Nothing Was Ever the Same Again After That
Deputy General Secretary Address at Fall Board of Directors Meeting
Women’s Division Deputy General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson opened the annual fall meeting of the division’s board of directors with a message of hope that today’s mission efforts could be pivotal events for the good in the lives of women, children and youth in the United States and around the world. Her speech titled “Nothing Was Ever the Same Again After That” referenced a National Public Radio call for original short fiction ending with the line “Nothing was ever the same again after that.”
“It’s provocative,” Ms. Olson said of the contest’s required phrase. “It seems to look both forward and backward in time.”
Ms. Olson said a new job, a wedding, an illness, acceptance at a school, or a personal Christian confession are examples of life moments that could warrant that expression. She also cited Jeremiah 29:1-7, in which the prophet instructed the exiled community of Judah to build homes and plant gardens and create families because God still had a plan for them.
United Methodist Women’s history is full of moments that warrant the phrase, she said, citing women missionaries’ stand against the practice of foot binding in China as an example.
“It’s hard to realize it today, but this was a difficult stance to take. Food binding was a cultural norm and a status symbol,” Ms. Olson said. “Letters to the Board of Missions indicate that there was a robust debate between the missionaries of the Woman’s Society of Foreign Service and the missionaries sent by the Board of Missions about whether it was right or appropriate or even the right time to take on this issue.”
Foot binding is now a memory, but there are other “perfectly normal” and equally harmful practices affecting women, children and youth that need United Methodist Women action today, Ms. Olson said.
“There are normal practices that keep racial injustice in place,” Ms. Olson said. “There are normal ways of being together that marginalize those who are ill or who have not had the privilege of education.
“For us who are living and leading now, it remains for us to seek a ‘God’s eye view’ of the situation.”
Pointing again to Jeremiah, Ms. Olson said that it wasn’t the point of view of the exiles in Jeremiah that catalyzed the moment; it was the word of the Lord telling them to build, plant and seek the welfare of the city.
“Where do we need the God’s eye view?” Ms. Olson asked. “Certainly in the work against human trafficking and domestic violence. Certainly in the matter of the environment and the creation that God created to be good. Certainly in a broken immigration system that jails or detains people without a determination of their rights. Certainly in providing opportunities for spiritual growth, leadership development, transformative education and advocacy that leads to service and service that ignites advocacy.”
Ms. Olson said that by dwelling in scripture and prayer, questioning personal perceptions and staying focused on “turning faith, hope and love into action on behalf of women children and you around the world,” United Methodist Women can engage in mission that will future generations will remember and say, “Nothing was ever the same after that.”
Tara Barnes is staff editor for the Women's Division and Yvette Moore is editor of response.