RISE Together mentorship network coming to New England

September 30, 2019

The New England Conference Commission on Religion and Race (CCORR) is inviting women of color in ministry to be part of a cohort of the RISE Together Mentorship Network starting in March 2020.
RISE Together is a female mentorship network that connects women of color seminary students and early to mid-career clergy with experienced women ministers, senior pastors, faculty, and community leaders.
The New England cohort will include 12-15 mentees who make a two-year commitment through March 2022. Monthly gatherings will take place at Rolling Ridge Retreat and Conference Center in North Andover, MA.

One of the mentors in New England will be Dr. Adama Brown-Hathaway, a lay member of Union UMC in Boston, where she serves as Minister of Connection and Care. She is also a member of CCORR.
“This is one way, as far as women of color in ministry, we would be able to provide a safe space … having mentees journey with mentors who [know] what it's like to try to live into their call at the same time navigating some of the barriers we find in ministry and ministry settings,” she said of why CCORR is bringing RISE here.

New England Conference elders Rev. Geisa Y. Matos and Rev. Sandra J. Bonnette-Kim will also serve as mentors.

It is also a response to legislation adopted by the 2019 Annual Conference: RS-19-208 Increasing Transparency Regarding Hate Crimes, brought by CCORR, the Conference Board of Church and Society and the Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women. It calls on the Conference “to commit in prayer and action to supporting those who have been targets of hate crimes and threats, and to dismantle the forces of racism, sexism, and hatred, which lead to these deplorable actions.” One of the groups most targeted is women of color, the legislation says.

RISE Together was founded as an initiative of Union Theological Seminary in collaboration with the WOCIM Project; the first cohorts began in 2018. The other regions with cohorts beginning in 2020 are: New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Lancaster, PA; Los Angeles, Nashville, Oakland, CA, and Washington, D.C. 
RISE Together will be a chance for women in New England to talk about their experiences specifically in this context. Those who have agreed to serve as mentors, Brown-Hathaway said, “are ecumenical; they are all women who have a long and rich history in ministry.”
“I hope over the course of the mentorship program that mentees have a safe place to talk to women who have experienced similar challenges they may encounter,” she said. “I hope that it's a place where they are validated in their call to ministry – whether that’s a local church, in their communities or a nonprofit.”
Brown-Hathaway said it’s her hope that the support women find during the mentorship program “continues on; that they see the benefits of having a supportive network and how that allows us to navigate our ministry journeys.”
Rev. Matos is pastor of Ballard Vale United Church in Andover, MA. Rev. Matos said
Geisa Y. Matos
that while she did not have a formal network like this one, she does have mentors who had a significant impact on her. 
Now, being one of the RISE Together mentors, she said, is a chance for her to give back. 
“I am humbled to contribute to RISE, because it gives me the amazing opportunity to give back to highly gifted women of color in ministry,” Rev. Matos said. “When I was trying to meet all the requirements to become a local pastor, a commissioned elder, and an elder in full connection with The United Methodist Church, I intentionally associated myself with highly qualified women of color.”
She named the Rev. Dr. Cristian De La Rosa and the Rev. Dr. Aida Fernandez, who among others, Rev. Matos said, “… have been my mentors, friends, role models, and my advocates.”  
When she thinks about the impact these women had on her and others, she is inspired to say, “When I grow up, I want to be like them!” 
“As a RISE mentor, I can be a ‘grown-up’ clergywoman ready to share the wisdom, courage, and survival strategies that were transferred to me by mentors,” Rev. Matos said. “… I will pass forward love and encouragement.”
Just finding those one or two people you can talk with can make all the difference, Brown-Hathaway said. She pointed to her own early career in academia. She holds a doctorate in sociology as well as an MDiv.
“One thing that I learned a long time ago is that social support is the key to survival,” Brown-Hathaway said. “… when you know that there’s social support, you know you’re not alone. So I would encourage women who are coming through ministry to not go it alone; and I say this as somebody who’s also very much an introvert, but just to find that one person that you can talk to – it makes a world of difference.”
Brown-Hathaway points out that this is “a group mentor program,” in which the mentors and mentees are “journeying together.” Just the act of coming together can provide support and empowerment, she said. 
Rev. Matos said she expects RISE Together to be “a holy space for learning and leadership formation” and “a well-spring of living waters in which clergywomen of color come to quench their thirst.” 
“In each encounter we will have mutual opportunities to gain new perspectives about how to be effective leaders while challenging systems of oppression,” she said. 
Click the link to learn more about the RISE Together Mentorship Network. The application  for the New England cohort of RISE Together mentees is available now. The deadline to apply is Friday, Nov. 15, 2019.