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Church Center for the United Nations

Deb Williams: In the Chapel and in the United Nations

By Mary Beth Coudal

Deb Williams was one of a team of United Methodists to take part in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held in New York from May 18 to May 25, 2013. She called the experience “insightful.”

She reported that United Methodist Women can support the concerns of indigenous people through advocacy for these issues:

  • Language preservation
  • Land rights
  • Respect for indigenous knowledge and traditions
  • Participation in decisions

Originally from Nebraska, Ms. Williams now lives in Arizona, following her husband’s military career. “He was a soldier for 31 years,” Ms. Williams said. Throughout their itinerant life, Ms. Williams has built a career as a volunteer. Most recently, at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, she has worked at the military chapel, which she values because it improves the quality of life on the base.

At Christmastime, she is part of the Family Giving Tree program through the church, which provides gifts to military families. The first year of the program, 350 children received gifts. Last year almost 600 children received gifts.

Given Ms. Williams’s concern for chapel life, on the first day of the United Methodist United Nations team meeting, it’s no surprise that she was in the chapel at the Church Center for the United Nations, preparing to lead the national staff of United Methodist Women in worship.

Significant for Ms. Williams was the overall respect that participants showed for one another’s heritage. “Everyone was valued,” she said. “We listened to one another. … Hearing all of the human rights abuses—from Australia, New Zealand and Venezuela—we’re really all the same.”

Ms. Williams, a first-term director for the board of United Methodist Women, singled out, repeatedly, her gratitude for how hard the staff of United Methodist Women worked to prepare for the forum. A highlight for her was meeting with the staff of United Methodist Women’s Christian Social Action section, which she described as “faithful about getting information out to the field. They remain relevant. They are true leaders.”

Ms. Williams also repeatedly recognized the contribution of Rev. Kathleen Stone, the former chaplain of the Church Center for the United Nations and presently the executive for environmental and economic justice, calling her work “comprehensive.” Comprehensive, too, was the breadth of Ms. Williams’s experience this week learning about the world.

Mary Beth Coudal, former staff writer for United Methodist Women, is now a freelance writer. She blogs at mbcoudal.com.

Last Updated: 04/05/2014

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