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Diversity marks 2006 United Methodist Women?s Assembly

Jan. 12, 2006

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

A Bolivian organizer, Tongan women?s choir, Latino orchestra, Christian salsa band and drummers from several cultures reflect the diversity to be found at the 2006 United Methodist Women?s Assembly.

The assembly, which has occurred every four years since 1942, will meet May 4-7 at the convention center in Anaheim, Calif. The theme is ?Rise! Shine! Glorify God!? and an estimated 8,000 women are expected to attend.

Well-known assembly presenters will include Anna Deveare Smith, the actress, playwright and writer, and Emily Saliers, a musician and one-half of the Grammy Award-winning Indigo Girls.

For Jan Love, who is marking her first assembly as chief executive of the Women?s Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the event offers an opportunity for United Methodist Women to educate themselves, ?discern the future? and have fun. The Women?s Division is UMW?s administrative arm.

Love told United Methodist News Service that this year?s theme ?promotes the long-standing commitment of United Methodist Women to the unity of mission and evangelism across the country and the world. It will be infused into the life of the assembly through performers, speakers, testimonies and people.?

An important element to the assembly is hearing stories of mission. ?We?ll also be surrounded by mission projects and programs that witness to the love and grace of Jesus in the lives of women and children,? she said. ?These were founded and supported by United Methodist Women and have changed thousands of lives.?

A carnival-like procession of 63 banners from each of the denomination?s annual (regional) conferences, led by three huge puppets, will open the assembly at 7 p.m. May 4. Latino, Tongan, African and Native American drums will accompany Kyung Za Yim, the Women?s Division president, in the call to worship. Japanese Taiko drumming will be interspersed with Scripture readings as worship continues.

Morning plenary sessions on May 5 and 6 will include Bible studies and presentations on mission-related issues.

The keynote speaker for the May 5 morning plenary will be Wahu Kaara of Kenya. Also featured will be representatives of New Entra Casa, a project of a prison transitional program for women. The teenage children of these women have developed their own gospel rock tunes.

A reflection on ?music as spiritual practice? will be offered May 6 by Saliers and her father, the Rev. Don E. Saliers, of the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, where he directs the Masters in Sacred Music Program.

A graduate of Emory University, Emily Saliers has performed with Amy Ray as the Indigo Girls for 18 years. Her first book is a collaboration with her father, titled, A Song to Sing, a Life to Live (Jossey-Bass, 2004).

Don Saliers is the William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Theology and Worship at Candler and taught at Yale Divinity School before moving to Atlanta in 1974. He has contributed to the development of worship for the United Methodist Church for nearly 40 years, and has served as president of the North American Academy of Liturgy and the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.

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A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin
Casimira Rodriguez Romero, who received the World Methodist Peace Award in 2003, has led a long fight for the legal rights of household workers in Bolivia.

M. Garlinda Burton, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, will lead that morning?s Bible study, weaving stories from the Gospel of Matthew with real-life stories from three women. The women are Casimira Rodriguez of Bolivia, who has helped organize domestic workers throughout Latin America; Kim Hallowell, a California teenager and advocate on global child labor issues; and Christy Smith, a Tennessee writer involved in disaster relief after the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

The plenary also includes the Tongan Women?s Choir of the United Methodist California-Pacific Annual Conference.

On the afternoons of May 5 and 6, participants can chose from more than 60 workshops addressing the issues of mission, theology, worship, UMW membership, spirituality, politics and social concerns.

Sample topics include: Marketing Violence to Children; Charting a Course for Racial Justice; Domestic Violence: Breaking the Silence; Being Christian in an Age of Empire; Ministry To and With Troubled Teens; Water as a Human Right; Building Interfaith Communities; the Ethics of NANO Technology; Hip Hop and the Gospel; Finding God in Disaster; and Meditating with Body and Soul.

The evenings of May 5 and 6 are devoted to the arts. On May 5, a performance by Deveare Smith ? known for combining journalistic interview techniques with dramatic interpretations ? will focus on issues of social justice pertinent to women and children. Latino Orquesta Jubileo also will perform with a 14-piece Christian salsa band.

Deveare Smith?s play, ?Twilight: Los Angeles,? examined the civil unrest following the Rodney King verdict and received two Tony nominations, an Obie award, and a Drama Desk Award, among other honors. Her drama ?Fires in the Mirror? examined racial tensions between blacks and Jews that culminated in the 1991 race riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She also has had a recurring role on ?The West Wing? television show.

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Jan Love

Evening performances May 6 will feature the Clark-Atlanta University Steppers and a choir from Seoul, South Korea.

The assembly will close with worship the morning of May 7, featuring dancers, a house band and musician Jorge Lockward.

?Many United Methodist Women and others in the church report that previous assemblies proved to be turning points in their lives, deepening their service to Christ?s mission,? Love said. ?This one will be equally significant for the organization and the church, and we?re very excited about putting the finishing touches on the preparation.?

Registration information for the assembly can be found online at or obtained by writing to the Assembly Business Office at 7820 Reading Road, Caller 1800, Cincinnati, OH 45222-1800. The registration deadline is March 20.

*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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