Press Release

United Methodist Women Act for Justice at National Seminar

#UMWomenNatSem Wrap Up

United Methodist Women Act for Justice at National Seminar
Participants made prayer flags reflecting their commitment to the advocacy work that will continue long after the event has ended

In worship, workshops, site visits and actions across the city, United Methodist Women members put feet on their prayers at "Interrupting Indifference: Jesus, Justice and Joy," the quadrennial National Seminar at the University of Illinois in Chicago July 29-August 2. About 200 women attended the training for social justice action that focused on climate change, economic injustice, mass incarceration, and maternal and child health.

"These four issues are relevant to the context of the local communities and also our nation," said Sung-ok Lee, head of United Methodist Women's Christian social action section. "Developing skills and new insights as persons of faith empowers us to take action in our communities as a collective. This is transformative education for action."

Pre-event webinars helped introduce participants to the focus issues and expanded the National Seminar experience to other off-site learners.

Each day of the event opened with Bible study and plenaries on the focus issues. A presentation on maternal stress and low-birth weight babies (see related story in News ) prompted the participants to organize an action in solidarity with local physicians and the community to protest the proposed closing of the neonatal unit at a Cook County Hospital during the facility's board meeting.

After two days of workshops and plenaries on the focus issues and small group and organizing skills building sessions, the women divided into three groups and set out for a day of planned site visits and actions across the city of Chicago. One group visited Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and toured an area being transformed from a brownfield of abandoned industrial sites into community gardens and sustainable enterprises. A second group met with members of ARISE Chicago, Restaurant Opportunities Centers of Chicago and Chicago Housekeepers, all representatives of low-income workers struggling for living wages, benefits and dignity. A third group visited Gallery 400, a not-for-profit art gallery featuring an exhibit by artists responding to social, political and economic conditions in Chicago, including police violence, the dehumanizing of imprisoned people, home foreclosures and "zombie" properties.

The women reunited at Hartzell Memorial/St. James United Methodist Church for a Community Renewal Society public accountability meeting designed to get invited local politicians to commit to the faith-based organization's restorative justice campaign and police accountability platform. Among other things, the community organization asked local aldermen to increase funds for incarceration prevention and re-entry support programs for people released from jail. The assembled group prayed in unison with outstretched hands out toward politicians who refused to commit the restorative justice demands, asking "that God transform your heart and bend your mind toward justice."

"I've been enlightened," said Katrina Ortega of Asbury United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a participant in National Seminar. "I didn't know about imprisonment or that African American women are at greater risk of losing a pregnancy or having low-birth weight babies. That really surprised me. I learned at National Seminar that we can make a change in the world if we want to."

Ms. Ortega was among the National Seminar participants who protested the proposed closing of the neonatal unit at Cook County Hospital, and she also testified at that hearing.

Celebrating 150 years in mission, United Methodist Women is an 800,000-member organization of women committed to putting faith, hope and love into action. Members raise more than $15 million annually to support ministries empowering women, children and youth. Its programs foster spiritual growth, leadership development, justice and peace.

Posted or updated: 8/1/2015 11:00:00 PM
Link to National Seminar Page: Make a Difference

United Methodist Women Communications

Yvette Moore
212-870-3822; cell: 347-743-7027