On the Mountaintop
A spiritual journey is a quest. We search for something to complete us, to engage us and to make us grow. As we begin our Christian journey we have an immediate high. We're excited about new birth and a connection with Christ. Becoming a member of United Methodist Women has been a peak on my spiritual journey.
When I was 28 years old, I was seeking a connection with other women in my church, but we did not have a local United Methodist Women. I took it upon myself to find out how to start a unit. My church once had a unit, and I felt it was an essential element missing from our church. So began my journey with United Methodist Women.
Twenty-eight was not the median age of my church or of United Methodist Women, but I knew United Methodist Women was a key part of my spiritual growth. Eight years in, my journey with United Methodist Women is alive and well. I was able to attend the 2010 Assembly in St. Louis, Mo., National Seminar in Birmingham in August 2011 and Leadership Development Days in St. Louis in fall 2012.
To reach peaks one know the valleys. Now being 36 and the single mother of two toddlers, attending United Methodist Women events can be challenging. Yet whenever I've been offered these opportunities I've also been offered the practical support of many volunteers taking care of my children so I can attend. It is through this support that I have made it out of the valley and up the hill to see the amazing view from the peak.
National Seminar was the most intense and energizing stop on my spiritual journey to date. After the event I knew I needed to find my role in helping my conference, district and local United Methodist Women ensure justice for women, children and youth. Learning that we have a duty to educate our communities on issues like immigrant rights, climate change, human trafficking and domestic violence, I realized that a spiritual journey is not only an individual process but one that is shaped by the other individuals involved. United Methodist Women is what has shaped me into the woman I am today.
For many years I thought Methodist "women's groups" were only tea parties, Christmas bazaars and social events. I've come to learn that even these activities for United Methodist Women are more than what they appear - they are tied to mission. We are not just a social organization but an active group that shapes and changes lives throughout the world.
As a younger United Methodist Women member I connect with the women our organization directly impact. I learn about other moms raising their children in environments I can't imagine. I have a better understanding of the challenges that women in my own community face and the impact the challenges have on the children and youth in their lives.
For all the highs I've experienced in life, I've also had many lows. In such valleys comes understanding, and it's in the valleys that I've experienced the most growth in my spiritual journey. One blessing I can always count on during these low points is United Methodist Women. No matter if it's on the district level or a national level, I am always honored to be in a room of love, support and encouragement.
And I love being one of the "younger" women in the room. I am honored to stand up whenever we're asked, "Who are our women under 40?" Although I have learned that when you're in the minority, you often become the voice of your group. I do not take this role lightly, but it's important to recognize all women as individuals, not as simply a member of a group.
I have found tremendous support, love and encouragement in United Methodist Women. Taking on leadership roles, finding mentors and having a large group of adopted aunts, sisters and grandmas, I have been given a network of women who shape my life. I share the passion I have for United Methodist Women's mission throughout the world with others.
I take time to learn about the issues on a secular level, but what energizes me is how we respond as an organization and a church. It's one thing to speak out about domestic violence at a rally or in a large room of like-minded individuals, but how do we speak about domestic violence in our local church? It is my responsibility as a United Methodist Women member to work with churchleadership to make sure we are educating our congregations on these difficult topics. Sharing my experience, my knowledge and my passion is where I am at on my spiritual journey.
This organization has given me so much that the least I can do is work to make my community, my nation and the world a better place for women, youth and children. It is through the work of United Methodist Women that people around the world have the opportunity to grow spiritually, and it ignites my passion even more knowing the role I have played in this development. I am a work in progress, and as our organization continues to evolve and grow I am excited and encouraged to see where this path leads me and who I will meet along the way.
Stephanie Greiner is president of United Methodist Women at Wesley United Methodist Church in Jefferson, Mo., and coordinator for social action for the Mid-State District of the Missouri Conference United Methodist Women. She works part time as the connections coordinator for her church and full time as e-learning curriculum design specialist for the Missouri Department of Corrections in Jefferson City. She’s the mother of two toddlers and works passionately on issues surrounding domestic violence and human trafficking.