Response: October 2016 Issue

Young Women Become Limitless

Young United Methodist Women members grow in spirit and mission in the New York Conference.

Young Women Become Limitless
Brielle Maynard attends the United Methodist Women Limitless event “A Virtuous Woman” for young women and mentors in Brooklyn, New York.

It was standing room only. More than 100 United Methodist Women members and friends from all over the New York metropolitan region flocked to the Vanderveer Park United Methodist Church in Brooklyn, New York, in spring 2016, for a celebratory worship inspired by Limitless, the United Methodist Women young women's movement initiated in 2012 at the Limitless: Redefine Tomorrow event at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

The young women leaders of the Brooklyn celebration, a part of the Long Island West District, organized a showcase on the theme of "A Virtuous Woman," inspired by Proverbs 31:25-26: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." Vice President Janyce Hunt had the theme saved in her notes application on her phone for years.

"If we don't use this theme now, then when?" reported Ms. Shanae Als, president of the Long Island West Limitless.

Above and beyond

"Limitless means we go above and beyond. We cannot be limited," said Ms. Hunt.

The spirit-filled service included liturgical dance, music, dramatic Bible reading, African drumming, marching with flags and spoken word poetry. The young people laughed, gasped and cried. Keren Charnelle Ennette, spoken word artist and seventh grade math teacher, delivered original poetry, riffing on the theme "There's Blood in the Water."

"As a Christian, you believe that water is cleansing, so, too, blood, when mixed with water, is cleansing," said Ms. Ennette. "It is our blood — a healing, a cleansing from our tears, our wounds. Blood and tears are our body's way of cleansing itself."

Ms. Ennette felt her poetry suited the Limitless cause — to raise $2,500 to benefit the New York City chapter of Days for Girls International, a volunteer organization that empowers young women with the dignity to attend school while menstruating. Days for Girls estimates that young women may lose five days of schooling every month because they lack necessary sanitary pads. Days for Girls works to end the shaming of young women regarding the natural process of menstruating. Limitless laid a foundation for their financial goal that afternoon in Brooklyn and met their goal at the Northeast Jurisdictional United Methodist Women meeting in Syracuse, New York (a meeting at which 19-year-old Denise-Nicole Stone from Western Pennsylvania was elected director).

Flexible leadership and mentoring

Ms. Hunt and Ms. Als are among the nontraditional district officers of Limitless. They communicate and plan events via SMS texts or e-mail. When they need to include more officers or members on the discussion, they send a group chat. Their texts are saved and archived automatically, which helps them document their meetings. The circle is flexible in its leadership. The treasurer is a financial advisor, and the communications and program resources officer is a branding and marketing specialist.

Ms. Als holds a master's degree in public administration and works for the U.S. Census Bureau. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area but has maintained her commitment to her district Limitless community. She loves the mentors who have inspired her, and she treasures the multigenerational legacy of United Methodist Women, Ms. Als laughs, calling herself "an old soul."

One of Ms. Als' mentors is her Sunday school teacher Joann McClam, member nurture and outreach coordinator for the New York Conference United Methodist Women, who attended "A Virtuous Woman" in her Sunday finery, bedecked in purple hat and dress. Ms. McClam has known Ms. Hunt, 25, since she taught her in school. Ms. Hunt has been involved in United Methodist Women since she was 6 years old.

It is important to Ms. Hunt and the Limitless leadership team to reach out to young women before they leave for college.

"We lose a lot [of members] when they start college. So let's build a strong foundation," said Ms. Als.

Before the Long Island West group was known as Limitless, they were organized as Rise Up, Young Women! and Teen, College and Young Women. By calling themselves Limitless, they realized they could access funds and women mentors from the New York Conference in new ways. The Limitless group includes women between the ages of 14 and 40.

The Limitless agenda intends nothing short of a future where girls are educated, women can provide for their families and the cycle of poverty is broken, paving the way for female leaders of today, tomorrow and the future.

"We young women want to be a part. We want to do," Ms. Hunt said. "We love mission work. We want to make a change."

Mary Beth Coudal is a writer and teacher in New York City and frequent contributor to response.


Posted or updated: 10/1/2016 11:00:00 PM

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