From the Editor (December 2017)

My favorite Christmastime hymn is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” It sums up for me the longing and the focus of Advent: Come peace, come joy. Come God, be with us. We prepare for the birth of Christ, who brings peace and joy and is Emmanuel, God with us.

The song comes from the “O Antiphons,” Gregorian Latin chants sung each day of the week leading up to Christmas Eve. Each chant calls out to Christ using different names given him in Scripture—O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O King of Nations, O Emmanuel. The O Antiphons originated in the 8th century (and possibly before) and were popular during the Middle Ages. The English translation we sing today is thanks to Anglican priest and scholar John Mason Neale, who found and translated the chant in the early 19th century. Composer Thomas Helmore then paired the translation with a 15th century processional anthem for French Franciscan nuns called Veni Emmanuel, and its popularity grew—including appearing as hymn 211 in The United Methodist Hymnal.

The chants and the now-hymn rely heavily on Isaiah, which is also where the lectionary points us for the first Sunday of Advent, to Isaiah 64:1-9. “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence,” states the first verse. Sometimes our yearning for Emmanuel is this palpable. I feel it distinctly at Advent, with the long nights and bare trees and cold fingers, in this world in which we must spend precious time arguing the existence of privilege and of racist and misogynist systems when we should be using our time working together to change them. During Advent the sorrow feels a little deeper, perhaps because the joy promised in the coming Christ feels a little closer. It’s not always comfort that brings us closer to God. So embrace this time of yearning for Emmanuel, and prepare to be bearers of joy as we work to be God’s agents of peace. God is with us—it’s up to us to follow God’s lead. Merry Christmas.

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How to Use This Issue

 

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Campers and counselors hang out in the yard at North Rampart Community Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. The center is a United Methodist Women-supported national mission institution. (Photo: Betty Backstrom)

Discovery. Innovation. Tradition. Steadfastness. These words describe innumerable ways in which United Methodist Women members work to change the world. They also speak specifically to the efforts highlighted in this month’s issue.

Randie Clawson discovered United Methodist Women after joining an Ubuntu Journey as part of her post-retirement plan to give back. “I was United Methodist and a woman,” but, she says, “I didn’t know yet about the national organization.” In “My United Methodist Women Journey,” on pages 16 to 20, Clawson gives a first-person account of going from mission volunteer to social action leader with revelatory moments along the way. How has belonging to United Methodist Women changed you? Share with your group how you became a United Methodist Women member.

Dharmsinh Desai Memorial Methodist Institute of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery (DDMM) provides innovative care to a rural part of India where culture can clash with modern medicine. In “The Incredible Heart Hospital,” on pages 22 to 26, Jane Schreibman reports on programs the hospital launched to encourage people to become healthier. Just having access to information can empower people to take better care of themselves. As a group, partner with local health agencies to remind church members about the importance of regular screenings for preventing and treating disease.
In the early 1900s, the Woman’s Society of Christian Service set out to establish community centers in high poverty areas throughout the country. North Rampart Community Center is one that remains essential to New Orleans residents who rely on it for education and recreation. Betty Backstrom’s “Fostering Well-Being” on pages 27 to 30 looks at the center’s current initiatives and ways that United Methodist Women members throughout Louisiana Conference support this institution. Take time this month to celebrate the longtime work your local United Methodist Women has done for the church and community.

Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season—who doesn’t like a bargain? But before you hit the stores, consider points raised in “Corporations and Social Responsibility” on pages 36 to 38. Big business affects our lives significantly, say writers Robert Emerick and Ralph Gomor, because their billions give them significant political clout. The retail industry is notorious for unfair wages and scheduling practices that leave workers in limbo. As we continue to make income inequality a priority in our advocacy, strive to be an informed consumer and investor to help dismantle this type of exploitation and urge your shopping buddies to do the same.

“In Ministry As a Native American,” on pages 40 to 41, is the Rev. Tweedy Sombrero Navarrete’s frank account of the sexism and racism she’s faced as a church member, seminarian and pastor. Standing firmly in her faith and calling, she maintains, “I want people to know that the love of Christ is in all of us, no matter who we are or where we come from.”

This Thanksgiving, give to World Thank Offering and encourage your entire congregation to do the same by sharing the great work United Methodist Women does in a bulletin insert, an announcement in church or a special social hour after church. Have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving!

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Message From the President (November 2017)

Welcome the Stranger

To those in search of a savior, for those looking for a church home, United Methodist Women are called to welcome the stranger not just once but until they are no longer a stranger. To steal from a favorite movie: “Without hope or agenda, just because it’s Christmas (and at Christmas you tell the truth)—to me, you are perfect.” (I know Christmas is next month, but it fit the sentiment.) I have my own update to this quote: Without hope or agenda, just because I am a Christian (and Christians love unconditionally)—to me, you are perfect.

I am a member of the largest church I have ever attended. When I moved to Indianapolis and started looking for a church, I visited two. I chose the church where I was the welcomed stranger. I searched out United Methodist Women to find my niche in a big church. I found my pew, and even a pew friend or two, to sit with every Sunday. I created my home at North Church Indy. Once the stranger, I am now a member and leader within the church.

Each year we receive a Duke Divinity School intern for the summer to work with our pastoral staff. This summer, I introduced myself to our intern right away to set up a dinner for two reasons: I am the board chair, and because I am a United Methodist Women member. I purposely checked in with her every week. It took time for both of us to grow in understanding of each other. It is my hope that by being intentional in who I am as a United Methodist Women member, when Leandra, our intern, visits another church, she knows she can search out United Methodist Women to be welcomed in Christ’s name as a child of God.

Leandra was surprised to learn I was the president of the national United Methodist Women. Her only experience was with women much more seasoned than me. She may not be the only young person in our congregations who does not understand what United Methodist Women offers and the role we must play in church growth and development. We are called in our own churches to welcome the stranger, the young people who do not know United Methodist Women.

We are part of a global church. United Methodist Women has always welcomed the stranger through mission and giving. We are also part of the local church, where we see the stranger every day. The stranger may be the new mom attending church for her child to attend Sunday school. The stranger may be the retired teacher, a longtime member of the church, who loves to read. Invite the stranger to the amazing United Methodist Women’s Reading Program. The stranger may be that student home from her first semester at college who wants to talk with someone other than her parents about the challenges of independence. Are there opportunities for you to welcome the stranger in your church? Make them!

Everyone who passes through your life started as a stranger. Find the “strangers” in your own church and invite them in. Open your heart to listen for God’s calling to recognize the strangers in your church.

This season of thankfulness, grow in your faith by welcoming the stranger. She is closer than you think. She may even be a familiar face who just wants to be invited.

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From the Editor (November 2017)

One of my favorite words to become popular in recent years is “humblebrag.” The term describes a brag masked in humility, or boasting in a manner that seems self-deprecating. “I’m so bad at remembering to dust my Oscar,” would be an example. We’ve all been guilty of humblebragging at one time or another, and most of the time it’s harmless, even if cringeworthy. A term I’m less a fan of is “#blessed.” (The use of “#” here is intentional; in the age of social media this symbol is called a hashtag, and putting a hashtag in front of a word or phrase indicates you are speaking on that topic.) “#blessed” often gets used next to a photo of a new car or a vacation spot or gift, or with news of a job promotion or engagement or college acceptance or great haircut. Better terms in these instances would be #grateful, #hardwork #privileged, #access or #luck. We’ve come to call ourselves blessed when we’re really humblebragging.

But what does it mean to be blessed? Jesus had some thoughts. In Matthew 5: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Blessed are the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. In Luke 6: Blessed are you if you’re hungry, if you weep, if people hate, exclude, revile and defame you. “Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve,” says Paul in Romans 14, speaking of how once our actions hurt others to benefit ourselves we have stopped walking in love.

In this season of Thanksgiving, take time to reflect on the times when you felt closest to God and so were blessed—it was likely in a time of need, not necessarily after a great vacation or haircut. And when we find ourselves counting our privilege and access as blessings, let’s double our efforts to ensure our lives don’t harm others. I am thankful and grateful for this organization of women in which I am safe to grow and change and in so doing change the world. Happy Thanksgiving.

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How To Use This Issue (October 2017)

Caring for God's Creation Photo

Participants in a May 16 vigil for environmental justice at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon on #umwday. Sponsored by United Methodist Women, the vigil focused especially on struggles for clean water around the world. (Photo by Paul Jeffrey)

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about the various ways our environment is being threatened by pollution or global warming, both human-made conditions that we can correct. In recent decades, we’ve made tremendous progress toward cleaning up our act: recycling is now a common practice, and increasingly we’re talking about our carbon footprint—our habits and practices that impact the earth—and devising ways to reduce it.

Yet when we find ourselves up against naysayers who don’t believe scientific fact, or budget cuts that reduce or eliminate climate research or our current presidential administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, it’s enough to make even the most ardent environmental warriors among us weary and despairing. But we cannot give up. There’s no turning back because too much is at stake.
Retired United Methodist Bishop C. Joseph Sprague reminds us to stay the course in our Bible study “Hope Is the Thing” on pages 8 to 13. He likens today’s environmental justice movement to the civil rights movement of the 1960s: It requires “hope-filled, tough minds that will teach, confront, organize, debate and nonviolently resist.” Let’s start by addressing environmental assaults close to home. As a group, research industries and practices in your community and state that cause the most environmental harm and learn how you can advocate for better practices. Learn also about new renewable energy efforts and occupations that are changing the job sector and the way we consume energy for the better.

“Courageous” and “transformative” is how Carol Van Gorp describes United Methodist Women international mission partner Operation Hope in Nairobi. Her article, “Giving Hope,” on pages 19 to 21, tells how this community-based organization supports women and helps them thrive.

Scott’s Run Settlement House, a United Methodist Women-supported national mission institution, has assisted the needy since it opened in 1922 and has always maintained a food pantry. In “A Center of the Community” on pages 22 to 25, Richard Lord reports on how Scott’s Run has evolved with the times, remaining vital to the many it serves.

Our cover story “Opportunity for Action in Peru,” on pages 26 to 33, is about Proceso Kairos Peru, a Mission Giving-supported organization with fresh and progressive approaches for teaching women to become change agents in their communities.
As participants in United Methodist Women’s New Generations for Climate Justice program in 2016, Kayleigh Vickers, Kirsten Rumsey, Cassie Garcia and Kelly Schafer bonded over the issue of clean water access. Now as recipients of United Methodist Women’s Theressa Hoover Grant, they’re embarking on a three-state study on causes of unclean water. Learn more about their project in “The Unthinkable Undrinkable” on pages 36 to 37.

Don’t miss the opportunity to become a faith leader! Join us for Leadership Development Days in St. Louis, Missouri (November 10-12), or Tempe, Arizona (November 17-19). The deadline for registration is early this month: October 6. For more information, visit http://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/ldd or call (212) 870-3769.

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Message From the President (October 2017)

The Right to Breathe

The environment is in the news a lot this year and for many different reasons. President Trump announcing his intention to pursue U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreements seemed to “start” some of these conversations. There were record temperatures in the southwest of the United States in June. Even the creators of the television show Game of Thrones stated they had a hard time finding winter locations because of global warming.
When searching for a new job in Indianapolis a few years ago, my resumé ended up at a nonprofit organization that cares about trees, butterflies and people. Every day I work to educate people and raise money to plant more trees, bring back the pollinators that keep up our food chain and help communities thrive in the heart of urban sprawl. I can spout crazy facts about how greenspace is necessary for girls to make better choices in school and that neighborhoods with more trees have less crime.

Now, no matter how much of a “city person” or a “country person” you are, put down however you are reading this and go outside, just for a second or two. Find a tree and take a deep breath. How do you feel? As children of God, the Creator, nature was made for us to experience. All children of God deserve the right to breathe the breath of God through trees and greenspaces.

Climate justice is important because it means green for the least of these (see Matthew 25:31-46). We are called to restore God’s creation to a place of justice, challenged to see ourselves as capable leaders who can not only make a difference but also transform our world into one that seeks climate justice. When we perceive the earth as belonging to us to use, exploit and do with as we please, the earth’s ecosystems and the earth’s people suffer. Our greed, our desire for convenience, our overconsumption all cloud our vision, so it becomes much harder to focus on the common good. Our perceptions of the creation, the Creator and our role in creation are all very crucial in whether we contribute to climate injustice or to climate justice.

I don’t always feel like an advocate for the environment, but as children of God with a calling to follow Jesus Christ, we are all called to advocacy. Just as our walk in faith is different, advocating for the environment means something different for each of us. I don’t compost, but I prune and maintain my trees to keep them growing. I pay to have my recycling separated from the trash. I make changes to my retirement funds to make sure I am investing in pro-environment companies.

The leaves are changing, and it’s getting cooler here in Indiana. It’s my favorite time of year. Every year I am reminded of God’s blessings seen in the changing seasons. With each change I remember that it is up to me to care for my immediate environment and work for others who can’t.

It’s not too late to become an advocate for the environment, because we are already advocates for the Creator. As women of faith, we are called to work with and for women, youth and children around the world. We are called to protect our environment, one step at a time, and invite others to join us. Together we are bold agents of change around the world. Thank you!

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From the Editor (October 2017)

Over the summer United Methodist Women announced its fundraising goal for the Legacy Fund Endowment Campaign: $60 million. It’s an ambitious goal, but why not be ambitious in our expectations for the future? The world needs more ambitious women, especially those organized for mission.

“Ambitious” is rarely used as a positive term when referring to women. It’s an acceptable and expected attribute for men, but to call a woman ambitious is rarely done as a compliment. Yet most women I know who seek power do so not just to have power but to have power to make positive change, power that builds others up as well. United Methodist Women members harbor the ambitious belief that we can make the world one in which women and girls aren’t left behind. Our foremothers were ambitious as they raised funds and sent missionaries and built schools and showed the church the path to justice. They built a foundation to make sure such work continues, and we must do the same. Future United Methodist Women members and the women and communities that will be changed for the better will be supported by us thanks to the Legacy Fund.

We will give them power. We will fund their ambition. We will continue a legacy of faith, hope and love in action for another 150 years and beyond. The world won’t change until women have power in all places of church and society. And United Methodist Women will continue to lead in faith to make sure this happens. Honor our past and our future by giving to the Legacy Fund (www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/legacyfund). Honor yourselves and the amazing work you are doing together now to transform lives. May God bless your ambition.

#legacyfund #UMWLegacy #UMW150

 

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