By Linda Worthington
As the sanctuary at Westphalia UMC in Upper Marlboro filled, a large screen slowly projected slides showing United Methodist Women’s initiatives and activities. Among them were pictures of human trafficking, racial justice, “All Lives Matter,” and an invitation to prayer.
Elizabeth Stemley, the president of the Baltimore-Washington Conference United Methodist Women, welcomed the 220 women and a few scattered men to its annual meeting October 28.
To remember the “ones who had gone before,” Rita Green, Spiritual Growth Coordinator, lit the Remembrance Candle that is used at the beginning of every UMW annual meeting. Audience members called out the names of their loved ones who had died in the past year.
The centerpiece of the day was Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, who spoke from James 1:22-25. This is a time to celebrate a sense of accomplishment, she said.
But that’s not the goal of the UMW, she said. The job isn’t done yet.
That “job” includes an active prayer life, telling God “Here I am, Lord,” she said. When Christ came, he preached, offered salvation, offered himself, and this was all done, not by oneself, but in community.
“Ours is not a solitary life,” the bishop said. “We can take a break, then offer hope; take a break, but we have to come out and work together.”
Emphasized throughout the day was that this is the 150th anniversary of the denomination’s United Methodist Women and its predecessor agencies. One way the pivotal date is being recognized is through the Legacy Fund, seeking denominationally to raise $17.4 million, which will be used to support UMW’s programs for women and children. As of August 30, the BWC UMW had raised $18,538, reported Colleen Cates, who serves on the denominational UMW Board of Directors.
Members are being asked to “tell your UMW story” and what your foremothers taught you. There’s a journal in which to record the stories, and a pendant is being given in recognition of the 150th anniversary.
James, Bishop Easterling preached, admonishes all of us, to “do it;” not just hear the word, but to do it. The appearances of accomplishment may look good on the outside, but the inside may be “rotten to the core.”
“God calls us into God’s reality and not world reality,” as James challenges, she said. “In the economy of God, there is abundance. We don’t have to compete, but the world wants us to adopt competition that leads us to prey on each other, not pray for each other,” she said.
“We must continue to open the door for others, … to ensure that The United Methodist Church is a place transformed and transforming,” she said, adding that the UMW is on the cutting edge of embracing all.
She named several concerns or actions that need attention, and which UMW can act on: standing up for unity in the church; fighting the injustice of closing women’s clinics; combating food desserts in the city; stopping human trafficking (men or women) and “baby booking” in Baltimore; disrupting the pre-school to prison pathway; and advocating in schools for opportunity.
“We have to love our children into holiness,” the bishop said. “We have work to do; we must continue this journey as doers and not hearers only. We who love freedom cannot rest,” she concluded to a standing ovation.
Following Communion, the annual business meeting was held. Sabrina White reported there are 120 UMW units in the BWC, which have pledged $175,000, of which $116,000 has already been received. The budget for 2018 was passed.
The business meeting detailed some of the projects and programs women are involved in as United Methodists. These include the distribution of scholarship monies; support for the Deacons Home; a reading program that awarded certificates to 93 participants who completed the program this year; the Wesley Learning Resource Center at Wesley Theological Seminary to educate seminarians on UMW; and the annual Blanche Powell UN seminar in New York, Nov. 19-23, with the theme of “solidarity in kinship.”
Members were urged to consider attending the quadrennial UMW Assembly that meets in Columbus, Ohio, May 18-20, 2018. Buses will provide transportation. This year the goal is for 200 women to attend. For details and to register, go to https://umwassembly.org/.