United Methodist Women Meet Online
by YVETTE MOORE*
More than 2,000 United Methodist Women members and supporters are chatting, learning about mission work and developing a supportive fellowship in cyberspace since the recent launch of their Online Community. United Methodist Women's Online Community is for longtime United Methodist Women members, and is an outreach to new members and supporters, including men.
"We have a growing group of women who are joining the organization for the first time through the Online Community," said Julia Tulloch, Women's Division executive and one of the architects of the Online Community. "We're going to create a common space for these new members."
The Online Community site - UMWonline.net - includes basic information about United Methodist Women, its Purpose and programs, mission issues, and ways women who join the organization through the Online Community can participate in Mission Giving, United Methodist Women's basic funding opportunity.
"We also have friends and supporters, which include men, international members or people from other faith groups," Ms. Tulloch said. "We want to have 2,007 online community members by Jan. 1, 2007."
When a visitor to UMWonline.org clicks on "Welcome Center," she or he gets an introduction and overview of the site through a video of Marva Usher-Kerr, Women's Division executive. Ms. Usher-Kerr invites guests to explore the site by checking out featured communities focusing on faith, the environment, immigration, the Reading Program, opportunities for related book clubs and live chats. Live chat conversations range from discussions about how to organize youth circles of United Methodist Women to supportive words and prayers for members facing health and family crises.
"What's happening is that women are becoming familiar with the technical tools that allow them to connect with each other," Ms. Tulloch said. "Some meet online in the evening just to practice how to use the Online Community. They're learning about how it is to be a United Methodist Women member in parts of the country that are different from their areas. For example, they're realizing some of their sisters travel 500 miles to attend meetings. The conversation goes like this:
"'Wow! Where do you live?'
"'I live in Utah.'
"They call it fellowship chat. They just get together the way you do in the fellowship hall. A lot of other prospects will unfold as we go deeper into this ministry."
Start-up funds for the Online Community came from United Methodist Women's Centennial Fund, a forward-looking offering taken in 1983 to mark the 100th anniversary of United Methodist Women predecessors organizing for mission.
To join the Online Community, visit UMWonline.net.