UMCOR / News Room / News & Features / Archives 2009 / 1120 - Education and Honoring

Education and Honoring Highlighted Native American Women’s Gathering

November 20, 2009—LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. – Women from more than 10 tribes from Maryland to Florida attended Lake Junaluska's first Native American Women’s Conference on October 16-18, 2009.  The notable gathering was hosted by SEJANAM, the Southeastern Jurisdictional Association for Native American Ministries and Lake Junaluska.

Designed to serve as a tool in raising awareness on issues and needs of Native American women, the theme of the event was “Re-Defining Our Place:  Native Women Speak!” In addition, the event provided for spiritual broadening and understanding.  “We celebrate this coming together in so many ways, the gathering of nations, the sharing, and the bringing together of generations of our people,” said Darlene Jacobs, director of SEJANAM.

Kicking off the event was Rev. Cynthia Abrams, a member of the Seneca tribe, the Director for the Alcohol, Other Addictions, and Health Care Program for the General Board of Church and Society.  The keynote luncheon speaker was the Rt. Rev. Carol Gallagher, a member of the Cherokee nation.  Dr. Gallagher is the first indigenous woman bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Gallagher captivated the audience with wonderful, powerful, and divine stories and roles that Native women have served and been a part of from a historical perspective and the social issues and roles they are a part of today.  She encouraged some 110 Native American women to continue moving forward, sharing their history and traditions, and persevering despite obstacles.

The conference, which included workshops on the psychology of cancer, domestic violence against women and children, historical grief and trauma, substance abuse among women, disaster preparedness, women empowerment, tobacco use and HIV/STDs, far exceeded expectations.  Attendees also had the chance to participate in wellness opportunities and a visit a wellness room.

 “This event was a wonderful, inspiring, educational, and very timely,” said Anne Wood of the Kentucky Conference.  “I came away feeling encouraged and energized to improve the varied branches of Native American Ministry in Kentucky.”

Suanne Ware-Diaz, GCORR, and Cynthia Abrams, GBCS, both were dynamic in their workshops quoted a participant from South Carolina.  Also presenting was Jane Ehrman, a leading national speaker and author with the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.  Speaking on the realm of psychology and cancer, many of the participants felt all that Ehrman shared was germane and applicable since some were cancer survivors.

The conference ended with a dinner to honor the national native women leaders within The United Methodist Church.  Honored for their outstanding leadership, ministry and contributions to Native Ministries, communities and the United Methodist Church were Rev. Cynthia Abrams, Director for the Alcohol, Other Addictions, and Health Care Program for the General Board of Church and Society; and Suanne Ware-Diaz, Associate General Secretary, Commission on Religion and Race.

Also recognized for their numerous contributions, commitment and service to their communities, annual conferences, Native Ministries and to the Church were Mable Cummings, Daphine Strickland, Connie Locklear and Darlene Jacobs.

Daphine Strickland affirmed that the Southeast Jurisdiction wanted to pay tribute and acknowledge our national female leaders as role models, for their strength, expertise, courage and remarkable leadership not only within the Church, but with their tribal communities and society at large.

Jim Winkler, General Secretary for the General Board of Church and Society, in a special letter of recognition wrote “Cynthia is always working to make our church the church it needs to be in the midst of a hurting world.  Her ministry on Capitol Hill deals with addictions and disease.  She is a leader in the faith community on the work to combat death-dealing industries such as alcohol, tobacco, and pornography that prey on our people.”

Erin Hawkins, General Secretary for the General Commission on Religion and Race, wrote “Suanne has supported and mentored those across the country who are on the battlefield for justice and will not stop until Native American Mascots are no longer a reality in our midst.  She is a premiere leader whose passion and vigilance has made a difference in the agency’s work of breaking down barriers for all people.

“I believe that our native women left the conference with strengthened skills on personal safety, security, health and wellness, clearer personal tools for dealing with social and cultural issues unique to the Native American community and deepened relationships with the risen Christ and with each other,” stated Jacobs, Director for Native American Ministries. SEJANAM is the advocate for 23 Native American congregations and three other ministries in the Southeast Jurisdiction.

About UMCOR Health

As part of it's Congregational Health Ministry, UMCOR Health co-sponsored the conference. UMCOR Health executive, Patricia Magyar helped design the format. "When people begin to embrace their heritage, they can begin to embrace themselves and begin the journey to wholeness," she says. "Churches can play a powerful role in integrating spiritual, mental and physical health to achieve this."

Because churches exist in virtually every community in this country and consist of people of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds, UMCOR health is a resource for churches who are looking to help their members assume responsibility for their own health. Local churches can help address the need for more appropriate and accessible health care services. More importantly, the church can bring a holistic perspective to a community's understanding of health: One that integrates body, mind, and spirit in congregations and communities, promoting prevention and wellness. The church, therefore, is a strategic place where all elements of health and healing can be discussed.

For information about parish nursing, health advocates, participatory health groups or starting a congregational health ministry, please click here. To support UMCOR Health's congregational health ministry program, please give to UMCOR Advance 3021045.