The former United Methodist Women also took time to celebrate their new identity as United Women in Faith, which is ecumenical and interfaith. While leaders admit they are still getting used to the change, there is excitement around the new beginning.
UFW General Secretary/CEO Harriett Jane Olson shared a vision for the future in a short video:
“I imagine a community where diversity is baked in, not something we struggle with every day but part of who we are because we know that it’s necessary to be who God calls us to be in the world. I imagine a community that’s so compelling that women are coming to us and saying, can I join? I imagine a community of fierce, compassionate, powerful women known as United Women in Faith.”
In honoring the officers later in the day, Lisa Swett (fourth from left) spoke about reinvention as she passed out small containers of Play-Doh
and told the story of its creation.
What became the poplar toy began as a putty used for cleaning soot from wallpaper. When fewer homes were heating with coal, the need for the putty declined and the business was in jeopardy. The idea of making it into a toy gave it new life.
“It’s a transformation,” Swett said. “It’s taking something that you think is worthless and useless and [transforming it] into something that is quite incredible and has had a lasting impact on a lot of people. The moral of the story is: We don’t know what we can become, especially in times of change.”
Read more about the creation of Play-Doh in this 2019 article from Smithsonian magazine.
Speaker: Incarcerated women and girls
Disrupting the school-to prison pipeline and ending the criminalization of youth of color are areas of focus for UWF.
Though both of James’ parents had served prison terms, her work is focused on incarcerated women and girls. This work has three avenues:
Re-Imagining of communities
The group is currently leading a “massive campaign” in Massachusetts to stop the construction of a $50 million women’s
prison, James said.
“We all know that we do not need a new women’s prison; we need community investment. We can all stand in solidarity and say that,” she said.
Vermont is also proposing the construction of a women’s prison. In Vermont, James said, there are currently only 70 women incarcerated.
“If we can’t figure out what we can do with 70 women, then we’re obviously doing something wrong,” James said.
The millions of dollars that would be spent on the prison, she said, would be better spent on housing or otherwise getting to the root causes of women ending up in prison.
Her organization, James said, works to “put people first.”
“We’re putting the women first, the children first, the people first, the families first, everybody that has been impacted by incarceration or harmed by incarceration,” James said, “because we know that incarceration only causes further harm. It never gets to the root causes; it never solves anything.”
A resident of Roxbury, James said, “I live in a community that is over incarcerated and under resourced. I live there, and I know that, as a community, we deserve better. And healing starts in the community and healing starts with resources.”
At lunch members were invited to send a postcard to their congressional representatives urging them to support the following legislation:
The Ending PUSHOUT (Punitive, Unfair, School-based Harm that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma) Act (HR 2248)
The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act (HR 4011)
The Protecting Our Students in Schools Act (HR 3836) Find more
Speaker: Prayer and soul care
Edna Conyers-Douglas was the afternoon speaker. Conyers-Douglas is an educator, prayer consultant and author of Prayer Burnout, a booklet designed to help Christians grown in their intimacy God through “disciplined prayer.”
Referring to 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Conyers-Douglas asked, “What do we mean when we talk about praying without ceasing?”
“It simply means you can be in prayer all the time, because the Lord hears your heart all the time,” Conyers-Douglas said. “It’s not what’s coming out of your mouth, it’s what you’re believing in your heart.”
“We’re going to look at prayer in a very simple way: Communication with God,” she said.
But, she said, we often think of that communication as being one sided.
“God wants you to talk to him, but he also wants you to listen,” Conyers-Douglas said. “What’s needed, she said, is the fervent prayer – one that’s not interrupted by telephones, cats, dogs, husbands, wives … we need to find that uninterrupted time to spend talking and listening to God, and give that time our undivided attention.”
Sitting still in that time, she said, may seem like wasted time, but it’s not.
“You cannot sit in the presence of God and leave the same way you came,” Conyers-Douglas said.
Susan Sungsil Kim, a member of St. John’s Korean Lexington, MA, serves on the Racial Justice Charter Support Team and
the Racial Justice Task Force for the Korean Ministry Plan.
UWF is working to fight systemic racism, Kim said, and reminded members of the Racial Justice Charter that was adopted by the General Conference in 1980 and re-ratified every eight years. “We should be very proud.”
On a personal level, Kim said, “I know [racism is] a very uncomfortable topic to discuss, but this is something we ought to educate ourselves about,” and she recommended some books to help in that process:
Linda Reiber Legacy Endowment Fund Nashville training for chairs set a goal for the conference based on the formula they were given, the NEAC should expect to raise $160,000.
That sounds like an awful lot of money to me for our conference, however, I want you all to stand up and congratulate yourselves, because to date we’ve raised over $279,000.
Legacy Fund is a permanently invested endowment that now has the name 150 Next (the UMW celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding in 2019).
Legacy Builder $18.69/month (The UMW was founded in 1869). Click the link above to learn more about the fund and being 150 Legacy Builder
Supports the admin work so that mission dollars will be used to support mission.
Hattie B. Cooper Community Center
Marcia Hoyt spoke about the Boston center that provides educational programs for under-served children and their families.
The center serves 100 children each day and has two pre-school classes that are part of Boston Public Schools. The UWF have a covenant agreement with the Cooper Center, which is a national mission site.
Cooper was started by a UMW member. “One woman saw a need and reached out – any of us can do that,” Hoyt said.
Each year, UWF members are asked to bring in-kind donations to support a specific group or mission. The ingathering donation of personal care products and feminine hygiene products this year was collected for Women’s Lunch Place “a daytime shelter and advocacy center in Boston dedicated to helping women experiencing homelessness, hunger and poverty.”
Janice Galloway, who does communications, shared some photos from the UFW’s annual Assembly. It was also reported that the quadrennial meeting of the Northeastern Jurisdiction UWF will take place in 2024 in Providence, RI.
In the closing worship host pastor Rev. Peter Hey’s message on Micah 4:1-5 also spoke about times of change.
“You might think a passage such as this would have been written in the glory days, it’s rich with promise and hope, it’s a beautiful passage,” Rev. Hey said, “But we’re pretty sure it wasn’t. This is a text that comes from the exile when Israel is fallen – everything that they had known had been taken from them … kinda like the church after a pandemic.”
But while these are difficult days, Rev. Hey said, “Maybe difficult days are days when hope can rise up within us.”