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Girls explore LeadHership at camp

August 1, 2018

By Melissa Lauber
UMConnection Staff

Nora Meeks, left, and Kennedi Jones were two of the campers who learned about leadership at West River Camp this summer. The camp featured guest speakers, including Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, the BWC’s first female bishop.
Nora Meeks, left, and Kennedi Jones were two of the campers who learned
about leadership at West River Camp this summer. The camp featured
guest speakers, including Bishop LaTrelle Easterling,the BWC’s first female bishop.

It was a week of LeaderHERship. The “hers” in question were 19 very diverse teenage girls, gathered from across the Baltimore-Washington Conference for a week of summer camp at West River, near Annapolis.

The girls – they admitted – reflected every good and bad stereotype you might imagine; they also shone with the light of Christ that could dazzle the world with possibility.

When they first gathered, “some of them were insecure and vulnerable.” But as the days passed, “they were changed – strong, coming into their voice,” said the Rev. Bonnie McCubbin, who created the camp and brought in three other strong women to serve with her as camp counselors.

National statistics indicate that these girls had a lot to feel insecure and vulnerable about.

  • Seven in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way.
  • One in four girls today fall into a clinical diagnosis – depression, eating disorders, cutting and other mental/emotional disorders.
  • 92 percent of girls believe anyone can acquire the skills of leadership, but only 21 percent believe they have the key qualities required to be a good leader.

In many ways, their feelings are justified. Within the U.S., only 34 women have ever served as a governor, as opposed to 2,319 men; only 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women; and in 2017, within The United Methodist Church, two constitutional amendments that sought to ensure women an equal place in the life, worship and governance of the church were defeated.

Strong leaders need to love who they are, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling shared with LeaderHership campers at West River.
Strong leaders need to love who they are, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling
shared with LeaderHership campers at West River.

During the afternoons at camp, the girls did all the normal camp things – playing on boats, paddle boarding on the river, climbing on the ropes course, playing camp games, singing camp songs, and joining in evening worship. The highlight, most of them said, was forming deep friendships.

During the morning, they participated in conversations with women leaders in the Conference, including T.C. Morrow, who works with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture; the Rev. Julie Wilson, chair of the BWC’s Church and Society ministries; and the Rev. Laura Norvell, a vice president at Wesley Seminary who shared insights into fundraising.

The purpose of these conversations, McCubbin said, was to give the girls exposure to ideas and skills so that they could go home with a “toolbox” to be leaders in their churches and schools.

One of the key tools in this toolbox came from Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, the first female bishop in the 234-year history of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, who shared with them the importance of self-acceptance.

“As you focus on what it means to be a leader, don’t ever be afraid to embrace how God created you. God created you the way you are for a reason. God has a plan for your life,” the bishop said.

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling with the LeadHERship campers at West River“We must learn to embrace who we are – uniquely, beautifully, every inch of ourselves. I know we live in a world that kind of makes that difficult, that makes us want to question who we are. So, the first thing a good, strong leader has to do is love who they are.”

The conversation moved on from there, as the girls posed questions to the bishop: How does she handle stress? What do you do if people you’re leading want something that’s not good for them? What made her want to be a bishop? What do you do when you’re nervous in front of people? How do you know for sure it’s God talking to you? How do you love yourself?

Together, in a circle, they became vulnerable and magnificent as they cried, embraced, questioned, planned and learned from one another.

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling embraces LeadHERship campers at West River“God doesn’t take you where God hasn’t prepared for you to go,” Bishop Easterling told the girls. “Each one of you has gifts inside of you that you don’t even know about yet. There are seeds planted in you that haven’t even blossomed yet because you haven’t had to call upon them. As you begin to live into the next thing God is calling for you to do, you just have to allow it to blossom, to grow, and allow God to use you. You learn to grow wherever you’re planted, you really do.”

After their time of getting to “dish with the Bish,” the girls practiced the song they were leading in worship that evening. As they sang “Every Praise is to Our God,” they changed the words: “Yes, She is,” they sang.

“God is Spirit,” the bishop told them. “If we are created in the image of God, there are aspects of God that are feminine. You need to know and believe that. … Lean into the wisdom God has for you.”

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