COLUMBUS, Ohio (May 24, 2018) -- For the past 150 years, the United Methodist Women have been in action. They celebrated their anniversary this past weekend at their assembly with the theme “The Power of Bold.”
The organization’s goal during the May 18-20 event was to inspire women of faith to be strong leaders in their communities and teach them about opportunities in their churches and around the world to share God’s love.
More than 6,000 total participated in the event, including 53 from Holston Conference. Bishop Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor, resident bishop of Holston, was among 10 episcopal leaders who presided over a service of Holy Communion during closing worship.
The first day started with an elaborate show with women dressed up on stilts. Others carried banners with each conference’s name, while several women, wearing their cultural dress, sang and danced toward the stage.
“This was my first assembly, and I was in awe of my surroundings as I walked into the conference center and viewed the end result of what had to be hours and months of precise planning and dedication to detail which translated into a venue which enabled each individual to share the theme of 'The Power of Bold’ in numerous ways,” said Lisa Black of Valley View United Methodist Church in Clinton, Tennessee.
“The atmosphere of unity was electric and enabled me to fellowship, worship, attend workshops, meal time, photo time with thousands of women who represented the vast number of conferences in attendance will be a forever memory,” Black said. “I was blessed with the opportunity to be engaged in all of the above as well as learn from the topics discussed by the dynamic speakers and authors who had relevant insight into issues that are near and dear to the hearts of United Methodist Women.”
The three-day assembly started with the consecration of deaconesses who vowed to serve the church with love, justice, and service. The act was used as an example of how women of the church can be called by God and how the United Methodist Women support them.
Representing Holston Conference, Corrina Sisk-Casson was consecrated during the ceremony. Sisk-Casson, a member of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Tennessee, will be commissioned during the Holston Annual Conference on June 12.
Lori Sluder, a member at St. Mark's United Methodist Church, Louisville, Tennessee, said that United Methodist Women is an empowering organization.
“It gives women the opportunity to step out and be the hands and feet of Christ in their community and around the world,” Sluder said. “The ministry that is done within United Methodist Women is important and it makes a difference in the lives of God’s people in the world.”
The assembly featured prominent guest speakers. Michelle Alexander is a legal scholar and civil-rights litigator. She spoke about mass incarceration. She was on stage in a discussion with Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, who has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans. Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee discussed women’s rights around the world.
Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist. She discussed climate change and the importance of taking care of our resources. Linda Sarsour talked about criminal justice reform. Harriet Jane Olson, UMW chief executive officer, gave insights about the organization’s future goals.
Although Sluder has been a UMW member since 1988, this is her second assembly to attend.
“It was a wonderful experience to be at Assembly with women from around the world,” she said. “Assembly to me fulfills the purpose of United Methodist Women of being a community of women whose purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative, supportive fellowship; and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church.”
Black reflected on women who gathered together to form the United Methodist Women 150 years ago.
“I think that the small group of women who began this organization in 1869 had the vision to respond to a need and with that response committed to mission work in visible ways which encouraged other women to want to be a part of this valuable ministry,” she said. “United Methodist Women is the largest denominational faith organization for women with approximately 800,000 members. Of those 800,000 members, Holston conference is represented by 9,297.”
Assembly is held every four years. The next one will be held in 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Child care and scholarships are available for women to attend. In the meantime, faithful women are encouraged to join their local church United Methodist Women’s group.
“Our mission emphasis is to provide opportunities and resources to grow spiritually, become more deeply rooted in Christ, and put faith into action,” said Black. “We are organized for growth with flexible structures leading to effective witness and action. We equip women and girls in our neighborhoods and around the world to be leaders in communities, agencies, workplaces, governments and churches, and we provide educational experiences that lead to a personal change in order to transform the world.”
For more information, visit UnitedMethodistWomen.org.
Corrina Sisk-Casson is a deaconess who is based in the Three Rivers District, serving in the Holston Conference.
Women act on faith, 'pass out grace' (UMNS, 5.18.18)
United Methodist Women urged to boldly change world (UMNS, 5.20.18)
Preacher, pianist prevail over cancer in time for UMW event (The Call, 11.1.15)
Corrina Sisk-Casson is a Home Deaconess Missioner based in the Three Rivers District.