of God her heartbeat and voice mattered—and that she was going to work to ensure women’s issues mattered to everyone. She was a bold, God-fearing woman willing and able to fight for justice for women in the 1800s. Her pulse is one that carries me through when I hear the words no and can’t!

Second, February is the month when we celebrate Valentines Day! This is a time when couples, friends and groups share love with gifts of candies and flowers. In mission, Valentines Day can be every day as we support and engage through our national mission institutions, regional missionaries, Leadership Development Days, Mission u, Voices, Limitless and legislative events, just to name a few. Our pulse is racing when we know there is a need that United Methodist Women is ready and able to address. I get joy when I overhear a conversation in which someone is talking about what big giving hearts “those United Methodist Women ladies have.” Yes our pulse has been beating with love for women, children and youth around the world since God called us to this mission in 1869. I am not sure about you, but I get so excited and joyous getting ready for a United Methodist Women event because the love and fellowship is like none other. I don’t have to feel your pulse then, as it is written all over your face, your smile and cheerful eyes light up the world. So this month, take that warmth and show the world and church that United Methodist Women’s pulse is beating steady.

Third, this month “go red” for a day to raise the issue of heart health. As we move out in mission, let’s not ignore our own heart health. Make sure you schedule and show up for all of your wellness and health checkups. We are the ladies who will make sure everyone has a ride to the doctor, dentists or hospital, but we sometimes fail to make time for ourselves. You are God’s child and have many mission related events, gathering or workshops to attend or support, but let’s make taking care of our own health a priority as well.

So this month, check your pulse, and see if you are doing all you can do. Remember we are an organization that thinks outside the box to get the job done. Our heart is beating with faith, hope and love in action.

Subscribe to response.

Posted in From the President | Leave a comment

From the Editor (February 2015)

Feb15coverStories of people losing their faith in God in the face of an unbearable tragedy are painful to hear but really are not all that unusual. That’s why I was intrigued by Holly Burkhalter’s Good God, Lousy World and Me: The Improbable Journey of a Human Rights Activist From Unbelief to Faith, a 2015 Reading Program book that I’m now reading. Ms. Burkhalter was reared Christian, the granddaughter of Mennonite missionaries to India. The little faith that she still had after witnessing her grandfather’s death and grandmother’s subsequent mental breakdown was decimated when, as a human rights advocate, she witnessed the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 in which about 800,000 Tutsi women, children and men were killed by their Hutu neighbors. Ms. Burkhalter asked where was God when her faithful grandmother needed help or when a brutal genocide was underway? She stopped believing most of the time. The rest of the time she cussed out whatever deities might possibly exist.

No evangelical outreach campaign touched Ms. Burkhalter’s questions or curses. Rather, God used life, love and work with Christian human rights advocate friends to weave a lifeline of faith for Ms. Burkhalter.

Which brings us to United Methodist Women and this issue of response. Faith, hope, love in action is not just a tag line for United Methodist Women. They are the unique gifts we as United Methodist Women members, as Christians, bring to hands-on service and justice advocacy. Other service or advocacy organizations do many of the things that we do, some even more efficiently. But never underestimate God’s grace and power to transform lives—or weave lifelines of faith—that are lodged within your God-given gifts of faith, hope and love in action.

This issue of response comes as we enter the season of Lent. We pray this issue will help as you reflect on Jesus’ life, teachings and sacrifice and on how we are living out Christ’s call to discipleship through United Methodist Women.

Subscribe to response.

Posted in From the Editor | Leave a comment

Bright Lights (January 2015)

United Methodist Women Huddle to Beat Human Trafficking
The Bryan Times in Bryan, Ohio, shares how people can join United Methodist Women’s Intercept Human Trafficking campaign.

Stuffed Monkey Collection to Brighten Lives of Kids in Need
United Methodist Women in Ansonia, Connecticut, crochet and donate stuffed monkeys to to local stuffed monkey drive for Valentine’s Day.

Middlesettlements Elementary, St. Marks United Methodist Church Women’s Group Partner to Serve Students, Families
United Methodist Women in Louisville, Tennessee, host free lunch at local elementary school to support students and families.

Holiday Meals: Mesquite ISD Taps Community to Feed Homeless Students
United Methodist Women in Mesquite, Texas, donate socks and underwear to local homeless teens.

Windsor United Methodist Women Hold Festival of Faith
United Methodist Women at Windsor United Methodist Church in Des Moine, Iowa, hold multicultural music program to celebrate Advent.

Mandarin Methodist Women’s Group Celebrates 50 Years of Camaraderie, Mission
United Methodist Women at Mandarin United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, celebrates 5o years in mission with dinner and a fashion show highlighting different fashions of the past 50 years.

Campbells Honored by United Methodist Women
United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in Mountain Home, Arkansas, award Jim and Linda Campbell with Special Mission Recognition pins.

Ocean City Homes Toured for the Holidays
United Methodist Women in Ocean City, New Jersey, host Christmas house tours.

Posted in Bright Lights | Leave a comment

How to Use This Issue (January 2014)

doveHappy new year! The Christ child has come and with him a cry, a mandate, to change to world. This month we experience the Epiphany—Jesus is the son of God!

Living up to Christ’s charge is our past and our future as United Methodist Women. The mandate of Christ that all must be welcome at the table is our present mission to fulfill. As you may be able to tell from this issue’s cover, United Methodist Women is approaching its 150th anniversary, which we’ll celebrate in 2019.

150 years in mission in this constantly changing world is a pretty amazing accomplishment. Our foremothers laid the foundation—financially, spiritually and in some cases physically—for our mission work. It’s our turn to return the favor to future generations. We can do this with the Legacy Fund, an endowment to guarantee women the ability to put faith, hope and love into action for women, children and youth around the world for the next 150 years and beyond. Use this issue to learn more about the Legacy Fund, and share this issue with others.

Your task this month is to plan how you’ll contribute to the Legacy Fund. Maybe each member of your group will give $1.50 each month, or $150 as a group. Maybe a special fundraiser with the goal of $1,869 (in honor of our founding year, 1869)? Maybe a partnership with other United Methodist Women groups to raise $150,000 by 2019? Be creative—and ambitious! Our daughter’s daughters in your church and around the world thank you. Visit www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/legacyfund.

Every January we offer an index of the previous year’s articles and topics. Have a particular topic you plan to focus on in 2015? Need help determining your mission focuses for the upcoming year? The index can help you learn more about areas of interest and help you provide resources to engage others. Back issues can be ordered at www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/store.

Studies show more and more the importance of early childhood education, beginning when children are toddlers. When children can begin their education on solid footing they are better prepared to learn at all levels. At Moore Community House in Biloxi, Mississippi, a United Methodist Women related national mission institution, children are given high quality care and an education, beginning at infancy.

The earlier the “playing field” is leveled the better; education, opportunity and comfort should not be the privilege of the wealthy. Read “A Head Start” by Carol Burnett and see how your Mission Giving is at work.

In “Restoring Justice, Restoring Lives” Stephanie Greiner talks about finding generosity of spirit in a surprising place: prison. Punishment serves no purpose unless something is learned. The Missouri Department of Corrections works with inmates to help them serve their time and reenter society as changed and contributing citizens. In fact, some of the prayer shawls at Assembly 2014 came from incarcerated men and women in this program!

In your ongoing work toward being a radically welcoming church, “Disabilities Research Improving Lives” by Beryl Goldberg can supplement your reading of the 2014-2015 mission study The Church and People With Disabilities.

May 2015 bless you as you bless others. Now let’s get to work.

Subscribe to response.

Posted in 150th Anniversary, Disabilities, How to Use This Issue, National Mission Institutions | Leave a comment

From the President (January 2015)

Not Just a Pew Sitter

Moving into 2015 we must be ready more than ever to move outside of the walls of our churches and meeting rooms. In our spiritual journeys we will be tested and tried, but we all know God doesn’t put more on you than you can bear.

I have learned from my former pastor the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II that there is more to being a Christian than sitting in the pews. I live by that. It’s not always easy, but in order to complete God’s request that we put faith, hope and love into action, we must leave the pews of comfort and ease.

“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves,” says James 1:22.

We often get caught up in what we see others doing. God has not given us the spirit of fear but the spirit of strength to move against the tide and stand up for our marginalized neighbors. As a Christian and United Methodist Women member, I cannot understand why anyone would not want to help others who are hurting or in need. God calls us to such work. We find kindred spirits in fellow United Methodist Women members who share our passion for action. I often find myself in a non-United Methodist Women setting asking, Where is the action? What are we doing to address the issue?

Getting off the pews and out of the church building also leads to spiritual growth. It allows you to come closer to God and become a powerful witness. Others will ask, “What is going on in her journey?” Getting out into the world has allowed me to walk in a greater faith with a sense of boldness to go forward—sometimes without asking.

Don’t get me wrong; I love to be in service and worship at St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, being on the hospitality team, greeting those coming into the house of God. Worship is a magical time. But my real joy comes when I am volunteering in the community in service with others. I have been blessed to have traveled around the world to see women in action.

For 146 years United Methodist Women has been in action for women, children and youth around the world, ensuring a place at the table for all. We are happy for you to sit next to us in worship, but we are delighted to have you work side by side with us. There is no greater joy than to know your journey has impacted individuals, families and communities around the world, all because you decided you are not going to be just a pew sitter. United Methodist Women is proud to be a part of the transformation of all God’s people.

Subscribe to response.

Posted in From the President | Leave a comment