Responsively Yours: Prayer, Purpose, Presence, Power

Responsively Yours: Prayer, Purpose, Presence, Power
General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson addresses attendees of the New England Conference United Methodist Women 150th anniversary celebration

As I look at United Methodist Women’s history, I have been noticing some common threads that tell us something about our DNA.

Prayer. United Methodist Women and our predecessors have always been women of prayer. We pray for ourselves as we grow in Christ through challenges and joys, and we pray for our sisters. We pray about needs and injustices in our own community and nation and in places around the world. We pray for guidance as we seek to follow God’s direction for how our organization should respond. We pray for those who serve. Prayer is a hallmark of United Methodist Women’s predecessors, and it is integral to who we are today and to who we are becoming.

Purpose. Our predecessors didn’t use the same words as we do in our Purpose to describe their work, but the movement of women organized for mission has always been purposeful. The 1869 Boston meeting resolved to respond to the needs of women and children in India. The Woman’s Home Missionary Association organized to address the needs of formerly enslaved women and their children. The women who organized deaconess and missionary training schools worked purposefully to strengthen and equip the women who were responding to God’s call for service. Focusing on the purpose for the work spurs us to move in new ways and with new connections to follow God’s call.

Presence. The women went. Teachers, medical professionals, administrators, leaders and women with a willingness to work in many different capacities offered themselves for service. They built relationships with communities in the United States and around the world. Thousands of women supporting the work identified with it through the letters and articles by those who were deployed that filled our magazines and booklets.

This aspect of “presence” was severed by the Agreements of 1964, which assigned administration of the work that the women had built (including the deaconess office) to the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church. Although we continued to fund the work, not being present with each other was painful and undermined the work in many places. We have been building a new connection through regional missionaries for the past 20 years and for the past 10 years have been forming new bonds of presence with our work in the United States. At the Boston 150th anniversary celebration on March 23, General Secretary Thomas Kemper said, significantly, “We acknowledge and repent of the harm done to women and to women’s work in the 1964 reorganization” and the patriarchy that was at its root. New forms of being present in the communities where we serve is an important aspect of how our organization will move forward in the years to come.

Power. The combination of these aspects of our history with sacrificial and consistent giving and the amazing women and children with whom we work in communities has led to an impact that only God could have imagined. The power that comes from knowing oneself to be loved by God and the support of an amazing sisterhood following God’s call has crossed more boundaries and reached more people than our histories will ever be able to tell.

May the needs of our day, the persistence of our sisters in prayer, presence and power and the call of God move us into the next 150 years of mission service.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 5/3/2019 12:00:00 AM