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Faith, action converge at United Methodist Women’s Assembly

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Jan Love, chief executive of the United Methodist Women's Division, addresses the 2006 United Methodist Women’s Assembly during closing worship.
May 8, 2006

By Linda Bloom*

ANAHEIM, Calif. (UMNS) ? In a “scary time” when war, terrorism, environmental calamity and unchecked poverty and disease are looming fears, United Methodist Women can still make practical expressions of their faith.

That was the closing message from Jan Love to participants at the 2006 United Methodist Women’s Assembly. Love is chief executive of the Women’s Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

As a start, women can deepen their understanding of their own salvation and express the joy of their faith. Then they can “make every day a mission day,” according to Love. “Continue with more determination to practice love, mercy, kindness and justice in your home, neighborhood, our nation and across the world.”

New members can be recruited and shown how United Methodist Women “embraces all God’s people” and advocates for women both inside and outside the church.

“Tell them that you belong to an organization that refuses to offer religious excuses or legitimization for violence, vengeance, deprivation and discrimination,” Love said.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A procession of banners carried by United Methodist Women opens the 2006 Assembly.
For more than 137 years, United Methodist Women has offered the love of Christ and “literally saved and served the lives of millions of women, children and youth” through its mission programs, Love pointed out. Under the theme, “Rise, Shine, Glorify God!,” about 7,000 members gathered May 4-7 at the Anaheim Convention Center for worship and workshops, exhibits and education, community building and contemplation.

They filled out “money transfer forms” to lobby Congress for a more just budget; raised in excess of $20,000 for mission through an early-morning, 3.1-mile walk and delivered more than 2,000 handmade prayer shawls for later distribution by mission institutions.

Love said she considered the assembly to be “a great big family reunion,” strengthening community and “deepening people’s understanding of their own faith journey.”

The event opened with a grand procession of banners representing the 63 annual (regional) U.S. conferences of the United Methodist Church. Three large puppets in rose pink, green and blue — symbolizing the assembly logo — followed, swirling and billowing up the aisles to the central stage.

Kyung Za Yim, Women’s Division president, welcomed participants and guided them in a call to worship accompanied by Latino, Tongan, African and Native American drumming. Chikara Daiko, a group from Centenary United Methodist Church in the “Little Tokyo” neighborhood of Los Angeles, received an enthusiastic reaction for their Taiko — or classical Japanese — drumming.

Speaking with courage

Social justice issues were a key focus of speakers May 5. Wahu Kaara, founder of the Kenya Debt Relief Network and a candidate in the 2007 presidential elections, knows living examples of the feminization of poverty and told the women they must speak “with unflinching courage” on the injustices that divide the world into “haves and have-nots.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Anna Deavere Smith gives a presentation on her style of interviewing subjects and interpreting their words.
Silvia Regina Lima e Silva, a Latin American theologian, called attention to the U.S. immigration debate by condemning the proposed fence between the United States and Mexico and calling increased border patrols “a manifestation of a growing racism and xenophobia which are becoming part of everyday life.”

Anna Deavere Smith, known for her performance art about controversial issues — such as “Twilight: Los Angeles,” which focused on the 1992 civil unrest following the Rodney King verdict — gave an evening presentation about her journalistic style of interviewing subjects and then interpreting their words.

She spoke warmly of her upbringing in the Union Memorial United Methodist Church in Baltimore — although she confessed she is now an Episcopalian — and talked about how she likes the repetition of words through the Bible and prayer.

Her grandfather told her that “if you say a word often enough, it becomes you.” By repeating the words of the people she has interviewed and recorded on tape, Smith became a Jewish woman dealing with a Sabbath dilemma in Crown Heights, Brooklyn; a male doctor talking to a meeting of traditional healers in Uganda; a female prison inmate remembering how domestic violence led to the death of her daughter; and a Korean store owner bitter over the burning of her shop during the Los Angeles riots.

Shining the light

On May 6, the Rev. Don Saliers, a composer of sacred music and professor at Candler School of Theology, and his daughter, Emily, one half of the Indigo Girls, demonstrated through song how music “takes us to places we wouldn’t have expected to go.”

Three women — Casimira Rodriguez Romero, the new minister of justice for Bolivia; Kim Hallowell, a young adult and advocate against child labor; and Christy Tate Smith, a disaster consultant for the United Methodist Committee on Relief — provided personal examples of how Methodist women shine their light on the world.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Members of Chikaro Daiko play Taiko music during opening worship at the 2006 United Methodist Women's Assembly.
Their stories were incorporated in a Bible study led by M. Garlinda Burton, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, who urged assembly participants to find their own way to shine.

“We’ve got the love of Christ, the chutzpah of the Holy Spirit and more than 200 years of shining backing us up as Methodists,” she declared.

The drummers of the opening worship represented the vast diversity of cultural arts found throughout the assembly. Sanctified Souljahz!, a group of youth connected with New Entra Casa, a San Diego program for ex-offenders and their children, offered a version of liturgical dance that members call “body worship.”

Orquesta Candela, a Hispanic Christian salsa band from Los Angeles, roused the audience, and a Tongan women’s choir and youth dance group from St. Mark United Methodist Church in Anaheim drew wild applause.

Saturday evening’s entertainment featured the Clark University Steppers from Atlanta, performing a style of dance with roots from Africa, and the Ewha Alumnae Choir of Seoul, Korea, composed of the Methodist-supported Ewha University and Girls’ High School.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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