Response: February 2015 Issue

Responsively Yours: Relationships - a Key Layer of Mission

Responsively Yours: Relationships - a Key Layer of Mission

United Methodist Women's work has many layers. We don't just want to be a group of women who get to know one another in deep ways, who stretch our thinking and our theologizing as we read response, engage in the Reading Program and participate in spiritual growth activities. We also want to be a group of people who act on what we learn. This involves not just the risk of new knowledge, but it also involves the risk of examining our own actions and patterns and then acting differently.

The changes we make are different for each of us. Some of the changes are personal—perhaps recycling more, perhaps driving less or ridesharing more often, praying and reading with the Prayer Calendar every day, thinking differently about the strangers in our town or about how women are referenced in the news. Some of the changes we make will involve things that we do together. We make plans to reach out to new people, or strengthen the work of a national mission institution or some other organization serving women, children and youth. We experiment with new ways of learning so that our meetings are fresh and engaging. We come together to work on issues that are important to how women, children and youth are equipped to flourish in the world today.

One of the things that is complicated about bringing new knowledge and growing faith to the things that we do together is that these things have to be talked through. We need to invite others to journey with us, and know that they too are in their own processes of learning and growing. Sharing what we learn, asking questions together, sharpening our ideas by engaging with a team to test and refine them can be challenging processes, but they are essential to creating the shared commitment to mission service and justice advocacy that helps United Methodist Women tackle difficult issues and make significant contributions.

Another layer of engagement is that our work is "with" people at the margins—not just "for" them. We are working with organizations of people who have undocumented family members. We are engaging with women, children and youth at our national mission institutions. We participate in Ubuntu journeys with Methodist and United Methodist sisters around the world as they engage with the needs in their own places. Our regional missionaries are not sent to lead or manage particular service institutions like hospitals and schools but to provide training, support and accompaniment for women in mission around the world. This aspect of working "with" others has long been a feature of United Methodist Women's work, and it may be the part that is most critical for long-term effect.

Our learning can help us to see differently, and our desire to be of service can make us inclined to "jump right in," but our learning can also help us to listen and evaluate. The NGO (non-governmental organizations) world, just like our own history, is littered with examples of seemingly obvious approaches to addressing complex problems that have not worked out as intended. We are helped in our efforts by working with people within the context of a community—not just folks with a one-size-fits all solution or study that doesn't take into consideration the impact of hunger, poor education or corruption on the lives of women and children in our own neighborhoods or on the other side of the world.

Building relationships helps us to engage in work that, over time, tackles oppressive systems and supports the efforts of women, children and youth to make their world, and ours, a better place. Thank God that we are in it together! May we keep learning and leaning forward as part of God's beloved creation.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 2/6/2015 11:00:00 PM
response: February 2015