300 United Methodist Women from Michigan are home from Assembly in Ohio. Here are their reports.
Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Conference
Three busses and dozens of cars carrying 300 United Methodist Women left Michigan on May 17 bound for Columbus, Ohio, the site of the 20th National UMW Assembly. “The Power of Bold” quadrennial event drew 6,000 women from around the globe. It was a multi-cultural, multi-generational experience.
Organizers promised that participants “will leave knowing how to create a community culture where all women feel fully welcomed, valued and empowered to unite for bold and courageous action.” Read a full account of the event here.
Assembly came to a close on May 20 and now those 300 women are back in the state ready to breathe new life into local UMW units from the new Heritage and Greater Southwest districts in the south to the Northern Skies District in the north.
MIconnect received comments and photos from a few Michigan Assembly-goers.
Grand Traverse District Superintendent Anita Hahn shepherded a group of 14, ten of whom were first-timers. “Our total group,” Anita reports, “consisted of five teens, two young adults, four young women, two middle-aged women, and my mom.” She adds, “Dear friends, moms and daughters, we were blessed by the experience!” Anita goes on to wonder, “What would Assembly 2022 look like if we all spent the next four years building relationships with women who we then sponsor to attend?” Assembly 2022 is set for May 20-22, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Anita speaks to the value of UMW Assembly. “Assembly allows us to reclaim the heart of God to love all God’s children.”
Jackie Euper has been active in Detroit Conference UMW for many years. It was a highlight of Assembly 2018 for Jackie to witness the consecration of deaconess Judith Pierre Okerson. Michigan has been blessed through the ministry of Judith’s daughter, Grace Okerson, who serves as a US-2 at the NOAH Project in Detroit. From Haiti, the Okerson family now lives in Florida. Always interested in Liberia, Jackie enjoyed the stories told by Leymah Gbowee, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient who raised her family of eight children during that nation’s war years. Jackie shares, “Her final plea to us was, ‘Dream boldly! Work boldly!’” It was also a special thrill to see Taylorie Bailey, a UMW Director from the Detroit Conference, go to the stage with UMW Executive Harriett Olson to introduce Leymah Gbowee.
An avid supporter of the UMW reading program living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Phyllis Jackson had read Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. So, she especially looked forward to Michelle Alexander’s presence at Assembly 2018. Phyllis explains, “The school-to-prison pipeline is a term used to describe how children and youth of color are re-routed by systems and institutions, funneled away from educational success and towards the criminal justice system.” In a Town Hall Phyllis heard Michelle Alexander describe the racial dimensions. African American students are three times more likely than white students to be suspended and expelled. Native American youth are held in juvenile detention facilities at three times the rate of white youth. “As United Methodist Women,” Phyllis observes, “We must continue to grow our mission leadership skills, working as school-to-prison pipeline interpreters. As people of faith we need to be at the forefront. Racism still goes on in many ways. If people of faith do not step up, who will?”
Diana Spitnale Miller traveled from Gladwin to participate in Assembly. She represented one of several three-generation family groups in attendance. Diana’s daughter, Elizabeth Miller Williams, and eight-year-old granddaughter, Eleanor, accompanied her to Columbus. This was Eleanor’s third Assembly! “We have been having a good time,” Diana says. “I’ve seen several Liberian friends and friends from North Central Jurisdiction days.” An officer of both conference and general church Archives and History, Diana’s favorite moment was sitting next to Barbara Campbell, former staff of Women’s Division and writer of several histories of predecessor women’s groups. “We have known each other in other times,” Diana adds. “It was an overwhelming experience that gave us lots to think about and choose to be part of. The Power of Bold was definitely emanating out to us,” she concludes.
Linda Darrow, President of West Michigan UMW, reports that the 300 Michigan women present in Columbus made up the second largest delegation. Linda valued the workshops, town halls, exhibits and presentations but also the in-between informal interactions. “Women talked and established new relationships and celebrated seeing old friends. What fun to run into friends from all over the country!” She found it hard to identify a particular highlight of the week-end. “All of the very creative worship times were amazing. All of the music was energizing. All of the key note speakers were inspirational. All of the stories that were shared were moving.” Linda understands, however, that the amazing the programming, music, speakers and information are not the goal. The take-home is of key importance. “Hopefully, everyone who attended Assembly came home encouraged to be bold and to speak up and speak out for all who are marginalized in our society.”
Many more photos and news may be found on the new Michigan United Methodist Women Facebook Page.