United Methodist Women Leave Seminar Set for Justice Action
by YVETTE MOORE*
Nashville, Aug. 16, 2007 – Joyful worship and Bible study charging members to work in their communities for God’s vision of justice wrapped up United Methodist Women’s quadrennial National Seminar at Scarritt-Bennett Center, Aug. 11-16. The justice action training event with the theme, “For Christ’s Sake, Turn the World Upside Down,” kept the more than 200 participants on the go in Bible study, issue education and accompanying Nashville advocacy groups modeling how to work with others for justice.
“National Seminar is a place to learn about social action as mission so that we can bring about change in areas where there is injustice,” explained Kyung Za Yim, president of the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, the national administrative body of United Methodist Women.
Each day of the event began with worship and interactive Bible study on the Gospel of Mark led by Nashville United Methodist clergywoman, the Rev. Janet Wolf. After reading the day’s passage, Ms. Wolf asked the women to separate into small groups for focused discussions on the actions of each of the characters in the story. Each small group then shared their insights with the larger group.
“’Listen to Jesus,’” said Courtney Jones of South Georgia Conference United Methodist Women, sharing her small group’s thoughts after reading of the Transfiguration story in Mark 9. “That was important to use because it was saying Jesus is going to continue to tell us to take action, and we have to listen.”
Ms. Wolf compared the story’s description of the disciples’ offer to build temples for Jesus, Moses and Elijah to the church’s focus on buildings today.
“What might happen if we invested all the time and energy and resources we invest in buildings into actually being the church?” she asked. “We might turn the world upside down!”
Throughout the event, the women took one of seven tracks of workshops focusing on:
- Health care;
- Economic justice;
- Public education;
- Environmental justice;
- Community food security; and
- Militarism, peace and national security.
Leaders of Nashville advocacy groups served as resource persons in the workshops and guides for community visits. Women visited local a mosque, a landfill, homeless shelters, community clinics, a farmers’ market, a community garden, a public high school, and a Civil War monument. Each visit included one-on-one conversations with community members as well as more formal panel discussions and presentations.
Aug. 14 was a day of action as the women joined forces with Nashville advocacy groups in public vigils on living wages, immigrant rights, and homelessness and poverty at several locations around the city. United Methodist Women members attending the living wage vigil joined a broad coalition of faith, civic and labor groups at Vanderbilt University’s Benton Chapel celebrating a new contract between the university and its lowest paid workers while pushing for more respect for the workers. At Nashville’s Riverfront Park, United Methodist Women members stood alongside homeless people in 100-plus degree heat for a more somber vigil protesting lack of housing as well as neglect and harassment of the homeless. About 100 people attended the vigil called in memory of Tara Cole, a homeless woman murdered and thrown into the river Aug. 11, 2006. United Methodist Women members at the Tennessee capitol vigil against immigration raids heard testimonies about the fear and damaging impact of the raids on immigrant families.
At each vigil, a United Methodist Women representative shared the denomination’s positions on the issues of collective bargaining, housing and homelessness, or immigration and refugees by reading related excerpts from the United Methodist Social Principles or Book of Resolutions.
Women left National Seminar ready for action.
“I took the public education study,” said Denise Knight of Western New York Conference United Methodist Women. “I’ve been involved in the public schools in my community. For many years people have been asking me to run for school board, but I said, ‘That’s not something I can do.’ But after this week, I think that’s something I need to do. I’m going to run for school board.”
United Methodist Women is an organization of approximately 800,000 members within the United Methodist Church in the United States. Its purpose is to foster spiritual growth, develop leaders and advocate for justice. United Methodist Women members give more than $20 million a year for programs and projects related to women, children and youth in the United States and around the world.