response: March/April 2019 Issue

Responsively Yours: A Record of Courage

Responsively Yours: A Record of Courage
Barbie Schmenner (left) visits with Harriett Jane Olson as part of the Ubuntu Day of Service during Assembly 2018.

Why do we celebrate anniversaries, anyway? In our personal experience, it’s a way to say “thank you” or “we made it” or “where has the time gone?” It’s an opportunity to express appreciation. For organizations it is this as well, and it is also an opportunity to tell stories, to share about who we are and to see the connections between what we’ve done, experienced and attempted and what we are working on today. We curate and shape our story every time we tell it.

It’s also a chance to bring others into the story, to bring new generations and friends into the circle and create memories together, and we celebrate anniversaries as a way to recommit to the future. It may be through fundraising campaigns or “friend raising” events at which new people learn about the organization and are offered the opportunity to participate.

Anniversaries are also a reminder to us of our core principles. For United Methodist Women, these include our love of God, our Purpose and our commitment to women, children and youth. Our history has always involved serving people in need, representing God’s love and advocating for change in systems and policies that exclude or marginalize.

This year in United Methodist Women we are telling our stories—from long ago and from last week—about how we have responded to God’s call. We are looking not just at our activities but also at the impact on communities around the corner and around the world. We are looking at a century and a half of change, after change, after change.

We do run some risk of telling the story of United Methodist Women’s history as if it were a smooth string of successes, accomplished by a single-minded group of women in perfect alignment about what to do and how to do it. Of course, we know that’s not true, that constant effort was required, that there was opposition and that, like us, our foremothers sometimes made mistakes. We know that there was never enough money and never enough workers. We also know that they persisted, as we must do today. The mission field is huge, and the challenges are many.

However, as we look back we also see a record of courage that inspires us. We see women courageously responding to God’s call, even to roles that were questioned by society and by the church. We see units and branches, conferences and districts resolutely supporting the mission work that grabbed their heart. We see women coming together for prayer, study and strength, and we know this because their joint efforts accomplished much more than they could have imagined when they began.

Our story is a story of quiet, strategic work behind the scenes, preparing, studying, investing in training and education, mentoring and supporting one another. It is also the outward facing work of raising funds, submitting petitions, working for legislation, volunteering locally, producing resources, challenging church and society to allow women to take their rightful place and tending to the needs of the marginalized.

United Methodist Women, it is time to celebrate! It’s time to internalize the strength of our history and recommit to our core principles as we follow God’s call to extend our sisterhood, to serve others and advocate for women, children and youth. Let us be as courageous as the women before us and move into the future full of commitment, determination and joy. 

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 3/6/2019 12:00:00 AM