Ecumenical Women Worship, Prepare for 54th U.N. Commission on Status of Women
By Michelle Scott*
Ecumenical Women at the United Nations gathered in the Tillman Chapel of United Methodist Women’s Church Center for the United Nations Feb. 27 to worship and prepare for the 54th Commission on the Status of Women. More than 8,500 people will study and map ways to improve women’s access to rights and opportunities at the commission convening March 1-12 at the United Nations in New York City.
The worship service brought together women from diverse cultures and nationalities to find their unified voice for the plight of women everywhere.
“Women are not yet treated around the world with the respect they deserve and need,” said the Rev. Kathleen Stone, chaplain of the Church Center and a United Methodist Church elder, in her welcome address emphasizing the need for women to develop a collective voice. “This is serious business.”
A liturgical dance and reading focused the group on the holy task of advocating for women’s human rights and dignity. Readers moved between the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31 and contrasting descriptions that illustrated the very different realities many women face. Two dancers brought the words to life.
One woman personified the virtuous and happy woman in Proverbs 31. The other dancer reenacted the struggles described by the readers while entangling herself in a length of cloth, illustrating the reality for women who are caught in systems that oppress and overlook them. “Kyrie Eleison” played as the reading ended, and the virtuous and happy woman freed the bound woman.
The service culminated in the presentation of 12 panels painted by Mary Elizabeth Button to illustrate the 12 concerns in the Beijing Platform, which are the foci of the U.N. meeting:
• Women and poverty
• Education and training of women
• Women and health
• Violence against women
• Women and armed conflict
• Women and the economy
• Women in power and decision-making
• Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of Women
• Human rights of women
• Women and the media
• Women and the environment
• The girl child
The worshippers wrote prayers on satin ribbons for women who face barriers, oppression and other hardships. These prayer offerings will be used as bindings around the 12 painted canvas panels.
Ms. Button explained, “As our prayers come together, so, too, will these ribbons and strips be bound together . . . binding women in action and Proverbs together as a witness to our work here over the next two weeks.”
*Michelle Scott is a freelance writer and former communications director for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.