UMW observes 140 years of mission
BY LINDA WORTHINGTON
As nearly 120 members of the United Methodist Women from all eight districts gathered at Lexington Park UMC for their annual meeting, they began the service by lighting a candle of unity.
The candle had been made from chips from candles of each district, melted together and formed into one. In this first year of living into the district realignment of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, it served as a reminder of their oneness of spirit and purpose and
Picking up on the study of last summer's School of Christian Mission, the theme was "Who's at the Table?"
Edith Williams, the conference president of the UMW, announced that even with the economic stresses of the times, the organization had fulfilled its 2008 pledge, which included more than $305,000 to the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, for
mission and ministry with women and children throughout the world.
Bishop John R. Schol preached on "United Methodist Women: Who is at the Table after 140 Years in Mission?"
He briefly reviewed the long history of mission support by predecessor denominations up to today's United Methodist.
"Many problems faced by women at the turn of the century have reemerged," he said, citing
public education, equality, fair wages, child welfare, world peace and immigration, all issues with which the United Methodist Women continue to struggle.
"What the UMW has done in mission has helped shape the denomination," Schol said.
Answering "Who's at the Table?", the bishop said, "We call it radical hospitality." And today our society and culture "have limited or reduced our hospitality to Martha Stewart, Better Homes & Gardens and home design TV shows."
But hospitality goes much deeper, he said. "It begins on the inside."
Bishop Schol told of his eighth-grade experience of inviting home to lunch the seven black students who were bussed to his school, where he always walked home for lunch.
"My parents were Christian and accepted all kinds of people - all were welcome in our house." It was what was on the inside.
"But what's on the inside doesn't count for much if you don't do something on the outside," he said. "Unless we meet people where they are, the table won't change."
But how does one accomplish this change?
- "Inventory your table," the bishop advised. Look around your church, ask, how does it reflect us and how can we make it look more like the Kingdom of God?
- "Set the table" and make sure it's welcoming. Make sure the ushers are friendly so that everybody who comes through the door says, "This is where I want to be."
- "Serve the table." In the Body of Christ, we've taken a pledge to serve all who come to the table, Schol said.
United Methodist Women have served the table all around the world throughout its almost 140 years, said the bishop, who specifically mentioned deaconesses, Sibley Hospital in Washington and the
Susannah Wesley House in Baltimore as examples of hospitality.
Many of the UMW missions and ministries were spotlighted as representatives of each district came forward to place on a vertical standing table a "plate" with a brief description of projects supported. These included:
- Seeds of Hope in Cambodia,
- Wesley House Community,
- Chicago Interfaith Center with low-wage workers,
- a public education campaign,
- outreach to the area's immigrant community,
- environmental justice at Clark University,
- international health missions in Brazil, Barundi, Haiti, Nigeria and Vietnam, and
- regional missionaries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The last plate was for "children and families" supported through the Women's Division. On each plate was listed the tens of thousands of dollars the UMW contributed to the mission's support.
Beverly Schol led the installation of the officers for 2010 and Bishop Schol led the concluding commissioning and Communion service.
Following the morning business meeting, the officers provided leadership training in nearly a dozen classes for the 2010 district officers.